Techniques for making
By Scott Driscoll
Photograph by Pat Molner
When cellphones were housed in briefcases,
manufactured electronics had easy-to-solder
leads. Now phones fit in pockets, and the smaller
surface-mount devices (SMDs) inside are driving
through-hole components into extinction.
SMDs can cost less than their old-school equivalents, and many newer devices, including most
accelerometers, are only available in SMD format.
If you design printed circuit boards, using
SMT (surface-mount technology) and putting
components on both sides makes them cheaper
and smaller. This may not matter on a robot, but it
helps a project fit into a mint tin or hang off a kite.
SMDs are designed for precise machinery to
mass-assemble onto densely packed PCBs. Their
tiny leads may look impossible for human hands
to work with, but there are several good, relatively
inexpensive methods that don’t require a $1,000-
and-up professional SMT soldering station. »