Tuesday night I was able to get started on soldering the Renard boardsw are starting with. I have two 24 channel boards giving us 48 total channels for now. I hope to buy at least one 64 channel controller with a group purchase between now and Christmas 2011. For now, here are a couple of pictures of the start.

Started Soldering Renard SS24 Renard SS24 Close Up Renard SS24 Bottom

Since I’ve never soldered PCBs before, this was a new task. I already have a really nice soldering iron, but I bought a fine point tip, and some fine solder for this work. I actually found it much easier than I thought it would be. The fine tip, and accurate temperature control made it relatively easy. For now, I don’t have a PCB holder, so I would either put the board on my lap, my work bench, or clamp it with the alligator type clamps depending on where I was working on the board.

In about 3 hours I have all resistors, diodes, LEDs, caps, fuse holders, and IC sockets soldered to the board. I think all I have left are the triacs, RJ45, DB9 connectors, and the screw terminals. I should be able to complete those with another hour of work, then I can start tinkering with the software side of things. I will need to program the PIC microcontrollers, get some “tests” going with Vixen on a windows machine. Then I will start looking at the rs485 protocol and my own software to sequence/control the show. I don’t like the fact that vixen requires windows and hope I can easily “record” the output and convert to something I can plop into eeprom on an arduino or similar MCU.

For now, I’m just excited to actually have hardware ready to play with. I will probably get a little “test” setup in the garage so I can visually see lights blinking and flashing. I spend a lot of time reading, learning, etc. on DIYC where I heard this gem: “It’s not a hobby. It’s an obsession. It is only a hobby for 6 months.” We’ll see if we make it past the hobby stage, stay tuned!