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Assembling the RoboVoice Shield v1.1 & v1.2

Suggested Tools & Equipment:

Soldering iron
A good quality 25W solder iron is recommended. Do not use a "ColdHeat" soldering iron; it can damage components!

Solder. Rosin core, 60/40. Good solder is recommended. Bad solder leads to bridges and poor solder joints.

Adhesive tape or modeling clay. Helpful for holding headers in the right place for soldering.

Electrical tape Useful for insulating exposed connections where they may accidentally touch exposed voltages.

Multimeter. Helpful for checking voltages and continuity (you can get by without one).

Flush/diagonal cutters. Essential for cutting leads close to the PCB.

Desoldering tool. If you are prone to incorrectly soldering parts.

Good light. Absolutely essential!

It's time to put the kit together! The RoboVoice Shield kit is not recommended as a first time kit. Because this kit has a few rather sensitive and expensive components in it, I recommend you have some experience in assembling an electronic kit. If you are a beginning first-time builder, please build another kit first! Adafruit.com has a number of good beginning kits (as well as some that are more complex than this one). There is a very nice soldering tutorial at ladyada.net if you want to read up on soldering. Please keep in mind I cannot offer free replacements if you damage the board or any of its components. I can offer replacement parts at retail cost.

Assembly Instructions: 

The assembly steps shown below are a suggested order for assembling the RoboVoice Shield / Break-Out kit, but is by no means the only way it could be done! The steps shown were chosen as an attempt prevent confusion with part values while loading them into the board. For example some people prefer to load all the parts before soldering them. You could do it that way, but is not recommended as sometimes parts will fall out while inserting other parts - you end up with parts laying on your table that you won't know where they go.

Each of the steps below include a "map" photo showing the correct part locations in white and the associated solder pads for the parts in orange.  Parts already placed in a previous step are shown in grey as this example map shows...

Any image on this tutorial will show a larger image if you click on the photo. So at any time you want to see something in more detail, click on its photo!

Step 1:

First, check that you have all the parts! Look over the parts list and the photo shown above. You can also click on the photo above  to show a larger version of the image.

Step 2:

Put the small button switch (S1) in. When positioned correctly, it should snap in and should sit flush on the top of the PCB. The button is symmetric so don't worry about putting it in backwards!

Solder each of the button's 4 pins to the pads by heating both with the side-tip of the iron for 2 to 3 seconds and then poking in a bit of solder.

Step 3:

Next we will solder in some of the many resistors. The 330 ohm (Orange,  Orange, Brown) resistors, R3 and R4 are first.

Form them into staples by gently bending the lead over (method I use shown in photo above above), then insert the wire ends in the correct holes on the PCB. The staple shape we want is shown on the resistor on the top right corner in the photo below.

Push them down until they sit flat against the PCB,. Resistors don't have polarity so they can go in 'either way'! (I prefer to orient them so that the gold tolerance band is either always toward the top of the board or toward the right edge of the board. It makes it easy to compare your board with one of my photos and read the values right out of the comparison photo...)

Once placed, bend the leads out so the resistors don't fall out. I do this by grabbing the end of the resistor leads with my needle-nose pliers as shown in the photo above. I then pull/bend them outward until the leads look like the photo below. Then clip the long lead ends to about 1/16-1/8 inch (1-2mm) long with your diagonal cutters (they should appear about the same length as the button switch leads 

Solder both resistors in place by heating both the lead end and the solder pad with the side-tip of the iron for 2-3 seconds and then poking in a bit of solder. It will form a bit of a ball when it first melts and suck down onto the pad and lead as shown below.

Step 4:

Next, solder the 10K ohm (Brown, Black, Orange) resistors, R1, R2 and R6. Form them into staples and place them in the correct locations.

Your board at this point should like like the photo below

Secure, snip off the long leads, and solder the resistors in place as shown in the step 3. 

Step 5:

Next we will solder the 10K Trimpot R5.

R5 has three leads that we will poke through the holes, secure, snip off, and solder as we have done the previous resistors.

Step 6:

Next we will solder the 100 uF electrolytic capacitors C1 and C10. Electrolytic capacitors have polarity, make sure you put it in the right way! On the RoboVoice PCB you will see a small + sign within the silkscreen circle of C1. The long lead is the positive lead, make sure it goes into the hole marked with a +, as shown here. If you are uncertain which capacitor is what value, the values are usually printed on the side of the "can". Make sure to use the ones marked with 100uF (they should be the largest ones in the kit).

