Getting from a breadboard to a PCB and custom enclosure

Discussion in 'Embedded Systems and Microcontrollers' started by Jswale, Aug 24, 2015.

  1. Jswale

    Thread Starter Member

    Jun 30, 2015
    Hi all,

    I am producing a Scoreboard for a Christmas Present. It consists of two LCDs and an IR receiver that will be used with a remote control.

    I am fairly close to finishing all the breadboard work and coding and I want to get a PCB manufactured and a custom enclosure to fit it all in so that it looks good.

    I am looking for some information/experiences on how to go about this and lead times, software packages etc etc.

    In terms of the enclosure, I would like ideally a wooden one however an ABS would be fine. It would need two LCD cut outs, a hole for the IR receiver and a hole for the DC Jack.

    I am also looking for advice in terms of ventilation - inside the enclosure is an Arduino controlling the IR receiver and 2 LCDs.

    Mods edit : The below was copied from another thread with same project.
    Currently I am using a standard YouView remote, however for the final product this remote has too many buttons so would look unappealing.

    The final design will use 11 buttons and I was wondering if anyone has any experience or ideas with suitable remotes or ways to make them more good looking towards the product.

    A universal remote with 11 buttons would suit me even if the labels were wrong on the buttons but they seem hard to find or are very unreliable.

  2. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
    For a one off it will be best to find an off the shelf enclosure.. However one with 2 x LCD cutouts ain't gonna happen more than likely..
    But you can buy an ABS box or make a wood one and cut the LCD holes yourself and clean it up with a bezel kit.

    Then for circuit boards I HIGHLY recommend itead PCB.. You can't beat their pricing.. No idea of your location but it typically takes 2.5 weeks to get the PCB's in the USA/east coast..

    The supposedly laser cut acrylic now so you may be able to have them make an enclosure for you too.. Or at least cut out a faceplate for the LCDs

    As for ventilation I doubt you really need to do anything as dissipation should be low.. Drilling a few holes wouldn't hurt.. (unless you need it to be weather/waterproof)
    JohnInTX likes this.
  3. Jswale

    Thread Starter Member

    Jun 30, 2015
    @mcgyvr thanks for the reply.

    I should have said I am from the UK.

    Can anyone recommend software to lay out my PCB? I am used drawing schematics and working with PCBs but not the design side of PCBs.

    I think I will buy a large flat ABS enclosure and try do it myself and clean it up with a couple of LCD bezels like you suggested.

    Should I be looking at the PCB first or the enclosure?
  4. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
    I use Diptrace and highly recommend it..
    There is a post of "PCB programs" on here somewhere..

    Physical size of everything you put in it will dictate the size of the enclosure required so work on the PCB then buy an enclosure to fit.
  5. John P

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 14, 2008
    Every time PCB software is mentioned here, it gets to be like a religious discussion where everyone is fervently for their One True Way with no possibility of any proof being offered. Mine is FreePCB: it's the One True Way.

    I can say I've used Itead, and the boards were fine and very cheap. (With FreePCB for the layout, of course.)

    Definitely you should select an enclosure first. It will have internal mounting points and/or slots for a circuit board, so you'd want to make the board fit. Note that if you're going to have LCD's on the front of the box, that suggests a vertical PCB, whereas the area of the box is likely to be mostly horizontal, so there's a problem to solve. But maybe your LCD's are going to be horizontal, and stick out through the top of the box? Anyway, you have to think about the mechanical details. It can be quite an involved process.

    My experience with ABS enclosures is that the material is easy to drill holes in, but it's an extremely tough substance that's not easy to make rectangular holes in for displays, at least if you're using hand tools. You need a lot of patience and a selection of knives and files.
  6. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
    Just to beat another dead horse my choice for schematic capture and PCB layout is Kicad. That program is open source, free, completely unencombered, and I find it straight forward to use. I've used it on some professional jobs and have always been satisfied with the results.

    There is also an online auto router that can work with this. While auto routers have their own drawbacks you can always hand route the finicky traces before handing off the non critical traces to the router.

    I have used a few board houses in China with good results. They tend to be very appreciative for the work and very responsive. I found them on EBay, Iam on the road now so don't have the list of known good ones. It has been over 2years since I got boards so my list is stale anyway.
  7. John P

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 14, 2008
    I believe that Kicad and FreePCB both produce files that can be sent to the same online autorouter, which is located in Germany. It then works interactively with the user's computer via Java to produce an output file which can be imported back into the layout program. However, as of last year the autorouter has been made inaccessible for reasons related to a claim of trade-secret infringement, which the author said was nonsense but it's having the desired effect--he's no longer offering the service. See

    The good news though, is that the same software behind Freerouting is available to download to your computer as a free-standing program, and I got it last summer and have used it. So that's the way I do boards now.
    ErnieM likes this.
  8. MaxHeadRoom


    Jul 18, 2013
    +1 on Kicad also!
    If using front panel P.B.'s or other switch plus LCD that require legends, I use a local Lamacoid service that takes a CAD file etc, and reverse engraves the lamacoid so all legends etc can be multi coloured, makes for a completly smooth surface.
  9. vluban

    New Member

    Aug 31, 2015
    Well. in an ideal world perhaps. In real one you have to go from both sides, available enclosures that fit into budget on one hand, and the combined size of your parts placed on a PCB. Often, you have to select different parts or different packages to fit PCB into enclosure...