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Using surface mount parts
Let's get smallll......

There may well come a time when normal "through the hole" mounted components are making life difficult for you, just because they're too big. If you want to get really small, you have to use surface mount components (so called because the components are soldered to the surface of one or both sides of a PCB, rather than having leads that extend through the board).

Are surface mount components for you?




  • Surface mount components don't require you to drill lots of small holes in your PCBs (although for double-sided boards you still need holes for connecting "vias").

  • A number of handy ICs are only available in surface mount packages (namely, single- and double-inverter ICs, and single- and double-gate logic ICs ).

  • Surface mount components allow for much smaller circuits; this can enable you to build a wider variety of BEAMbots.

  • You'll be able to work with surface mount components without spending much money on additional tools and supplies.


  • Surface mount components are, at least small; some can be less than 1mm on a side. Working with them requires a steady hand and magnification.

  • Surface mount components are not as easily-available as their "through-hole" cousins. Many suppliers only sell discrete surface mount components (resistors, capacitors, etc.) by the thousand.

  • By virtue of small component size, PCBs for surface mount components must have extremely small traces. If you build your own PCBs , you can run into manufacturability issues.

  • Surface mount components generally cost more than the "through-hole" equivalent parts.

I've got separate pages dedicated to the types of SMT components available (and associated jargon), as well as to techniques useful in building circuits from SMT. Meanwhile, I've found these suppliers for SMT components:

Dan's Small Parts (surface mount components are at the very bottom of the page)

Electronics Goldmine (surface mount components are in their print catalog only)

Digikey (will sell small quantities of surface mount ICs; will only sell surface mount transistors, resistors, capacitors, and diodes by the thousand)

For more information...

Probably the best over-all SMT page I've found is hosted here by Luke Enriquez.

"The PIClist" has a fantastic site with tips on surface-mount circuits here.

ID pictures of surface mount components are available here.

A HAM radio buff in Australia has a great list of SMT links here.

Bill Mooney has a general introduction to using surface-mount components here. For folks in Europe, his site also has a variety of SMT links (including a good list of SMT component suppliers in Europe) here.

The RobotRoom has its own take on PCBs for surface mount parts here.

"Leroy's Engineering Web Site" has listings of surface mount part dimensions for resistors and capacitors; also tips on capacitor placement w.r.t. ICs.

For a first-hand look at working with SMT parts, I found "Steve"'s description of making a solar engine with them.

I've got information on markings for SMT resistors and capacitors on the appropriate "BEAM Pieces" part code pages. The SMD List has additional information on part code markings for other surface mount parts.

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Page author: Eric Seale
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