The Hobbyist and the Golden Age of DIP Packaging

The ability to work with smt parts makes a big difference to any project or design. Unfortunately for hobbyists everywhere, the golden age of DIP packages is coming to an end. Size is cost for semiconductor manufacturers, the move to smaller and smaller processes (most visible to the outside world with Intels move to 14nm lines and beyond) leads to higher throughput and lower costs. So the chips are cheaper (purposely avoided the play on words there) but the plain fact remains that they are a pain to work with.

I think a lot of people who do electronics work come across this problem. You have a cool idea and want to try it out, if it falls outside the world of arduino shields and electronics kits in general or you are at the stage where you want to push your idea from a breadboard test to a slick single board design, lead times kill any train of thought you might have and just make it less fun!

One of the big blocks to iterative design with hardware is the ability to very quickly go through a phase of design, build, test and revise a project the way software developers can. I’ve always had a little bit of jealousy here, the compile button for a software guy is a month long supply chain exercise for a hardware guy! With the right tools in house (or bedroom in my case) this can be sped up so that momentum isn’t lost in a design iteration. I suppose it’s agile development methodologies for the hardware world.

Of course all of this only works if you keep staple components in your stores, I’ll probably go off on a tangent about this at some stage…