Assembling the Freakduino v2.1a
Written by Akiba   
Friday, 21 June 2013

Assembling the Freakduino v2.1a is almost completely the same as assembling the original Freakduino v1.1 version with the exception of one extra jumper. In this tutorial, we'll be walking through the assembly of the Freakduino v2.1a partial kit version. Familiarity with soldering is assumed along with a soldering iron, solder, and flush wire cutters. A nail clipper could be substituted for the flush cutters as well.

So, let's get started...

The first thing we should do is take stock of the kit contents. You should have the following parts.

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When soldering through hold components, the most difficult thing is actually placing and holding the part in position as you solder it. I have a trick I like to do in these situations since I usually move quickly through many boards. It's not really for everyone, especially if you're just beginning to learn how to solder since it's possible to burn yourself. In that case, it's probably best to just have something hold the part in place, flip the board, and solder it down. I'll be discussing the method I like to use, but otherwise, the main thing to focus on is which parts go where.

I start by putting solder inside one of the holes of the through hole part I'll be soldering down. In this case, it's the slide switch.

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I then mount the part so that the other legs are in the unfilled holes and the only thing preventing the part from being seated properly is the solder-filled hole. From there, I apply slight pressure to the part with my finger while I heat the bottom of the hole with the soldering iron. This melts the solder and with the pressure from my finger pushing down on the part, the part gets seated in the hole. The solder will quickly cool holding the part securely positioned in place. 

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Here's a bottom shot after I've heated the bottom of the hole and positioned the slide switch.

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Now I'm going to the do the same for the DC barrel jack. The hole is big so it'll take a lot of solder to fill the hole.

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I use the same trick here too. I apply gentle downward pressure to the top of the part.

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I then heat the bottom of the hole with my soldering iron. As soon as the solder melts, the part pops into its proper place. The soldering iron can be held in place to keep the solder molten as I jiggle the DC jack to line in parallel with the part outline. Crooked parts bug me.

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This is what it looks like after the slide switch and DC barrel jack have been placed. Only one leg is soldered down for each just to hold them in place. It's similar to a tack weld. Once all the components are positioned properly, then I'll flip the board and solder down all the remaining pins.

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Now I'm going to do the same with the DIP switch. I'm adding solder into the bottom righ hole.

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I then place the DIP switch down with the legs in all the holes except the one filled with solder. The same technique applies where I heat the board from the bottom and the part pops in place.

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Voila. Now inset the three pin connector next to the DIP switch and do the same thing.

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Now I'm moving on to the Arduino header connectors. I'm only soldering down one pin on these too. 

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Should be familiar with this by now.

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The header pins are now soldered down and aligned correctly.

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Time to tackle the in-circuit programming header at the bottom of the board.

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The most difficult part to solder down is the 2-pin header. This one is new and not present on the original Freakduino v1.1 board. This is required due to the voltage level converter that's new to this board. This jumper will disable the outputs of the level converter which is needed for programming the bootloader. Otherwise, the SPI signals will collide. Generally, most people will never need to populate this jumper, but it's there just in case.

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Be careful if you use my technique on this. You should not touch the pin that goes in the hole that will be heated. That pin will get hot quickly and cause a burn. I don't know how many times I've burned myself on two pin headers.

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Once everything is soldered down, things should look like this. There's only one pin soldered down for each part. That means that if a part needs to be repositioned, you only need to heat up the one pin that's soldered down. Once the positioning is to your liking, then you can solder down all the pins. 

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Finally all the pins are soldered down. We're finished assembling the standard Freakduino kit.

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This is what the assembled Freakduino should look like.

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But we're not done yet. In case you're going to need battery operation, you'll need the battery boost kit. This takes output from batteries and regulates the voltage to a constant 5V, even as the battery voltage changes as it drains. Here's the battery boost kit contents.

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I'm going to start with the capacitors since they're an adjacent pair of components. The capacitors are clearly marked with a "-" sign for ground and a solid white stripe. This is a standard convention and so the solid white stripe should be on the white half of the capacitor footprint.

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I don't really have a trick for soldering these down. I just flip the board and solder one leg down on each part.

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After the one leg is soldered down, I check each part and make sure it's seated properly. If not, I heat the solder up on the leg and reposition it. Once it's to my liking, I solder the other leg down.

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Now I'm doing the Schottky diode. The diode must be aligned in a certain direction. The black bar at the top of the diode should be on the same side as the solid bar on the diode footprint. Otherwise, the circuit won't work. 

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Again, I just flip the board and solder the part down. You can actually take a shortcut and solder the pins from the top side, saving you one board flip. I usually do this when I need to work fast.

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The inductor doesn't require any particular alignment. You can place it in either direction and it will behave the same. Same trick applies. You can solder from the top side if you want to. 

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Now for the voltage boost regulator. I just stick the part in the holes and flip the board. You can spread the legs out a bit to hold the part in position when you flip the board.

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Here I've spread the legs out to hold the position before flipping and soldering.

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Finally, the last component to solder down is the JST connector.

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When everything is done, this is the fully populated board. Congratulations :)

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