How to Develop Your Own Custom Electronics

Building your own electronics has never been easier. People have really taken to the Raspberry Pi, and this single device is largely responsible for the renewed interest in custom electronics. If you are considering making your own hardware at some point in the future, this guide will walk you through the development process.

Start with a Sketch

Whenever you are designing anything, it is always wise to begin with the simplest plan you can. Unless you have a lot of prior experience, you won’t be able to dive straight in at the deep end and start producing digital schematics. Starting with a simple sketch produced by hand will encourage you to think about your idea in more detail and identify any glaring issues with its design.

You can make your design more specific and detailed as you go, but starting with something relatively loose and non-specific will enable you to first evaluate the merits of your idea as a concept before beginning to focus on and evaluate individual aspects of it.

Digitize Your Design

Once you have refined your overall design and you are confident that you’re ready to proceed, you are ready to digitize it. There are lots of electronics design software options available, but be careful – not all of them are aimed at hobbyists. Upverter is a good starting point, as it’s free and browser-based, so it’s accessible to anybody.

Don’t worry if you find the software a bit difficult to use at first, there will inevitably be a learning curve. A lot of the software out there comes with enough documentation to get you started, but some developers are better for this than others. If you are still struggling, you should be able to find some online tutorials with relative ease.

Identify Your Key Components and Manufacturers

Once you know what it is that you want to build, you then need to plan out exactly how you will build it. This means identifying specific components. Your plan should have covered what components your finished project will contain, but now you need to identify the specific components that you’re going to use. 

Octopart is a fantastic resource for this. It is an electronics component search engine that enables users to search by component type or manufacturer. Not only will it show you where you can buy components, but it will also provide you with datasheets, where available. Datasheets contain all the technical information you need about a component. For example, if you search for Radio Component Corp. then you will see a list of components from that manufacturer. As you identify individual components that you want to use, you can use the BOM tool to generate a bill of materials for your prototype. 

Once you have finished the steps above, you are ready to move on to the actual production of your device. For this, you will need to order yourself some custom printed circuit boards, which is a lot cheaper and easier than many people expect it to be. Once you have designed a couple of electronic devices for yourself, you should find it much easier to do in the future. The first couple are always a challenge, but the promise of being able to make your own electronics is worth it.

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