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I just started with Arduino. I am an experienced software developer so the programming side was already mostly known to me, and I am surprised at just how easy Arduino have made the hardware side of things, and how easy to use the various libraries are. So for my first non tutorial project, I want to make air quality sensor web servers to be placed in several rooms throughout my house. I will then have a program running on my PC which collects readings from each sensor and stores then somewhere, to be analyzed later.

All I have right now is an Arduino UNO R3 starter kit, and I am having a WiFi shield delivered today. I feel confident that I can have a working version using the kit that I have shortly after the shield gets delivered.

But my question is: what is the best (some combination of easiest and cheapest) way to crank out half a dozen of these?

Presumably, most experienced makers don't include a breadboard in their finished products? I suppose I should buy a soldering iron.

Should I buy half a dozen UNO R3s and half a dozen WiFi shields (along with air quality sensors)? Or is there a cheaper option that is intended for semi-productionizing an Arduino project?

PS: I feel like the tags I have included barely intersect with the purpose of this question, so if you know of any more appropriate ones, feel free to suggest/edit.

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    Should you buy a soldering iron? Erm... yes? Along with many other things. For instance: hackingmajenkoblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/… – Majenko Dec 30 '18 at 11:56
  • I think you should have a look at the ESP8266 boards. That is a more powerful processor with WiFi already inside. I think the Arduino WiFi shield is way to expensive. – Gerben Dec 30 '18 at 15:28
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I'm in the same boat as you (SW engineer by trade who likes to tinker with electronics, and is a "maker" at heart.)

I think the answer to your question is "it depends." For a one-off, a breadboard might be fine.

For half-a-dozen, you might want to get project cases and perf-boards, and solder up your design. (For the Mega, there is a very nice prototyping "shield" that brings all the pins from the Mega up on headers and has quite a bit of working room for soldering up circuits.) If you want to make more than a handful, though, you'd probably want to create a custom PC board. You can either create a design in a CAD program and send it off to be small-batch manufactured, or you can buy the equipment to do it yourself. If you make hundreds of units, you should think about ditching the Arduinos and designing a completely custom board using the AVR-family microcontroller and only the components you need.

(I'm still at the breadboard/hand soldered perf-board stage myself, and haven't created any custom PC boards yet, just read about it.)

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The "final" form of an Arduino "project" is not an Arduino project at all.

Arduino and the associated shields and breadboards are just development tools. They are intended to be used during development only.

As soon as you want to take the next step (certainly if you don't want to be laughed at by professionals) and create a product you need to learn about building your own PCBs. That means taking the schematics of all the shields and boards you are using and combining them all into one schematic, then designing a board from that schematic - and that, of course, means being able to understand what a schematic means.

It's kind of like taking the step from playing with LEGO® to building a house (or a garden shed maybe). There's a lot of learning you have to go through between the two stages.

There are plenty of online resources to get you started with schematic design and PCB layout, but to do it properly takes years of proper training. If you are serious about moving from just tinkering as a hobby you should consider formal training with a reputable educational establishment.

  • Or, hire a hardware designer for a few hours to combine the various bits that make up the working project into one PCB and order a batch of boards built up. – CrossRoads Dec 31 '18 at 2:46
  • Indeed. As a hardware designer I didn't want to mention that lest it be seen as advertising. – Majenko Dec 31 '18 at 9:01

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