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This is super cool! The clackety-clack is soo satisfying.

I'm working with someone on developing electronic noses (arrays of gas sensors to identify compounds, do process automation), and he too is concerned on keeping the boards easily-built: DIP ICs, through-hole components, etc.

I always wonder what the actual demand is for this. Open-source hardware is great, but how many people are ordering bare PCBs, sourcing each individual resistor, power jack, trimpot, etc and soldering them? I use arduinos all the time and consult their schematics constantly, but I wouldn't dare build one when I can buy 3 nanos for $10.

I'm mostly making an argument for embracing the awesomeness of tiny surface-mount components and then getting a place like CircuitHub to do a fully-assembled bulk run of them.

Thanks! Yeah that's a tradeoff that I've been struggling with. I still think there's a lot of additional learning potential with through-hole components you can breadboard, though you do sacrifice board space, availability of components, and sometimes cost by sticking to through-hole parts.

Since the electronics for this project are simple enough I've ended up leaning towards a through-hole board to pair with an Arduino, but I'll admit that I haven't kept up with the cost of small orders of fully-assembled PCBs these days.

To just throw out a counterexample, this is exactly the kind of project I'd prefer to build with through-hole components, rather than buying a preassembled PCB with SMT parts. On the one hand, I actually enjoy soldering, which I freely concede is bizarre; on the other, through-hole parts can actually be worked with by hand, so that if, for example, I want to replace a resistor with a trimpot or a digital pot in order to play around with flip speed or the like, I can totally do that.

If I were going to turn this into a product-shaped product, I'd probably turn it into three: a bare PCB with a BOM for the buyer to fill, a prestuffed SMT PCB for people who just want to assemble the display and run it, and in between a PCB with a bag full of parts, for those who want what I guess would be a reasonably high-end-beginner-to-low-end-intermediate assembly project without a lot of hassle.

But that's just me! Opinions vary, and mine's worth exactly what you paid for it. This is a super neat project, though, however it ends up!

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