Secure, snip, off, and solder the capacitor leads and snip off the long legs just as we have shown you with the resistors in step 3.

Step 7:

Next we will solder the 10uF electrolytic capacitors C6 and C8, Remember electrolytic capacitors are polarized! Make sure the long positive lead of the capacitor goes in the hole marked with a +. Also make sure these are marked on the "can" as 10uF.

Secure, snip, off, and solder the capacitor leads and snip off the long legs just as we have done before.

Step 8:

Next we will solder the 4.7uF capacitor C5. Be sure to put it in the right way! The long lead is the positive lead, make sure it goes into the hole marked with a +. Check that it is marked with a 4.7uF.

Secure, snip, off, and solder the capacitor leads and snip off the long legs just as we have done before.
Step 9:

Next placed are the 0.1 uF ceramic capacitors C2, C3, C4, and C9. The tricky part here is that there is a 0.001uF  (1000 pF) ceramic capacitor in the kit that looks almost identical to the 0.1uF! 

The way to tell the difference is look for the 104 printed on it. If it says 102 then it's the wrong part. Make sure it says 104!

When I package these into kits for shipping, I usually package the 0.1uF capacitors on the cardboard strip in pairs of two. The capacitor by itself on a cardboard strip is the 1000pF.

Ceramic capacitors are non-polarized and can go in 'either way'.

Solder the small capacitor leads and snip off the long legs.

Step 10:

Next we will place the remaining small ceramic capacitor C7. This is a 0.001uF (1000 pF) ceramic capacitor and should be marked as 102.

Solder the small capacitor leads and snip off the long legs.

Step 11:

Next we install the stereo headphone jack X1. It snaps into place the the left edge of the PC board. The label on the PCB says "2.5mm", which refers to the size of the stereo jack. 

A view of the stereo jack, before we snap it into the board.
The stereo jack, after we have snapped it into its proper place on the board.
Solder the 5 pins of the jack into place.

Step 12:
Next we place the switching diode D1 (this an important component of the 5V-3.3V level protection circuitry for the RoboVoice IC). This component is polarized! If you look at the component you will note one end of it has a black band on it. The black band corresponds to the band shown on the silkscreen drawing on the PC board - and it should be inserted into the board such that the banded end is end facing toward the top edge of the PC board (as shown below). We form the leads of the diode into a staple as we did with the resistors in previous steps, insert it into the holes, secure and solder.

Step 13:
Next we will place the 3.3V Regulator IC1. In order to propperly fit IC1 into the holes in the PC board, we will have to bend the leads on the IC properly. 

Place the flat side of IC1 face up. Carefully bend the center lead of IC1 at a roughly 30º-45º angle towards the back side of the IC as shown in the photo below.

Next, approximately 1/16-1/8 inch (2-4mm) down the lead, straighten the lead, so that it runs roughly parallel to the other two leads as shown in the photo below. 

If you've done this properly IC1 should fit easily into the holes, the flat side of IC1 facing the bottom edge of the PC board. Carefully push IC1s' leads into and through the PC board holes  as shown in the photo below. The flat side of IC1 should face the same as the silkscreen drawing on the board (toward the bottom edge of the board as seen in the photo below).

Push IC1 down to within aproximately 1/4 inch (4-5mm) of the surface of the PC board. Use your needle nose pliers to grab the ends of the leads and gently pull them outward to secure IC1 on the board as shown in the below. Trim the leads, and solder them to the pads on the PC board as we have done in previous steps.

Step 14:
Next we will install the Green and Orange LEDS into the POWER and SPEAKING POSITIONS respectively. On all of our boards, we use Green LEDs for the POWER indicators. Orange is used for the SPEAKING indicator. Orange and Blue LEDs are typically clear in color. The green colored one is usually obviously the green LED. :-) LEDs are polarized! The long lead is +. Insert the LEDs so the long lead goes into the hole marked with a + mark on the board.

Secure the LEDs by grabbing the ends of the leads with the needle nose pliers and gently bending the leads by pulling them outward as we have before. Trim the leads and solder them to the pads on the PC board as we show in step 3.

Step 15:
Next we insert the approriate sized sockets for the other two IC's. The 8 pin socket goes in the position for IC3. The 28 pin socket in the position for IC2. Since IC's have polarity, the notch in the sockets should be installed the same way as the notch on the IC will be, with the notched end towards the top edge of the PC board. The silkscreen on the PCB also indicates where the notch should be. The sockets should be inserted so that the socket is sitting flush on top of the PCB, all the pins should be inserted all the way through the holes in the PCB board. If any pins bend and don't go through the hole, remove the socket, straighten the pin and carefully try to insert the socket without bending any pins again.

