Recently, whilst looking for a way to document the wiring for the little Arduino projects I make, I chanced upon a great free app called Fritzing. It allows you to very easily create great looking wiring diagrams, all by simply dragging and dropping components and connecting them up with wires that you bend into place.
But Fritzing isn't just about documentation and sharing your diagrams for other people to use. The really exciting thing with Fritzing is they offer a PCB fabrication service which means you can take your breadboard prototype with all its wires and the like and order a PCB of your design. This means you can easily make your own shields or whatever else you can think of.
I just had to give it a go. At the time I was playing with a Nokia LCD so I thought that would be a perfect first test to make my very own Arduino shield.
A few weeks later it arrived and it looked great – wonderful looking white PCBs complete with screen-printed "dawesome" text in the OCRA typeface. All I then had to do was solder on the headers and attach it to the Arduino and attach the LCD. It worked perfectly. My design however was far from perfect as the LCD wasn't positioned quite right so it overhangs the Arduino, but as a first test, I'm pretty pleased.
I love this kind of stuff; I've never made a PCB before, yet here I am holding my own PCB, made to my design, all because of the Internet and the possibilities that it gives you.
Now I need to go back to the drawing board and work on version two…