TinyCylon - Build it!

October 27, 2012 Benjamin Gray

This is our how to on putting together the TinyCylon (v0.3)
All of the design files for the board can be found on our github.

If you're the kind who skips to the end then remember this one thing when soldering the v0.3 - the LEDs need to alternated, one up, one down. Future versions won't be so complicated!

For this build you'll need a TinyCylon Kit. Which consists of 15 x 1206 LEDs (3 extra in case you drop some!), 5 x 0805 Resistors, 1 x SMD ATTiny85 and a battery box.

You'll also need: A soldering iron and solder. To make the job easier we'd also strongly recommend tweezers and a panavise as well as good lighting and a clean bench.

Start off by having a look at the top of the board. We're going to solder the LEDs on first they're the biggest component so you'll want to practice on these before moving onto the tricky stuff. Open up the black LED strip (carefully!) and take a look at the LED. The top of the LED has the lens on it and the bottom will have a green T, a triangle or even a dot on it. Those symbols will point toward the negative (Cathode). Below we can see the board with a LED on it.

We want to orient the first LED with the negative pad towards the bit that says however you'll want the other way up to how it's shown below!

Now it's time to put some solder on the board. In the next picture I've got a bit carried away and "tinned" all of the pads. Tinning is putting solder onto the bare pads. Rather than tinning all of the pads you'll actually find it easier to just tin one for each LED. Orient your LED correctly, hold it onto the pad with a pair of tweezers and introduce some heat with your soldering iron to the pad and metal part of the LED. This should weld the two together. If you've held the LED straight and steady it will now be convenient for you to solder the other pad to the LED, they should be close together so just apply some heat with your iron to where the pad and LED meet and then touch it with your solder. All being well the solder will braze between the pad and LED. You are ready to solder the next LED. Orient this one the other way up! As shown below.

Repeat the process of soldering the LED to the tinned side, holding it in place with your tweezers, then adding heat and solder to the other side once held in the right place. Then repeat.

Keep going with this alternating LED pattern until you run out of places to put LEDs...

If you look closely (and if the LEDs have them) you'll see that on the tops of the LEDs you have green dots alternating up and down across the board. That's if you soldered it correctly! Now turn the board over. It should look like this:

Tin the pads on the back. We're going to solder the 0805 resistors next as you can now SMD solder like a Spartan fights! Tin the set of the pads for the IC to start with. Should look like it does below once you're done.

Place your first resistor on the back (you chose which one, you're practically an expert by now), it does not matter which way around you put the resistor, but please have some pride and put them all the same way up once you've done the first. It doesn't matter but it will make people think you're a details person and they'll respect you more (or not). Use the exact same method as you did for the LEDs until the back of your board looks like a neater version of the board below.

Congratulations you've levelled up again! You're now a soldering Immortal! Which is lucky as you're about to solder an SMD IC onto a pad which is too small for it!! Hold the IC with your tweezers so that the dot on the IC is in the top right corner as you're looking at it and touch your hot iron onto one of the top corner legs of the IC, welding it to the board, carefully adjust if you need to and solder the other top corner leg to the board. Now those are in place the two in the middle should be easy. Once you're done with the top row, very gently try and lift each leg on the top row, if any of them move they've not been soldered and you need to have another go.

Now the bottom row are a bit more tricky, as I mentioned, the footprint on the board is a bit too small on the v3.0. So we'll do some work with the tweezers first. If you're a bit at an angle, as I was, straighten the IC up a little. Then push gently with the tips of your tweezers on the "ankle" part of the IC legs (of the bottom row) so that the "feet" sit over the pads. Touch each with your soldering iron and add a little solder, it should braze them to the pad nicely. Test each one again, but be very careful. The result should look as below.

You've levelled up again. You're an SMD Soldering TITAN!! Now we solder in the battery pack. Through hole! Unfortunately you'll now realise that through hole is harder than SMD! Turn the board over again and solder in the negative lead into the top of the board into the square pad next to the writing and the positive in the hole at the bottom of the board, like so...


Now find some AA batteries and power her up! The battery box is switched so check that first if nothing lights. The lights should scan from left to right, right to left, ad infinitum. If they scan right to left, left to right you started with the first LED the wrong way up (or they're reverse pole LEDs!). If they jump around randomly check the soldering of the IC. If they don't run at all, check your batteries, battery connection, IC legs. Dodgy soldering on a resistor will result in 3 LEDs not lighting and individual LEDs not lighting will be down to their own solder joints. Any other problems let us know and we'll help sort it! Hopefully you see something like this when you flick that switch for the first time!



This project was a request and collaboration with all the wonderful people on our forums and it is also our (my!) first PCB design, we'd be grateful for any feedback at all. Please let us know how you've got on and what you've done with the product as well as how we can improve it. If you've met me (Ben) and I've given you one of these boards and you want the other bits, email ben at phenoptix dot com and remind me where we met and I'll see if we can help you out with the other components!



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