Solder each of the pins on the sockets as shown in the photo below. 

Step 16a: for Arduino Shield use! You may skip this step for BreakOut board usage...
This step is optional if you are using your board as a Break-Out board! We install the stackable shield connectors for use with your Arduino controller in this step.

This step requires you to either have an Arduino board or another Arduino Shield board with stacking connectors/headers installed. This step allows you to build your RoboVoice Shield so it will align with and easily stack onto your Arduino in the future.

Place the RoboVoice Shield PCB on top of the Arduino so that the stereo jack is oriented on the same side  as the power jack and USB connectors on the Arduino board. Line up the holes so they match up with the female headers on the Arduino.

Carefully insert the 8-pin stacking headers so they go through the holes on the RoboVoice Shield PCB and plug into the matching female headers on the Arduino (if you don't have an Arduino handy, carefully align the headers and solder them to the pads on the underside of the Arduino Shield PCB - just be aware you may have some minor alignment issues when you do plug your shield onto an Arduino!).

Next, carefully insert the 6-pin stacking headers so they go through the holes on the RoboVoice Shield PCB and plug into the matching female headers on the Arduino.

While holding the Arduino and RoboVoice Shield stack together, flip it over and "tack solder" a center pin of each of the stacking headers to a pad on RoboVoice Shield. At this point it doesn't matter if you fully solder the pin to the pad, just as long as it is bonded enough so you can pull the RoboVoice Shield off the Arduino without the headers falling out of the Shield.

Pull the RoboVoice Shield off the Arduino board. Solder in each pin of the stacking headers to the pads on the underside of the RoboVoice Shield PCB (be sure to re-do the ones you "tack soldered" in above).

Step 16b: for RoboVoice Break-Out board usage...
This step adds the GPIO header for using your board as a RoboVoice Break-Out board.
In your kit parts find the 10 pin header strip and cut (or break) off the last 3 pins of the header. Insert the now 7-pin header strip into the 7 pads shown in the photo below, and solder the pins to the pads.

RoboVoice BreakOut connections

The completed RoboVoice Break-Out board.

Step 17: RoboVoice Deluxe Option
If you bought the deluxe version of the kit you should have received the parts in the following photo for adding a speaker to your kit.

Bend little hooks into the ends of the speaker wire as shown in the photo below.

Then insert the speaker wire ends into the metal terminal loops of the speaker and solder as shown in the photo below.

We then insert the little 2-pin right-angle header into the connections shown below. You may use a piece of tape or modeling clay to secure the header while you solder it (if you are using the board as a RoboVoice break-out board, you can skip doing this and plug the speaker connector directly onto the SP- and SP+ connections of the GPIO connection header). Remove the tape/modeling clay after you have soldered the header to its pads on the RoboVoice PC board.

Carefully plug the speaker wire connector onto the two pin right-angle connector.

Step 18: The big moment - Smoke Testing the RoboVoice Shield!
"Smoke Testing" seems like a rather crude and final sounding description. If you've done everything correctly and the PC board itself  is correct, no smoke should be seen. If at any point you see smoke or the RoboVoice does not behave as described disconnect power from the RoboVoice board immediately otherwise serious damage could result!

Carefully plug your completed RoboVoice board onto your Arduino board. Plug in the USB cable to your PC and the Arduino. If all is well the green "POWER" LED should light up as shown in the lower left corner of the photo below. This indicates that the onboard 3.3V supply is working and your connections so far should be good.

If the LED does not light up, check to see if the power LED on your Ardunino board lit up. If you have a voltmeter you can check the voltages at the power connections for the prototyping area just below the Reset button. Check for 5V across the 5V and GND connections. This test is shown in the photo below

RoboVoice Shield 5V test

Then check for 3.3V across the 3.3V and GND connections. This test is shown in the photo below

RoboVoice Shield 3.3V test

When you do these tests you should observe voltage readings within several hundredths of a volt near 5.0V and 3.3V on your voltmeter. If these tests are okay and your green "POWER" LED is not lit, it means you installed your LED incorrectly. If you see 0V on either of these tests, then you quite likely have a solder bridge on your board, or a connection problem between your Arduino and the RoboVoice shield. If you are unable to diagnose the problem yourself, take some good photos and email me at infobot@droidbuilder.com.

