Build your own Xprotolab!
Hardware version 1.8
This kit contains everything you need to build an Xprotolab, the microcontroller will be programmed with the latest firmware before shipping.
This latest kit uses the XMEGA with USB, ATXMEGA32A4U
Click the Assembly icon for assembly instructions.
Roger Vernon (Wednesday, 17 October 2012)
Ante Vukorepa (Sunday, 31 July 2011)
HA! My very first surface mount soldering project and it worked the first time with no reflowing/fixing!!
Thanks to everyone who provided tons of soldering advice. You NEED a fine tip iron, very small gauge solder, fine tweezers, a good clamp to hold the board, good light, and a good large magnifying stand. Oh, and a bucket of flux. Set the iron to 675 degrees F and That's it!
The OLED was actually one of the easiest parts to solder. Forget the paperclip advice and use some tape across the ribbon above the pads. I was fumbling with paperclips. Tape is so much easier. Just pre-tin the pads with a small amount of solder, put down a slim layer of paste, sandwich the ribbon on with tape and run your tip down the ribbon pads one at a time. That's all I did!
Reid Bishop (Friday, 27 May 2011)
Just finished building mine. It was a blast. No issues with any of the SMDs, apart from the lack of space in some places (I had to keep the soldering iron almost completely vertical to reach a few resistors) and my own idiocy (managed to solder one resistor in the wrong spot, had to reflow and desolder it with a gas-powered Weller). The crystal osc was a (very slight) bit of a pain in that it was impossible (for me at least) to solder it on. Ended up using solder paste and hot air to mount it, worked perfectly. Had absolutely 0 issues with the kit, everything seems to be fully functional and operational. All in all, AWESOME little device. Love it! :)
David Blevins (Monday, 16 May 2011)
I just finished my first kit (my third XProtolab).
David is right- this requires good steady hand, very fine tipped iron, good flux, and confidence in doing fine SMT work.Let me add a couple of hints. The USB jack was indeed the most challenging component to mount. Use liquid flux on the pads first, then tin VERY lightly. Apply more flux, apply flux on the USB pins, and place the jack on board. Now take your fine tipped iron and touch all the pins (no solder yet) to get it "tacked" down. Make sure your iron is at least 760F. Then apply more flux, and use the iron to apply a very small amount of solder to each pin and let it flow towards traces on board. Finally, turn board over, apply flux to holes, and fill those holes with hot solder! You want this to be a strong mount as it is a high stress point.The display would be the next hardest component. Again, lots of flux and a very light pre-tin to the pads on the board. Flux the connector, get it positioned on the board, and touch each pad with the iron (again, don't use any solder yet). Tack down each pad. Now add flux, and lightly go over each pad with a teensy bit of solder and let it flow towards traces on board.One final tip- leave the display and switches to last. Get everything soldered up to the board except display and switches. Now use Alcohol, soap, and hot water to CLEAN the board up nice. Don't worry- you can drown the board all you like at this stage without harm. This could make a big difference in how clean the signals will be. Then proceed with mounting the display. Use alcohol to clean up the display pads real good, and finally mount the switches. Great kit- you can do it in one evening if your skills allow. Don't be afraid- SMD work is actually easier than thru-hole if you have a nice fine tipped iron and some means to magnify your work. I use one of those harbor freight magnifying headbands- it makes a huge difference in seeing what you are working on.
I am apparently one of the first people to assemble the kit version of XProtolab. Mine did not work at first, but Gabriel's excellent tech support helped me be successful. Here are my build notes, roughly in order of assembly:
PART I This is NOT a beginner kit. Make sure you have the proper tools: a good fine-tip iron, solder wick, fine gauge solder, fine tweezers, etc. Also, I researched hand SMT soldering on YouTube pretty extensively before starting. Use a fine tip for SMT, and a bigger tip for the through-hole stuff and for solder wicking NO COFFEE before soldering SMT 8^) For the small passives, I tinned one pad and then slid one end of the part onto that pad while heating it. Then I did the other end. The SMT crystal has a dot on it; that's pin 1 and that goes in the ULH corner when you have the processor footprint on the LH side. Two of the active components were not well marked and I had to look up what's printed on the tops of them on the web. For the larger SMT parts I tacked one corner pin in place and then worked around the rest. I think that soldering the microcontroller and display pin-by-pin is practically impossible so I used the flow-solder-across-the-pins-and-don't-worry-about-bridges method followed by solder wick to remove the bridges. I had to go over the display connector three times with solder and wick before it worked. For those components, be sure to beep out adjacent connector "pins" with your DMM to make sure you don't have shorts. I also beeped out a lot of the rest of the board when I couldn't get all of the voltages working.
PART II: All of the headers (5) except the (optional) 2x3 one have their long ends on the "main" (non-display, where most of the parts are) side of the board. I wasn't paying attention and accidentally soldered the 1x12 header on the wrong side of the board - THAT was fun to fix (not).
The instructions say this but I missed it - there are 4 1x2 headers that go underneath the 4 switches. You're supposed to file/cut down the board-side pins of the headers BEFORE soldering them in, so that they're flush with the top of the board, so that the switches can lie against the board. it's much harder to do this after the pins are soldered in, as I found out!
the USB connector was quite difficult to solder on - actually it was one of the more difficult comps in the kit. That is one item that is clearly not intended for hand soldering - the pins are almost underneath the connector shell and it took a couple tries with solder and wick before I got all of them connected. Be sure to tin the USB connections before soldering the connector shell into place.