Electronic Design

Design Contest Promotes Creative Prototyping System

The first annual Schmartie Awards will reward exceptional electronic circuit designs produced with an innovative prototyping system from Fremont, Calif.-based SchmartBoard. The prototyping technology simplifies the creation of electronic circuits for both hobbyists and engineers.

SchmartBoard offers two types of surface-mount products (Fig. 1). The original SchmartBoard is for designers with advanced soldering skills. The SchmartBoard/ez is for people who may not have advanced soldering skills, first-timers, or just anyone who wants a fast, easy prototype.

In SchmartBoard/ez’s patent-pending technology, the solder mask is higher than the pads, not lower, creating canals. The solder mask makes the walls of the canal, and the floor of the canal is the pad surface. The legs of the IC fit into this canal, allowing easy hand placement of the chip legs onto the pads (Fig. 2).

A fine-tip soldering iron is used to connect the IC, but no additional solder is required. Using the soldering iron, users heat up the existing solder on the pads in each of the canals and push the soldering iron from the lateral end of the canal to the medial end until the iron touches the chip’s leg. The solder stays in the canal, ensuring that no shorts are created.

This process is repeated for each canal that has a leg to be soldered. A BGA is placed in the same manner as the ICs, but a heat gun is used to heat up the existing solder on the pads instead of a soldering iron.

The SchmartBoard prototyping system lets users work on one circuit block at a time, test the blocks individually, and then physically connect the blocks together. The patent pending SchmartBridge makes this possible.

Engineers, students, and hobbyists from around the world are invited to enter the design contest. From now through November 15, 2006, entrants can post SchmartSchematics (electronic circuits utilizing SchmartBoard prototyping products) for users to download and use in their own projects. In December, the company will open up voting for the five favorite circuits.

In January 2007, SchmartBoard will post the five winners who will receive an iPod nano and a certificate. All participants who enter the contest and post a schematic per the instructions will receive free SchmartBoards to build their designs and a SchmartBoard t-shirt. Details of the program can be found at www.schmartboard.com.

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