An Unfortunate SMD Project

If you like happy, easy to build projects, this is not for you. This project is only for people who like to be miserable and frustrated.

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Test your surface mount soldering skills out, starting with a 1206 package and work your way down into an oblivion of frustration. Powered by a CR2032 coin cell and Attiny 85 SOIC.Be warned that trying to hand solder a 0201 package, which is just slightly larger than a grain of sand, may be considered evidence of insanity and get you committed to bad places by your loved ones and/or arch nemesis.I have submitted to request from miserable people to make this an unfortunate kit. Don't think I'm doing you any favors:

Making LEDs blink is what people think make Makers happy, but they are wrong. Makers want to be miserable. They like to make mistakes and to have to try things over and over again. That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. This project will make you strong!

Hand soldering a 1206 is easy and makes me happy, so I decided to see how far down the package sizes I could go before I was reduced to tears. I can do a 0402 package by hand, but it isn't pretty.

My biggest hurdle was determining orientation of the LEDs. You need to refer to the datasheets because each one has different markings. You will also need a USB microscope or really good magnifying glass for the smaller packages.

You are also going to need a good set of tweezers. Robots, who will rule us shortly, have no trouble picking and placing these devices (without error or complaint I might add), but shaky hands and faulty eyes make this a sad affair all around for us miserable mortals. If your luck is as bad as mine, you will spend lots of time frustratedly looking for microscopic dots when they fling out of your tweezers. Buy several extras of each size because the universe will go out of its way to make sure you will need them.

SMD_challenge mask.svg

This is the SVG file which can be used to laser cut a mask.

svg+xml - 8.36 kB - 07/27/2017 at 04:37



This is the gerber file of the top mask which can be uploaded to OSH Stencils to have a mask made.

- 1.68 kB - 07/27/2017 at 04:37



Schematic for those of you depressed enough to be interested.

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) - 88.86 kB - 06/05/2017 at 03:31



Arduino sketch for anyone unfortunate enought to want to make LEDs blink.

ino - 3.41 kB - 06/05/2017 at 03:17


View all 14 components

  • A Miserable Competion

    MakersBox12/07/2017 at 05:58 0 comments

    I don't know how this keeps happening, but the misery spreads despite all my warnings.  The latest victims include four hands from SparkFun.  You think they would have known better:

    What I learned from watching the pros at work:

    •  I used the stock KiCad 0201 footprint (which I may or may not have verified against the data sheet).  This is appropriately inappropriate for hand soldering. 
    • You don't need the data sheet if you test your components.
    • Speed is good, but attention to detail is King.
    • There is far less swearing at SparkFun than at my workplace.
    •  I've got to get me a loop!
    • My chance at getting hired on at SparkFun may have significantly decreased.

  • Lousy Firmware Update

    MakersBox11/05/2017 at 21:33 1 comment

    This project shared firmware with the much less miserable I Can Surface Mount Solder one.  Both projects have a 1206 LED that flashed with a heartbeat.  On the SMD Challenge, the additional LEDs blinked randomly.

    Thinking it would be more frustrating to have it quite obvious when you invariably mess up an LED, I decided to have them flash in sequence, much like the cold and heartless Cylon Centurions

    If you want to learn more about how sadly slow our eyes are compared to computers, check out

    Unfortunately, I had to make another set of kits.  There must be a lot of miserable, frustrated hobbyist out their willing to pay for some woe.  The PCBs came in groups of four with an boring star-shapped cut out in the middle.  I promptly punctured my finger on one, so if there is blood on your kit, know that I share your pain.

    I should have left the mouse-bite edges on there to punish you further, but decided to coat my table and lungs with fibreglass to add to my own misery.  You are welcome.

  • Influencing Digkey Search Results?

    MakersBox10/17/2017 at 04:28 1 comment

    An Unfortunate SMD Challenge Participant Reported:
    On DigiKey, when I was searching for the 754-2022-1-ND (the 0201 LED), I
    noticed that in the "you might be interested in" results from DigiKey,
    they listed:

        BAT-HLD-001 - Linx Technologies Inc. | BAT-HLD-001-ND DigiKey
        Linx Technologies Inc.
        Unit Price 0.28000

        ATTINY85V-10SUR - Microchip Technology | ATTINY85V-10SURCT-ND
        DigiKey Electronics
        Microchip Technology
        Unit Price 1.25000

    So it would seem that the SMD Challenge orders have affected the DigiKey
    search results...  though, who else would be ordering 0201 LEDs, right?

  • It Can Be Done!

    MakersBox09/13/2017 at 04:59 7 comments

    I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it my self.  Hand soldering a 0201.  A miserable young whelp of an Electronics Technician.  Proved me wrong.  Photographic proof submitted to boot:

    He did use a microscope.  And a JBC station with a 0.2mm tip.  But still, it can be done.  Misery upon us all who don't have young eyes and steady hands.

