Designing a Minimal Arduino Board with Proteus ARES

Creating custom PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) is a fascinating aspect of electronics projects, allowing for compact and tailored solutions. In this blog post, we'll explore my experience using Proteus ARES, a powerful PCB design software, to craft a minimal Arduino board. This adventure takes us through the steps of schematic design, component placement, routing, and eventually manufacturing.

Getting Started with Proteus

Proteus is a comprehensive electronics design and simulation suite, widely used for schematic capture, simulation, and PCB layout. ARES, a module within Proteus, specifically caters to PCB design.

To begin, I opened Proteus and started a new project. ARES provides an intuitive interface, making it easy to transition from schematic design to the PCB layout.

 Schematic Design

The first step was to design the schematic of the minimal Arduino board. I placed essential components such as the ATmega microcontroller, crystal oscillator, voltage regulator, and necessary passive components on the schematic canvas. Proteus offers a vast library of components, simplifying the selection process.

schematic design

After connecting the components and defining the necessary connections, I verified the schematic for accuracy and completeness.

 Transition to ARES

Once satisfied with the schematic, I seamlessly transitioned to ARES for the PCB layout. ARES automatically imports the components and connections from the schematic, providing a starting point for the PCB design.

Component Placement

Effective component placement is crucial for optimizing the board's layout. I strategically positioned components to minimize trace lengths, reduce interference, and ensure a compact design. ARES allows for easy dragging and dropping of components, making the placement process intuitive.

component placemenet

component placement

Routing the PCB

The heart of PCB design lies in routing traces. ARES simplifies this process with its autorouting feature, which automatically connects components based on the defined rules. However, for a minimal Arduino board, manual routing provides more control over trace paths and signal integrity.

routing pcb traces

I carefully routed traces, paying attention to signal paths, power distribution, and ground planes. 


routing pcb ground plane

Proteus ARES offers a real-time design rule check, ensuring that the layout adheres to specified constraints.

Design Validation

Before finalizing the design, I ran simulations in Proteus ISIS, the simulation module, to verify the circuit's functionality. This step is crucial for catching errors before proceeding to the physical prototype. A 3D view of the final prototype minimal Arduino board can also be viewed in Proteus.

3d model minimum arduino board

Before you can export your PCB design gerber files for sending to PCB production house, you first need to perform pre-production check in ARES.

pre-production check

Exporting Gerber Files

With the design validated, the next step was to export Gerber files. These files contain the information necessary for manufacturing the PCB. Proteus simplifies this process, allowing for easy export of Gerber files with a few clicks. Go to Output>Generate Gerber/Excellon Files as shown below.

generate gerber files

You can specify what layers to include, where to save the gerber files as shown below.

gerber files configuration

 The output is a zipped file and we can unzip it to see the files saved.

Manufacturing and Testing

Before I can sent the Gerber Files for production to a PCB manufacturer, we can use PCB manufacturer provided DFM(Design For Manufacturing) PCB manufacturing verification tool. Once the PCB layout design are acceptable by the DMF tool we can proceed to sent them to the PCB fabrication house through online ordering and payment. Once the order is placed, we have to wait for the arrival of the fabricated PCBs.

Design For Manufacturing

Video Tutorial on Proteus ARES PCB Design Software

Once the PCB arrives, I will assemble the components. Testing the board involved uploading a simple Arduino sketch to ensure that the custom-designed board functioned as intended.

Overall Proteus ARES proved to be an invaluable tool in the creation of a minimal Arduino board. Its seamless integration between schematic design and PCB layout, coupled with powerful features like auto-routing and real-time design rule checks, facilitated a smooth design process. The ability to simulate the circuit in ISIS before manufacturing significantly reduced the likelihood of errors.

As you embark on your PCB design journey with Proteus ARES, remember that practice and experimentation enhance proficiency. Crafting custom PCBs opens up a realm of possibilities for electronics enthusiasts, allowing for the realization of unique and optimized designs. If you interested in making your own PCB at home check out the tutorial make your own PCB at home.

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