Adventures in Eagle Package Design

At Adafruit, new products and projects are always cooking and this week has been no different. I’m working towards a bigger project that involves a hardware design, specifically a custom development board. This board will require a vertical USB-C port. However, we haven’t done a design with a vertical USB C port…yet. It was time to design a part in Eagle and whip up a quick breakout board for testing.

The first step was finding a vertical USB C part. Using the filters on LCSC, I was able to track down one that I liked the looks of. It was mechanically strong, had some pin compatible alternatives and was available on JLCPCB for PCBA.

After deciding on a part I went spelunking into the datasheet and studied the suggested part footprint. The next task was going to be translating this diagram to Eagle.

I had created a part once in Eagle before and had followed along with KTOWN’s Ultimate Creating Parts in Eagle Tutorial Learn Guide. I proceeded to journey thru its many pages again, happy to see that the basics of Eagle had remained basically the same since the guide was published. The one aspect of the footprint that was Tricky™️ was the mounting hole cutouts. They are oblong holes. I searched the Eagle forums to see if there were suggestions on how to handle this and sure enough, makers before me had posed the question. It was suggested to outline the cut on the Milling layer over the pad.

To double check my dimensions, I used the Measures layer a lot to layout the dimensions from the datasheet and make sure that the footprint pads and drills were being placed correctly as I edited their coordinates. This gave me visual confirmation that everything was populating correctly.

Next was designing a breakout with this new part. Ladyada suggested basing the design on Downstream USB Type C Breakout we have in the store. I swapped the vanilla USB C port for the new vertical part and routed.

After review, it was decided that the breakout would be more stable mechanically if it had two rows of pins and four mounting holes. That way it would sit nicely in a breadboard or other prototype setup. Personally I think I did a better job routing this version and I got some practice using the “proper” tools for placing components and outlines in Eagle after following along with KTown’s Eagle guide. It was finally time to generate some gerbers.

Returning to JLCPCB, where this part search originally commenced, I uploaded the gerber folder and selected the PCBA service. This service assembles the boards for you with the parts that JLCPCB has on hand. I chose the part that I had picked out earlier for the vertical USB C and added it to the BOM. This generated a lovely 3D render of the future breakout.

The boards are being fabbed now and I’m really excited to test it. This process will let us make sure that the footprint and routing for this new to us part is ready for the more complex dev board design. And in case you were wondering, yes, this breakout will eventually be in the Adafruit shop!

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