How do we help you build a quality kit?

There are two main reasons that electronic kits may not work properly after assembly: soldering problems and incorrectly loaded parts. (Bad parts are much less common today than in the past.) We ensure that you don't have these problems in several ways:

1. Soldering problems account for most problems in kit building. We strongly encourage everyone, even experienced kit builders, to study the soldering guidelines that are printed in the manual, which clearly show how to make a good solder joint and what bad ones look like. There are reminders every so often to "keep your soldering iron tip clean by wiping it on a wet sponge periodically", and "maintain soldering iron contact with the parts for at least 3 seconds after the solder starts flowing (6 seconds for pins connected to ground and power planes)", and "use enough solder to thoroughly cover the leads", and other appropriate notes. For an extra fee, we will include a pre-paid overnight shipping box with protective antistatic packaging which you can use to send your completed boards to us for inspection and/or testing, and we'll return them within one business day. (Note: We currently do not recommend use of lead-free solder. Until the components are all RoHS compliant, lead-free solder and boards will cause problems that we don't want you to have. We are working on converting our parts and boards to RoHS-compliant versions, but it's a long process.)

2. A common problem with other manufacturers' kits is loading a resistor or capacitor into the wrong location. To help you minimize this possibility, we have devised a better way of loading boards. Each PC board kit has pre-sorted parts - all the 10K resistors are in one bag, all the .01uF capacitors in another, etc. Therefore, you do not need to figure out the resistor color code or measure the part values or read the tiny print on the capacitors before you insert them in the board. This saves you time, makes it much less likely that you will misidentify a part, and also makes it easier for us to inspect our kits before shipment. As you insert a part, the manual tells you what the part's name and value is (e.g., R12, 10K, brown-black-black-red), not just where it goes. The boards are silk-screened with the part names, so as you insert R12 into the holes labeled R12 and check off that step, you can be confident that you have placed the correct part into the correct location. If you were to accidentally load R12 into the location for, say, R122, then when the time came to load R122, you would not be able to find the holes for R122 on the board. Although finding the improperly placed part can then be a challenge, at least you know you made that mistake before you turn the board on. The manual has a complete image of the blank board showing all the part names to help you find the parts. We offer tips and tools to help you identify part values if it comes to that. For example, a magnifying glass with built-in white LED light, available at Radio Shack, makes it much easier to read resistor color codes. As you retrace your steps, you can easily identify resistors by their color code.

3. Our PC boards are high quality .062" FR-4 epoxy glass, double-sided or 4-layer, with plated through holes, solder-mask and silk-screening. The SMOBC process ensures that you'll be able to apply solder without causing short circuits between traces.

4. We do not provide IC sockets. IC sockets tend to cause more problems that they solve, which can cause trouble after a product has been in service for a while. If you need to replace an IC, the board's extra plating thickness and solder-mask make it easy to remove parts using a solder sucker or wick without damaging the board. While we do not void your warranty if you choose to use IC sockets that you provide, we highly recommend that you do not use anything but high quality sockets with machined, gold-plated pins.

5. All static sensitive parts are in anti-static bags. We recommend that you assemble your kit on an anti-static mat with a wrist strap and ground connection. These mats are available at low cost from several vendors and we will also make them available. Static precautions are explained in the manual.

6. Parts with polarity designations (diodes, electrolytic capacitors, ICs) have their polarity shown in two ways -- a square pad indicates the positive side or pin 1, and the silkscreen shows a "+" symbol or a notch. This helps you insert these parts in the correct orientation. Transistors are shown with the flat side or tab visible on the silkscreen.

7. In addition to well-written instructions, we include detailed drawings when there is a potentially confusing step. And we're just a quick phone call, IM or email away if you have any urgent questions.

There's no feeling quite like the exhilaration of turning on a product that you have built yourself and seeing it work. We promise to continue to innovate and find better ways to make your kit-building experience successful. Heathkit used to say "We won't let you fail". Our motto is a more positive We'll make sure you succeed!