Step 11: Going Further
Professional PCB Fabrication
I used Illustrator to draw out the PCB, printed the design on a transparent sheet, and used that to etch my own board. Although I find DIY fabrication to be a fun challenge, etching your own circuit boards is not ideal. The process is laborious, expensive, and getting good results is an art onto itself. Now-a-days there are reasonably priced options for professional fabrication (batchpcb.com) and the boards they produce are exactly like something you'd pull out of a store-bought item. They also give you advanced PCB design options that would be almost impossible to do at home.
Most significantly professional PCBs can make use of multiple layers of traces that have been laminated together. The Pingbot uses jumper wires underneath the board to connect parts of the circuit that I couldn't get traces to. The jumpers would be unnecessary on a multi-layer board, as they could be replaced with an additional layer of traces and vias. The traces would also take up less area on the board allowing more components to fit into the same amount of space.
Professionally fabricated boards also get coated with a layer of epoxy that protects the traces from corrosion, the pads that the components are soldered to are tinned, and you can have a text and artwork silkscreen printed on the surface of the board.
What's the hitch? You need to know how to use a PCB design software in order to create the files for fabrication. I am just now learning to do this with Eagle PCB software (a free version of which can be found at cadsofusa.com). This program isn't exactly intuitive, and you really have to put on your engineer hat to get into its work flow. Fortunately, the nice guys over at Sparkfun have a fine set of tutorials written for beginners that I've found to be of great help.
Alone the Pingbot is neat, but I think I would like to build more and have about six of them working together. Since the robot receives its commands from an IR remote, it would be possible to give orders to multiple Pingbots at the same time. This little robot squad could be programmed to perform synchronized routines with dancing and music. They could even be given an IR LED that they could use to talk to each other. Right now I can't say exactly what practical use that would provide, but I can think of a few wacky, chaotic ones.
Creating the team would be a fun exercise is mass production. The shells could be made by creating a mold from the 3D print, and casting them from a plastic resin. Instead of just one, a whole batch of circuit boards could be fabricated. A scheme could be created and the bots could all be painted at the same time. This may be my next project!
Thank you for checking out my Instructable and giving me a chance to share my work, I do hope it proves to be useful. If you have any questions or suggestions please fire away!