Stand out from the competition with an easy to make (as easy as editing few lines in a text file) PCB business card!
First impressions matter, but what about… the second ones? Say you have met a potential employer or business partner, awed them with your skills, personality, knowledge (or your interactive name tag) and it’s time to give them your contact information. You hand out a business card. So why not make that one stand out as well?
Sure, you can always have fancy designs printed on it or even a QR code, however, why not take it to the next level and instead of a card, give them... a PCB?
I got my initial inspiration from Frank Zhao’s USB PCB Business Card and Mike Puchol’s PCB business card, however I wanted something simpler to build. My idea was to make a small development board out of the business card, with an ATtiny85 microcontroller and its pins broken out, ICSP headers to program it and some available space for prototyping. Its usability would of course not be anywhere near that of an Arduino, however it could potentially be used to make something cool.
The instructable is based on this article published in my blog.
Step 1: How to Design One
It is relatively easy to make a PCB business card. There are specifically three different approaches, from the “hardest” which offers the most freedom to the easiest, which limits you to the layout I created but you just need to edit a text file.
- If you know how to use CAD programs like Eagle, then simply design one yourself from scratch. You will be able to suit it to your own needs and liking, while expressing your creativity to the maximum.
- If you do not know how to use CAD programs like Eagle, but would not mind spending 30 minutes or so, learning the basics, then you can take my design* found here, import it into Eagle and change it as you wish. Depending on how much time you wish to spend on this, you could create something fundamentally different in just a couple of hours, without any prior experience. How about using a another microcontroller or adding a battery for example?
- If you do not know and do not want to learn how to use a CAD program, then keep reading.
*The Eagle files are published under a CC0 license, therefore belong to the public domain. Feel free to use them however you wish.
Step 2: Design One, the Easy Way
If you do not know and do not want to learn how to use such tools, then just save the pcb_business_card.brd file (right click + Save link as) and open it with your favorite text editor. Observe that it’s basically an XML file.
Find where I have placed my name (ctrl+F then type “Dimitris”) and then edit the appropriate fields with your own information.
Step 3: How to Fabricate It
OK, now that you have designed the board, it’s time to fabricate it. You could do that entirely by yourself, but if you have never done that before, then it is best (time, effort and cost wise) to just use a service like OSH Park, or Seeed, to do that for you.
If you want the most hassle-free process and do not even wish to download Eagle, then OSH Park is for you. You only need to upload the .brd file, check the preview and if it's good enough you click order and in a couple of weeks your creations will be delivered at your doorstep.
On the other hand, with Seeed you will get more boards for the same price, however you will have to convert the .brd file into a .zip with Gerber files. Let's see how that's done!
Step 4: Generate the Gerber Files in Eagle
- Download the Seeed Studio's CAM file.
- Import the project in Eagle. You do this by finding where the default project folder location is and just putting the .brd file inside. In Ubuntu this is at /home/user/eagle, in Windows it is in the default Documents folder. If you want to keep things organized, you can put your project into a separate subfolder.
- Open the .brd (or .sch) file, in the board view, by double clicking on it.
- Click on the CAM Processor icon.
- In the window that will pop up, click on File > Open > Job and pick the .cam file you previously downloaded.
- If done successfully, upon return, the window will look a little different. Notice there are more tabs now? If yes, click on Process job.
- And that was it. Go to your project folder and you will see that a bunch of new files were generated. Zip them and they are good to be uploaded!
Step 5: Conclusion
If no other changes are made, your cards should look slightly better than mine. I improved the design, by exposing the copper on the front side of the board, so your name will look more metallic and shiny. Another change I made was to add VCC and Ground pins to the prototyping area on the left. Last but not least, I removed my logo, so you won’t have to do this yourselves. Moreover, keep in mind that if you choose to fabricate your cards at Seeed Studio, they will print a reference number to the rear (bottom) side of your PCB, which might not be the most aesthetic feature on a business card.
To conclude, this is a very easy project which can make you stand out from the crowd, with little effort and money. You can even hand them out without the microcontroller if you want to lower the cost and the size. It should not decrease the wow factor.
Finally, this is how the card looks after soldering some pins on it. Cute, isn’t it?