Building the Kits

To save some money, you can build both units from a kit. These are very minimalistic boards, They have been reduced down to the absolute simplest construction and design possible. With one exception, all components are ‘thru-hole’ so they are very easy to solder. One surface mount component, a voltage regulator is required, but with the help of an aligator clip, it’s also quite easy to solder.

Building the DCC Amplifier

All the components for the DCC Amplifier. Power chip, connectors, PCB, heatsink and the logic inverter. Very simple.
Soldering on the inverter chip. Be sure to note the correct orientation with the notch on the chip.
Solder the main driver chip. It’s best to solder in just one leg, then adjust the chip by heating the one connection and moving it around until its positioned correctly. You want a few mm of leg poking through the hole. This is not critical however. ‘Close enough’ is sufficient.
Solder on the connectors- first the three pin logic connector, then the two blue power connectors. Note the polarity for later, the right terminal on both blue terminal blocks is ground. This will be very important when you finally hook this up.
Attach the heatsink. You will have to mark this and drill the hole for a short bolt here. If you get a heatsink with the ‘legs’ (poking up from the top in this photo) don’t worry if they don’t fit holes in the circuit board, this is not required. These are great heatsinks, they have a good thermal mass and fins. We cut a much larger one in half to get these, so don’t worry if they are a bit rough on one side.

Building the BlueDCC Receiver

All the components for the Control Board. Microcontroller, connectors, PCB, voltage regulator, crystal and caps, sockets and headers.
Hardest part first. You will need an alligator clip or other clamp to hold the regulator in place. If you have some rosin, this helps but it’s not required. Solder the three leads of the regulator, don’t worry about the main tab, it’s not connected.
After the regulator is in place, solder in the clock circut. Two caps and the crystal.
With the clock circuit in place, solder in the two resistors. The one with the paper tab is the 20K one. The board is marked for both the 10K and the 20K. Don’t mix them up.
Solder the microcontroller in. It helps to gently bend the pins so it will fit in the board. Hold it against a flat surface and bend both sides in. Test fit until it will go into the board easily. Turn it over carefully and solder one pin. Verify that it’s in the correct orientaion (notch and pin one) and then solder the remaining legs of the chip. The micro is pre-programmed with the latest firmware and clock setup.

Solder in the pin headers. It’s best to do these across like pictured. Snap off one row, solder in, repeat for all three. As with the others, solder one pin, verify the alignment, adjust if required and then solder the remaining pins.
The finished board with all headers and sockets in place.
The Bluetooth module installed. Note the footprint of the network module. It is identical to the Xbee. Several networks are available in this form factor. I will be doing an Xbee digimesh version of this at some point in the future.