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I am starting with Arduinos, coming from the world of Linux (with the RPi as a bridge) and after having tested some setups I now wonder where to go next in implementation.

What I am trying to understand is whether it is recommended (time and cost-wise)

  • to create a standalone, circuit-board based version of whatever I prototyped on the breadboard, with a micro-controller with connections trimmed down to what is needed for that specific setup?
  • or rather just look at neatly packaging the Arduiono with the breadboard and wires in a case?

I expect to build 5 or 6 of the same simple setups (to put in various places in my house).

Note: there is a similar question (with almost the same title) but it deals with the legal aspects of commercializing a setup.

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  • You might be able to make it cheaper with a PCB, but I gather you've probably never done a PCB layout before? In that case you'd probably need to pay someone (likely much more expensive) or have a large learning curve and probably a few failed PCBs along the way. Either way it might be worth adding a few more details on how complex it is (or even better a circuit), there might be a few proto board techniques that are somewhere in between. – PeterJ Jan 21 '15 at 7:23
  • Isn't making a PCB pretty expensive? If the setups are that simple, you could just use a stripboard to make the circuits. Cheap and easy. – Tom Jan 21 '15 at 9:01
  • A lot depends on how complex your breadboarded circuit is. The natural permanent version of a breadboard is stripboard/Veroboard; if you don't need "shield" compatibility then Arduino Nano and its clones are probably a good choice. – pjc50 Jan 21 '15 at 11:56
  • Thank you for the answers, the stripboard/Veroboard will be the solution as my circuit will be very basic. Can you please turn your comment into an answer so that I can accept it? – WoJ Jan 21 '15 at 12:03
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    Unfortunately, this is yet another improper migration from EESE. The question is about electronics fabrication, and so belongs there where it was quite correctly asked. It has been dumped here, where it is cut off from relevant expertise, purely due to bias against anything which tangentially mentions arduino, despite the fact that it is not in any meaningful way an Arduino question. – Chris Stratton Jan 21 '15 at 17:26
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with the breadboard

That phrase right there makes the solution a non-starter. Solderless breadboards are good for prototyping, but are too fragile for use in a final project.

As for whether or not you should use an actual Arduino or reduce the circuit to a minimum, that is between you and your wallet. It is possible to make a basic AVR board (including MCU) for under $6 in parts, but the time investment is not entirely trivial.

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What I am trying to understand is whether it is recommended (time and cost-wise) to create a standalone, circuit-board based version of whatever I prototyped on the breadboard, with a micro-controller with connections trimmed down to what is needed for that specific setup? or rather just look at neatly packaging the Arduiono with the breadboard and wires in a case?

Given what is available in assembled form, using a complete commercial product per project would make most sense except where you are building in substantial volume.

Because ...

I am using Arduino Nano 3s from China which cost me $US3 each in quantities of 10 with free postage (takes 2 to 3 weeks to arrive here at the bottom of the world) and I see that the same people are now charging $2.85 each in 10's. There are numerous suppliers of similar products and I am only mentioning these as I have had good results from them and the quality is acceptable.

You would probably have trouble buying just the parts for the cost of a $3 assembled working Nano and you'd need to cost your time at $0/hour. Building your own for the experience, or if you are using many and you want a cut down subset and really must get the price well under $3 MAY make sense.

The same people also sell an Arduino Pro mini for $US1.85 in 10s free postage (ie $18.50 for TEN). You need to use a plug in USB module to program these via USB. I bought some of these as well - also good, but the convenience of the always available USB makes the Nano preferable (to me).

Note: USB cables cost extra !!! :-)


Related:

Some people have expressed reservations about buying Asian source Arduinos and suggest people should support either US fronted companies or the Arduino's originators.

I appreciate the merit of supporting the people who have put the effort into the system, but the system is very very consciously open source in all respects - and in fact code samples that come with the IDE are expressly Public Domain. (Documentation is CC by SA ...). If open source is to be truly meaningful it needs to be able to survive being truly so. Unlike many other products where Asian copies may have suspect IP legacies, the Arduino products are wholly legitimate (as far as I know).

I have not pored over them in detail (yet) but I note that the 5V voltage regulator on the Chinese ones is an LM1117 (LDO LM317-like) as opposed to the original LM2940. The USB bridge ICs are, as is well known, not "genuine" FTDI parts but Asian semi-equivalents which, with their own drivers, work well enough in this context.

You can certainly buy low cost rubbish versions from Asian sources, and part of the open source tradeoff is deciding where you do and don't get value for money overall.

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  • "The same people also sell an Arduino Pro mini for $US1.85" I think you meant $18.5 – Marla Jan 28 '15 at 15:36
  • @Marla - No & yes. They are $US1.85 each or $18.50 for 10 with free postage. The link is to a batch of 10. – Russell McMahon Jan 28 '15 at 20:16
  • I too have a box of Chinese Arduinos - they all work, perfectly, and are indeed cheap as, well, chips! I have some Italian ones too, I've lost track of which are which. – Mark Williams Jan 28 '15 at 21:00
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I started using an Arduino (Uno), and a solderless breadboard, to do my prototyping.

After the 2nd project, I started programming the Arduino, then pulling the AtMega chip off the board (if you have a through-hole chip rather than a surface mount one) and plugging that into my breadboard (you will need some supporting circuitry for this - a clock and a powersupply e.g. batteries). The AtMega has a larger range of voltages than the Arduino, and can be run up to 20mhz. You will need to jiggle some constants for this, or be ready for your delays to run quicker too.

I have since bought an USBISP (see Google), which can be hooked up to the Arduino board (there is a 6 pin header made for this, on the opposite side to the USB), or can be hooked up to specific pins. With this, I have started programming AtTiny chips - smaller, easier to set up, fewer pins to interface with, and really, really cheap!

All my long-term projects are on veroboard (see Google) - solder everything on, then cut it to the size you need. It's worth spending time before you solder working out your layout.

If you want to produce these in bulk, I would suggest getting some prototypes on veroboard first (you will, invariably, make changes once you start testing!), then when you're happy, you can copy the veroboard design (possibly tweaking it to optimize for greater flexibility), and order PCBs from a company that does this sort of thing.

Good luck!

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