(PCB) Thank-You Cards

As a senior in high school looking to get into college, I received help from many teachers through advice and recommendations. The standard way to show appreciation for this is to write a thank-you card. I decided to spice things up a little, and design a thank you card - in the form of a printed circuit board (PCB).

PCBs have several layers of materials, all of different colors. I used this to my advantage to make a visually appealing design using a variety of layers.

Eagle CAD Designs

Here are the Eagle designs for the circuit board.

The top layer features the logo of my high school and the words "thank you" written with metal traces.

On the left is a functioning LED fader circuit, and on the right is a functioning LED blinker circuit. The traces of both of these circuits are exposed (no soldermask) for visual effect. The components will not be populated when I give them to my teachers, as the leaded solder and bulky components aren't very attractive. I figured just the idea that these were functioning circuits was pretty cool.

The spiderweb mess of traces in the background will be hardly noticeable and will be covered by the blue soldermask.

Finally, white silkscreen is used to accent some parts.

This is the bottom side of the board.

The yellow boxes and text are actually the white silkscreen for this bottom layer. The upper yellow box allows me to write in the name of the teacher, and the bottom box is for a personalized message. I think a fine-tip sharpie should write well on the PCB.

The bottom-layer circuitry should be largely covered by the silkscreen and soldermask.

The border of the PCB and the silkscreen boxes consist of bare metal traces.

The Finished Product

I ordered ten of these PCBs through Seeedstudio's prototyping service (Only $50 for all ten!). Here they are!

Overall I think they turned out great and were definitely worth it!

Design Your Own!

Making your own PCB thank-you card is relatively easy once you are familiar with PCB design.

I chose to use the free Eagle PCB design software. If you want to learn how to design PCBs with Eagle, check out Sparkfun's Eagle tutorials, and pay special attention to the second part where they discuss board layout.

After you understand PCB design in general, here are some tips about using your skills for thank-you cards:

  • Seeedstudio's PCB service gives you ten 10cm x 10cm circuit boards (roughly 4 inches square) for $40. On my boards, I chose to have a blue silkscreen for an additional $10, which also qualified me for the free $50 shipping. For this quantity of boards, they beat out other competitors like BatchPCB, GoldPheonix, and DorkbotPDX.
  • The free version of Eagle has board size limits of 4 x 3.2 inches. You can still make boards 4 inches high, but you will not be able to place components above the 3.2 inch mark. Notice in my boards that the circuitry to the right is placed well below the top of the board due to this restriction.
  • To get the TJHSST logo and the cursive writing, I used the import_bmp script that comes standard with Eagle. It basically allows you to put bitmap (bmp) images into your board. It is very tricky to get to work properly, and I can't explain it all here. I would recommend the first thing you do is play around with the script before you work on your thank-you card.
  • tstop and bstop layers are your friends, anything placed on those layers will stop the soldermark in that area.
  • Silkscreen only prints on soldermask, and will not print on traces. I made an error, so on my boards you can see some silkscreen values are cut off.
  • Seeedstudio's CAM file for generating gerbers does not have all of the layers for the silkscreens, so double check the proper layers are highlighted.

I hope this helps, happy creating!