Exploring the world one circuit board at a time
The Arduino Uno is a very popular and versatile development board, used in conjunction with the Arduino IDE it makes for very quick rapid prototyping tool, but what if you want to move away from using the development board or you want to make a freestanding project without sacrificing your Uno (like so many projects I have seen)? The ZIF (Zero Insertion Force) socket mod could be the answer to these problems!
The ZIF socket allows you to quickly plug and unplug the 328p chip without risk of damaging the pins, so re-flashing the Ardunio bootloader onto a fresh 328p is as simple as popping it into the quick release socket and clicking “Burn Bootloader” from within the Arduino IDE.
When I first got in to circuit board design, I use an Ardunio Uno with a breadboard and experimented with all the components, and when I eventually got round to making a worthwhile project I wanted to make it to be more of a ‘thing’ rather than a bunch of wires sticking out of a breadboard! You can buy the ATMEGA 328p in DIP format for around £3, and the ZIF socket for about the same (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9175)
You need the DIP version of the Uno (some are SMD, which will not be compatible) and installation required removing the original socket (cutting up the plastic and then using a soldering iron to remove the metal pins), then soldering the ZIF socket in. The ZIF socket pins are rotated 90 degrees to the standard pins, and so don’t actually fit all the way in the PCB drill holes, but putting them in as far as the go and soldering from the top worked out just fine, then soldering from underneath to make a good solid connection.
This method is great if you want to make a breadboard Arduino, or are etching your own circuit boards! A good idea would be to include pin outs for the AVR ISP header (which could be an alternative to this mod) to enable .hex flashing even if you do solder in the chip into its destination board. The only downside with the ZIF mod is that you cannot use any Arduino shields with the Uno, at least not without header extensions, but to be honest I never used the shields anyway because that’s what a breadboard is for!
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