XBee Assembly Guide

Arduino Xbee Shield Assembly Guide

Congratulations on your purchase of the SparkFun Arduino Xbee Shield Kit!

http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorial/Xbee_Shield/Assembly Guide-09.jpg


Assembling the Xbee Shield is simple. All you need to do is solder stackable headers onto the Xbee shield PCB (printed circuit board), just like the photo below. The following guide will show you step-by-step how to professionally solder your headers.


http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorial/Xbee_Shield/Assembly Guide-07.jpg


I recommend you start with a nice clear work area to make your job easier.

You'll need some tools to assemble the kit so you might want to make sure you have them all together now:




  • Soldering iron (e.g. TOL-00085)
  • Solder (e.g. TOL-09161)
  • Work area (You'll probably want to protect the surface of your work area with something non-flammable to avoid marking it if you drop molten solder on it.)

These tools are optional but you might find them useful:




All the parts you need to assemble the kit are included so let's see what you should have in front of you:

http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorial/Xbee_Shield/Assembly Guide-11.jpg

Instead of using stackable headers you might prefer to use standard Break Away Headers - Straight instead. See the header section for more discussion of this.

If you are missing any parts email SparkFun customer service and we'll get the correct parts out to you as quick as possible.

Got extra parts? Well, lucky you, free stuff!

All parts present and accounted for? Great, let's start to put the shield together.



If this is your first time soldering you'll probably want to check out our introductory soldering tutorial first. Read the guide and you'll pick up some good tips that will help your first soldering experience go more smoothly.

Now it's time to solder the headers. You'll notice in these images and the parts list we use the stackable headers which allow an additional shield to be stacked on top of this one.

So what's the advantage of using the stackable headers in this case? It means you can still insert jumpers into the headers to gain access to the unused pins.

Let's start by soldering one of the six pin headers into one of the 6 pin holes on the Xbee Shield.  Before soldering, be sure you are soldering the headers into the correct row of holes.  Soldering the headers into the incorrect row will make it near impossible to plug into the Arduino.


http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorial/Xbee_Shield/Assembly Guide-01.jpg

Insert one of the 6 pin header into the correct location and tack one of the pins down with solder, like this:


http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorial/Xbee_Shield/Assembly Guide-02.jpg


Be sure the header pins are coming out of the pin holes at right angles, so the shield plugs cleanly into the Arduino Main Board! The reason we start with soldering just one pin is because it makes it easier to obtain the correct alignment and fix any mistakes.

Once you've soldered one pin you might want to test the alignment by inserting the shield into an Arduino as shown below. Just be careful when you do so, because the header is still only held in place with one solder joint.

http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorial/Xbee_Shield/Assembly Guide-05.jpg

Your headers should cleanly plug into the Arduino Main board headers and the shield PCB should be parallel to the Arduino Main Board PCB. Drop the remaining headers into place to see if everything will fit.

If the alignment of the header isn't quite right carefully reheat the solder joint and move the header slightly. Don't move it after you've removed the heat or you'll end up with a poor or broken joint.

Once you're happy with the alignment of the header you can solder another pin into place—my recommendation is to solder the pin at the opposite end of the header to the first pin you soldered. The reason for this is that once the two end pins are in place the alignment won't change. I recommend double checking the alignment is still okay again by connecting it to your Arduino once more.


http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorial/Xbee_Shield/Assembly Guide-03.jpg


Once you've doubled checked that, go ahead and solder the remaining pins of the header.  When you're done, the header should look like this:


http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorial/Xbee_Shield/Assembly Guide-04.jpg


Now, repeat the above process for the remaining 3 headers. Make sure you solder the 6 pin headers into the 6 pin slots and the 8 pin headers into the 8 pin slots on the edges of the Arduino.


Completed Soldering

Once you have finished soldering all 4 sets of headers, your board should look something like this:




http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorial/Xbee_Shield/Assembly Guide-06.jpg

http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorial/Xbee_Shield/Assembly Guide-07.jpg


Now's the time to double check all your soldering and fix up any problems:

  • Do the joints all look shiny and volcano shaped?
  • Do you have any "shorts" or "bridges" between joints where you've accidentally connected the two joints with solder?

Check out the soldering guide for advice to avoid these problems.

Don't be too fussy though because re-heating and moving the joints is to be avoided if possible.


Adding the Xbees


Now that the Shield is assembled, it's time to add the Xbees.  The most important part to plugging in the Xbees is noting the proper direction.  Installing these backwards could cause damage to your Xbee.  Always follow the silkscreen guide on the PCB under the Xbee sockets noting which direction the beveled side of the Xbee points.  Before pushing the Xbee modules into the socket, make sure all pins are aligned properly with their socket.  If the pin doesn't line up, it will bend out or in and need to be bent carefully back into place.  When the Xbees are installed properly, it should like this:


http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorial/Xbee_Shield/Assembly Guide-09.jpg

Plugging the Xbee Shield into the Arduino Main Board should be done with similar care as plugging in the Xbee.  Make sure the pins match up and will fit correctly into the sockets.  Once the Shield is installed, plug the Arduino and Xbee Explorer into the proper USB cables and you're ready to start communicating via Xbee.


http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorial/Xbee_Shield/Assembly Guide-10.jpg

Have a suggestion for how we can improve this guide? Steps missed? Instructions unclear? Please let us know. You can leave a comment below or email us spark@sparkfun.com. Also let us know if this is the most awesome assembly guide you've ever encountered and we'll stop trying to improve it.

Comments 3 comments

  • How about a quick tutorial outlining how to make a point-to-point connection between the USB explorer XBee and the Arduino XBee?

  • I followed the directions here and all went well.

  • I can’t find it on your site BUT I assume the USB powers the Explorer. Is that correct?

    A true contiguous schematic of all board components would be helpful too instead of the disjointed component schematic provided. It would be much easier to trace out board path connections. tpculp@culpweb.com.