I have managed to score one of the free FT2232 breakout boards from Dangerous Prototypes and it has arrived some time later in mail. While I didn’t have an immediate need for another USB interface, I have decided to build the board as an SMT soldering practice. Most of the parts are 0805 and 1206 sized passives, the voltage regulator and EEPROM are in relatively simple packages. The only challenging parts are the USB connector and the FT2232 chip – both in 0.5mm pin pitch and the latter in a LQFP64 package.
I have got the parts from RS here in France, but I think I have underestimated how much it actually costs to buy these things in small quantities. Either the vendor will not ship to individuals at all or there is extremely expensive shipping and handling for smaller orders: Digikey – 23 EUR shipping if the order is < 60EUR, Farnell 12 EUR shipping + 7 EUR handling charge, Mouser charges 20EUR shipping. Or you have to buy from a crippled website with extremely bad search and you discover that only after registering and preparing the entire BOM on the “pro” site (RS Components …). Of course, minimal quantities apply too – e.g. SMD passives only in packs of 50 and more, even though only a piece or two are needed. Another hassle is shipping only by UPS and similar – so I had to have the package sent to work, otherwise there would be lot of problems with chasing up UPS when one is working during the day and doesn’t want to spend a day of vacation waiting for a package. Not exactly hobbyist friendly, even from a supposedly “hobbyist” website.
All in all – the parts were some 45 EUR with shipping and tax, so if someone is thinking that they will save money by building these breakouts themselves, they are badly mistaken unless they can get components at wholesale prices. The prices for the pre-built board are actually a pretty good deal compared to all this hassle, one could almost get two for the price I paid.
Overall, the board was easy to populate, with the exception for the USB socket (I had to cut some plastic “bumps” on the bottom because the board doesn’t have holes for them) and the FTDI chip. I had hard time to get the FTDI chip aligned properly and had to desolder it 2 times using hot air before I got it in place. Miraculously, the board and the chip survived my ham-fisted soldering attempts with no lifted traces and nothing fried. It has even worked on the first try!