Mini-Project: Dangerous Prototypes FT311 Build

Dangerous Prototypes, my favorite hardware-hacking rock band, gives out the PCB’s left over from their prototyping process. It’s a clever promotion and I love free stuff, so I snagged one of their PCB ‘coupons’ a few weeks ago and built a breakout for the FTDI FT311, an Android-to-damn-near-everything bridge. Check it!


The FT311 is an Android Open Accessory host, which means it gives Android apps full-speed access to circuits. Through this, I can build an app that talks to UART, SPI, I2C, or plain old I/O – this thing lets me connect my phone to virtually anything.

Dangerous Prototypes’ products are almost all surface-mount, so I used the same special prototyping tools I use for client work. I applied Zephpaste solder paste (amazing quality, easy to clean, and made in America) with a fine-tipped syringe, and populated components I ordered from Mouser.


To solder the joints, I busted out The Hotness, my custom reflow oven made from Hurricane Sandy salvage. The board took about 20 seconds at 170° to reflow into beautiful, factory-perfect fillets.


I added the USB port and through-hole headers manually. In a factory, the reflow oven has infrared lamps with programmable hot spots that would give the USB port extra heat. Technicians would also use a wave solderer to zap the headers all at once. But grandpa-style worked fine – this took about 20 minutes start to finish! Perhaps new features for Hotness 2.0?


Also, big shout-out to Panavise, makers of the goddamned handiest circuit tool around. If you build a board a week, a Panavise will change your life.


6 thoughts on “Mini-Project: Dangerous Prototypes FT311 Build

  1. Would you have done this if soldering by hand? I got one of these breakouts before looking at the layout and the close proximity of parts looks daunting…I wish a lot of the parts were put on the back so there was more space to solder them in…

    1. Definitely! As long as none of the components are in leadless packages like QFN or BGA, soldering surface-mount by hand is easy. Just apply lots of flux (we have at the space), hold the component with fine tweezers, and transfer balls of solder to each pin from the tip of your iron.

  2. hey!!! can anyone help me in designing an ft311 ADK board for interfacing android devices with external hardware

    1. That’s pretty much what this is. All of Dangerous Prototypes’ products, including this one, are open hardware – look around and you can find their schematics and board files.

    2. can u plz look around and tell me how it works…??? im a fresher and dont knw anything abt microcontrollers…learning everything….in my summer vacation..can u help????

    3. Read the FT311 Datasheet and documentation – that should give you enough information to get started. If those docs bamboozle you, perhaps you should begin circuits with a simpler project or one involving more pre-built modules.

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