Solder practice board

Thanks for being interested in this project! Code examples and documentation can be found on the GitHub page and you can order one from PCBWay!

What is this about?

Welcome to the Arduino solder practice shield’s project page! The goal is to make an inexpensive kit and modernize the “my first soldering” experience. There are many solder practice kits out there, and most of them have something in common: they are plug-and-play.

practice PCBs
The “usual” kits: the famous SMD practice board, a Christmas tree, and digital dice

There was no inherent problem with these. When I was a kid, one of my first projects was similar. But a few decades passed, and microcontrollers (especially Arduinos) became super cheap. The average practice PCB’s life ends when you insert the batteries because let’s be real: you will test the finished project and that’s it, it goes into the drawer. But assembling is just the first step for this PCB! This is an Arduino shield. It means you can mate it with an Arduino Uno, and access all features with a few lines of code! You MUST write a program to blink those LEDs, and not just LEDs. The few selected components give tremendous possibilities both at home and in the classroom! I hope you can already think about some bite-sized exercises just by looking at the photos. You probably get the idea by now.

Getting one

No shops sell these. (I hope this will change in the future) So, how do you order one? It’s a few clicks away.


The easiest and fastest way is to order directly from PCBWay. Click here to go to the project’s page. The next few steps will look intimidating if this is your first PCB order, but I’ll explain everything.

PCB order practice shield

You can also download the gerber files, but select “Only PCB” and add this to the cart. The next page will be long. Practically all settings are good as-is, but I know you want some explanation!

This is a simple 2-layer PCB. You will need single pieces, no panelization. That’s good for some industrial cases, but you want to use these out of the box. The size of the board is fixed, don’t edit that. What you can edit, is the quantity. The PCB is cheap, but shipping is much more expensive! Find some friends and order in bulk to save money. (you can also combine different PCBs into a single shipment, explore the shared projects before ordering) And of course, select your country and courier. And we are going to be pretty technical.

Again, all the default settings are fine. If you don’t touch any settings, you will get a nice green PCB and white text. But let’s learn what these are.

Material: FR-4 is “The PCB material” we are all used to. It’s a glass-reinforced epoxy laminate sheet with copper on top and bottom. It’s the default for several reasons. But some projects need something different. For example, I ordered aluminum PCB before, because aluminum conducts heat much better than FR-4 – but it’s limited to one side only! Keep it on FR-4, and the default TG 150-160, you won’t need a fireproof PCB. (hopefully)

Thickness: 1.6 mm is thick enough. Just for fun, I ordered 0.4 mm PCB business cards. It’s just as thick as a regular paper one! But this can drastically change the price.

Spacing and hole size: these are manufacturing-related parameters. Everything can be made, just pay the price! These are important parameters when you are designing a PCB. Thin signal traces are better if you need to route a lot of them, but costs an extra if they are too thin. Just like holes. Those are drilled in this tough FR-4 material. If you have small vias, that will be pricey.

And we get to the interesting part: choose your color! I’m a PCB purist, green solder mask, and white silkscreen are how I roll. But you can order whatever color you like! Arduinos are blue(ish) with white silkscreen, and SparkFun boards are usually red! Choose whatever you fancy.

And no edge connector.

And we get back to the “boring” manufacturing stuff.

The surface finish is for the exposed conductors. HASL (Hot Air Solder Leveling) covers the copper with tin, otherwise, copper would get oxidized and it would be super hard to solder! HASL is fine for most projects, but some special applications require special treatment. And that can be a layer of pure gold! Edge connectors and special high-frequency applications benefit from these, but not this project.

Vias are little holes with copper. These connect different layers. Advanced vias are required for advanced designs, luckily we don’t have a single one!

And the copper. This conducts the electricity! This is an important choice. But oz? 1 oz copper means one square foot of copper layer weighs 1 oz. That sounds a lot, right? Well, it means the copper layer is just 35 µm thick (or thin). This is important if you have some serious power electronics, we can leave it like this.

And finally: save the cart. PCBWay will check the design once more just to be sure, and you can finish your order in no time!


Coming soon!

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