    I've been thinking about scoring. 

      + 50 points for attempting this project (or being foolish).

      + 10 points for getting one LED to blink (you got the Attiny in correctly and can tell the polarity of an LED).

      + 5 for the 0805 lighting up (Give me a break, it is not much smaller than a 1206).

      + 10 for the 0603 (so you have an unfortunate set of tweezers on hand).

      + 10 for the 0402 (alright, we getting serious up in here).

      + 15 for the 0201 (you got lucky, punk).

      - 5 for using a microscope unless you are over 50.

      - 10 for using a paste and a mask (hey it works, but you cheated).

    By this method, my young unfortunate friend scored a 95.

    And I have scored an 85 and 90.  Yes, I used a mask, but I need to prove the circuit and code worked, right?

    So, to break the record, submit miserable proof of all LEDs blinking, without a mask, and without a microscope, unless you are unfortunate to be over 50 years of age.

  • An Unfortunate Mask

    MakersBox07/27/2017 at 04:34 1 comment

    I think I have confessed elsewhere that the only way I was able to complete this unfortunate project was to cheat by using solder mask. This allows you to spread solder paste only on the pad areas, and capillary action will actually pull the piece in to place as the paste melts in an over or over a hot plate.  It is quite a thing to witness.

    There are two ways to get a stencil.  Once is to use a laser cutter.  Most of us, including me, do not have a laser cutter in our garage.  You may have a friend or Maker Space you can use.  Most laser use SVG files, which you can find in the files section.

    For the rest of us pour unfortunate souls, you can cast your mercy on someone like OSH Stencils, who will take your money to easy your misery.  The gerber plot file is also in the files section.  I would use a 3mil polyimide and 0.75" boarder.  This should cost your about $5.00.

    [Update] OSH Stencils has provide a link for ordering.

  • An Unfortunate Kit

    MakersBox07/25/2017 at 01:05 2 comments

    So, my original intent was always to make a "Gentle Introduction to Surface Mount Soldering".  This project became the alter-ego of that one.  They actually share quite a bit of hardware and software, so I figured if I was going to kit one, I might as well as spread the misery and kit this one as well.  Don't think I am doing you a favor.  I will regret it, I'm sure:

    Here is the other project, which is happy, well documented, and which I will gladly sell you:

  • Programming Surface Mounted Chips

    MakersBox06/14/2017 at 02:59 5 comments

    A majority of my projects to date have used DIP package Attiny85, 84, and Atmega328. These are usually programmed beforehand using a ISP shield on an Arduino, or afterwards using the ISP header. My first PCB design, was in fact, a shield which could be used to program the variety of AVR chips I was using. Breadboarding up an Arduino-as-ISP circuit time every time I needed one was error-prone and frustrating.

    Programming via ISP header using Pogo Pins

    My Making has progressed to the point that I have started doing SMT, mainly because I've been doing wearables and like the idea of having a coin cell battery on one side and the microcontroller on the other in a nice tidy package. The SOIC package is hand solderable, and using pads for the ISP header instead of through holes helps maintain the advantage of going SMT. Making a good connection to pads using a 2x3 pin header was a hit-and-miss proposition, so I was happy to find Nick Sayer's ISP Pogo Adapter.

    SOIC to DIP adapter installed in a ZIF socket: Turtles all the way down . . ..

    It occurred to me that since not all projects have ISP headers, there should be some way to program the chips prior to installation. With a little googling, I found SOIC to DIP adapters which can be used to mate up with a DIP ZIF fixture. A SOIC 20 allows me to program the AVR 8-pin, 14-pin, and 20-pin packages!

    EIAJ Flavor SOIC. Datasheets are your friend . . .

    The one cavat here is to be aware that there are two types of SOIC package, a wider EIAJ version that AVR supplies, and a narrower JEDEC version (oh, why do they do this to us?). My first ebay adapter purchase was the narrow version, and this problem has bit me with PCB footprints as well. A word to the wise . . .

  • The smallest part I have ever worked with . . .

    MakersBox06/06/2017 at 02:32 5 comments

    This is my forth iteration of this project. I don't know why I punish myself.

    The smaller LEDs are hard to tell the orientation. They are all packaged in the same orientation with the negative side (cathode) toward the side of the tape with holes in it. They all have a "whisker" wire that point to the positive side (right in the photos).

    I must confess, I never even tried to hand solder the 0201 chips. I can do the 0402s by hand, but even with the thinnest of tips, I doubt you can get the 0201s to stick without cooking them. Prove me wrong.

    Here is my first attempt with a solder mask and hot plate. I had to pull the LED off with the iron (it basically disappeared into the solder on the tip), and then remask it. Quite frankly I'm surprised it worked. At least I proved the circuit. Now I can move on to something less unfortunate.