Step 19: Finishing up!
If the test above was successful (do not perform this step unless you have successfully completed step 18 above!) Continuing onward if step 18 failed may damage components in your kit and possibly damage your Arduino controller!  I am not financially responsible for any damage or lost time caused if you proceed!

Insert U2 and U3 into their respective positions on the RoboVoice board. Be sure the notches on the IC's are correctly aligned with the notches on the sockets. Press the IC's gently into the sockets and make sure none of the pins gets bent out, under or folded.

Before using your board, use a small flat blade screwdriver to adjust the VOLUME trimpot R5 to somewhere near center. You do this by adjusting R5 fully clockwise until it stops and the fully counter-clockwise until it stops and noting where the extremes are. Adjust the pot somewhere in-between. If your volume is too loud or too soft later you can re-adjust it to your liking!

It is suggested that you put a piece of electrical tape or foam backing strip on the bottom side of the board along the edge where the earphone connector is - as shown in the photo below.

This is to prevent any problems with shorting to the metal shrouded USB connector on your Arduino board. The placement of this connector varies somewhat  between the Arduino Diecimila, Uno, and Leonardo boards and various clones - so please add this bit of protection, especially if you use different Arduino types in your robotics projects!

At this point, if you plug your RoboVoice board onto a Arduino, plug in headphones or a speaker and power-up your Arduino/RoboVoice boards, you should hear it say "Ready!" (possibly multiple times as your Arduino powers up.

This finishes the construction of your RoboVoice Shield / BreakO-Out kit! Time to Program it!
Go to my Programming the RoboVoice Shield tutorial to find programs and see programming examples for your Arduino (or other mictocontroller) to use this kit!

Optional construction notes:
The RoboVoice kit comes with a few "extra" parts from which you  could easily build some "Power" options.
Each of these is described below - NOTE these are optional and you do so at your own risk! These may require some minor modification to the board and thus are NOT recommended unless you are familiar with working with electronics and know what you are doing! These modifications could damage your RoboVoice kit, your Arduino/Microcontroller board, or worse BOTH! I am not financially responsible for any damages caused by these modifications. You do this at your own risk!

The extra oarts you get are the 10-pin header strip (if you did not use it in Step 16b for Break-Out board usage and a couple shorting blocks.

POWER OPTIONS: Note: This part of the Assembly tutorial is still under construction!
The RoboVoice Shield / Breakout Kit has several optional power settings and these can be installed by modifying the board, adding headers and shorting blocks (shunts) to the board as described below 

5V/3.3V Arduino power options (v1.1 & v1.2): By default, the RoboVoice board uses the 5V supplied by the Arduino (or from the GPIO connector) for its primary power source. This is then regulated by IC1 to the 3.3V needed for IC2. You may also power the board from the Arduino's 3.3V source using this option.

The trace on the top side of the board between the center post and the 5V side of the connector will need to be cut with either an exacto knife or with a dremel tool as shown in the photo below.


Cut off a 3 pin header from the supplied 10-pin header strip. The yellow shorting blocksupplied in the kit goes onto the 2 pins of the header for the power source you wish to use (either the 5V side or the 3.3V side).

Audio Amplifier power options (v1.2 or later): By default, the LM386 audio amplifier IC (IC3) is powered by the onboard 3.3V regulator. According to the manufacturer specification, the LM386 is normally powered by a 5V source. I have found the LM386 runs fine at 3.3V - however this option allows you to choose either the 5V source supplied by the Arduino or the on-board 3.3V power from IC1 as the power source for the audio amplifier IC. This option was designed into the board so that should some future batch of the LM386 no longer run at 3.3V, I still have a way to power the IC without redesigning my PC board! If you are powering your board from a 3.3V source, this option in not available. It will only be available if you power the board from a 5V source!

The trace on the top side of the board between the center post and the 3.3V side of the connector will need to be cut with either an exacto knife or with a dremel tool as shown in the photo below. If you use a dremel tool, be careful not to accidently knick C10!


Cut off a 3 pin header from the 10-pin header strip supplied with the kit. The yellow shorting blocksupplied in the kit goes onto the 2 pins of the header for the power option you wish to use for the LM386 amplifier (either the 5V side or the 3.3V side). If you are using 3.3V to power the board, 5V won't be available for the LM386, but it should still operate fine at 3.3V - in this case it won't matter which side of the header you decide to jumper for...

Creative Commons License
RoboVoice Shield / Break-Out kit by Galen Raben is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may by emailing me at http://www.droidbuilder.com

© 2013 Galen Raben/DroidBuilder.com