View all 8 project logs

  • 1
    Step 1

    You should not build this. It is impossible to complete, so why bother. The picture is probably photoshoped to show it working, as is this video:

  • 2
    Step 2

    If you want pain in your life, do not read the datasheets. They contain very sad information. The pictures are also miserable. You have a 50-50 chance of getting the alignment right, so why even try?

  • 3
    Step 3

    Soldering by hand is impossible, so don't even try. It will only make you rant. It is unlikely that this video will help either:

View all 4 instructions

Enjoy this project?



valerio\new wrote 09/20/2017 at 15:51 point

I took the challenge (result here Soldered everything by naked eye with a medium conical tip (the one that comes with hakko fx-888d). For the 0201 components i used a x10 goldsmith magnifying glass. 

Now i'm having some troubles with the firmware. 

I've installed the suggested core in the arduino IDE, loaded the Arduino as ISP example into my arduino UNO, done all the required connections to the board (seems like the pin 1 of the onboard icsp contacts is marked wrong) and loaded the firmware. 

I only get led D1 and D2 blinking fast and nothing else. 

Am i missing something? 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Blackfire_tx wrote 07/03/2017 at 10:04 point

Well... ordered the parts from Mouser today. Will probably be trying to have it working in time for DEFCON. (as a badge of honor)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Blackfire_tx wrote 07/08/2017 at 11:21 point

Seems as if the programming is all that is holding mine up. Arduino seems to not to want to play nice.

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Blackfire_tx wrote 07/12/2017 at 00:09 point

Ok... note: Set the clock to 1mhz or you'll be pissed off for a while as it won't program.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Yann Guidon / YGDES wrote 06/16/2017 at 21:52 point

Rename this as "Badge of Horror" and they'll sell like hot cakes during hackerfests and faires !

  Are you sure? yes | no

oshpark wrote 06/17/2017 at 06:35 point

Nice name!

  Are you sure? yes | no

zakqwy wrote 06/09/2017 at 14:47 point

Gah, 0201! I picked up a handful of those Kingbright LEDs (in yellow rather than blue) and was able to reflow a few in my toaster, but they are a real pain to deal with. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

K.C. Lee wrote 06/09/2017 at 11:19 point

Should try to pack the layout to really pack these parts tight and/or use them on the worse solder mask alignment from some cheap Chinese PCB board house.  
Now that would be a better challenge. :)

  Are you sure? yes | no

MakersBox wrote 06/09/2017 at 14:37 point

Oh, the missery . . .

  Are you sure? yes | no

Yann Guidon / YGDES wrote 06/09/2017 at 18:12 point

Do you speak from experience ?....

Because you sound like you speak from experience.

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Yann Guidon / YGDES wrote 06/09/2017 at 08:44 point

Next version: introducing 01005

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Yann Guidon / YGDES wrote 06/09/2017 at 08:44 point

How do you even get 0201 parts ?

  Are you sure? yes | no

MakersBox wrote 06/09/2017 at 15:42 point

Links in the BOM.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Yann Guidon / YGDES wrote 06/06/2017 at 23:52 point

OK so when do you sell kits ?

  Are you sure? yes | no

MakersBox wrote 06/07/2017 at 05:40 point

This project has made me miserable enough without profiting off other unfortunate, misguided Makers.  You should be paying me not to post this type of project!

Although, if you do want to throw away your money, I sell kits for other, less unfortunate projects at

P.S., I've provided everything you need to do this yourself in the BOM.  The boards would only be $6 for three, and the rest would be about $10.  Small price to pay for the frustration of a life-time (or the ultimate bragging rights if you accomplish the impossible).

P.P.S. Oh, wait. You still have to program the chip.  Will the misery never end?  Maybe I should just sell programmed chips.  No tech support though. You'd only have yourself to commiserate with.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Yann Guidon / YGDES wrote 06/17/2017 at 11:53 point

Yes, please sell programmed chips. The misery should only be about soldering, not dealing with software etc...

  Are you sure? yes | no

oshpark wrote 06/06/2017 at 20:34 point

What adapter do you use to program the AVR?

  Are you sure? yes | no

MakersBox wrote 06/06/2017 at 21:26 point

I'll have to do a post on that, but the short answer is using an Arduino and an ISP shield ( and either a SOIC adapter to program the chip before soldering, or a pogo adapter ( to connect with the ISP pads on the PCB after the chip is soldered.  It is easier than it sounds.  Both tools mentioned are Purple!

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oshpark wrote 06/06/2017 at 22:38 point

Awesome, thanks

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mwahid wrote 06/05/2017 at 06:27 point

Cool project :)

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oshpark wrote 06/05/2017 at 05:08 point

clever idea! looks fun :)

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