Electronics circuits prototyping

Electronics prototyping is an important part of electronics device development. Prototyping means to build and test an early version of) an electronic circuit. Prototyping your product is all about learning. Each time you create a prototype version you will, or should, learn something new. Start with the most simple, low cost way to prototype your product. This posting gives you overview to different ways to build and prototype electronics circuits.

This video reviews several of the electronic circuit prototyping techniques. It is a good overview if many different techniques.

Electronics on the Floor: Five reasons not to use printed circuit boards for projects

How you begin prototyping your product’s electronics depends on what questions you are trying to answer.

If you have broad questions about whether your product will even work, or whether it will solve the intended problem, then you may be wise to begin with an early works-like prototype based on a development kit such as an Arduino or Raspberry Pi. Then wire some external functionality like sensors to it with jumper wires and/or add-on boards as needed.

If there are no big questions about your product’s functionality then for professional electronics design you should probably move right to designing a custom PCB. Most large companies developing products begin with a custom PCB. This is the fastest route to market, although not likely the cheapest. If you are an electronics hobbyist or need to build one-off device for a specific use quickly, then some other methods might be more suitable.

Alligator clip test cables

Wires with alligator clips are useful in electronics lab for making temporary connections. Those alligator wires can be used to make simple temporary circuits when you need to connect just few components together.

Alligator Clips Electrical DIY Test Leads

Alligator Clips – Electrical Tutorial – HWFCI

How sucks the cheap alligator clip compared with the 10 times price one

Hook Test Leads vs Alligator Clip

Jumper wires

Dupont type jumper wires are extremely handy components to have on hand, especially when prototyping with a development kit such as an Arduino or Raspberry Pi. Jumper wires are simply wires that have connector pins at each end, allowing them to be used to connect two points to each other without soldering. You can use them to connect easily development kit boards together, to breadboard or to sensors.

#12 Five Tricks for working with Dupont wires

Arduino Prototyping Basics #17: Jumper Wires

Arduino prototyping basics Using jumper wires 3/8

Breadboard

Many electronics projects use something called a breadboard. A breadboard is a rectangular plastic board with a bunch of tiny holes in it. These holes let you easily insert electronic components to prototype. It is easy to push in wired component and it is easy to remove a component if you make a mistake, or just start over and do a new project. The term breadboard comes from the early days of electronics, when people would literally drive nails or screws into wooden boards on which they cut bread in order to connect their circuits. Luckily today there are better options. Modern breadboards are made from plastic, and come in all shapes, sizes, and even different colors. Read How to Use a Breadboard for more information.

How to Use a Breadboard

Cutting Perfect Jumper Wires (for breadboard)

Point to point wiring

Point-to-point or hand wiring is traced back to the time when electrical assemblies employed wire nuts or screws to hold wires to an insulated ceramic or wooden board. The modern version of point-to-point construction uses tag boards or terminal strips. It involves soldering components to the electrical assembly.

Point-to-point circuit board wiring is ideal when building a prototype or a customized, one-of-a-kind board. Point-to-point circuit board, which in essence is a hand-wired board. It has low capacitance between conductors since the connections are separated by air. Point to point wiring can be seen typically on tube amplifiers and simple DIY circuits.

Dead bug prototyping

Dead bug prototyping is a way of building working electronic circuits, by soldering the parts directly together, or through wires instead of the traditional way of using a printed circuit board (PCB.) This type of circuit is often a quick way to get going on a project, and is a good way to test stuff, before investing in printed circuit boards. You are often making interesting looking 3D circuits, rather than 2D circuits.

Dead bug prototyping got its name because when you invert a IC, and bend the legs out, it looks like a dead bug. Sometimes you can make your whole circuit work just by soldering the parts directly to an IC, and the easy way to do it is to lay the chip upside down, bend the leads out and solder parts together. Sometimes people use many chips, and glue them upside down to a blank PCB, then build the circuitry from part to part.

Freeform circuits

Freeform electronics are a way of building working electronic circuits, by soldering the parts directly together, or through wires instead of the traditional way of using a printed circuit board (PCB.) You are often making interesting looking 3D circuits, rather than 2D circuits.

What is a freeform circuit sculpture? It is the art of creating a sculpture from electrical components using brass rods or wire to build the circuit into form. This is an aesthetically pleasing and highly compelling practice that typically doesn’t include circuit boards or enclosures, although they are sometimes still used. Web pages Dead Bug Prototyping and Freeform Electronics and Twelve Circuit Sculptures We Can’t Stop Looking At have nice looking artistic examples of this kind of circuits.

Freeform Circuitry // #TBT

Veroboard

Veroboard is a brand of stripboard, a pre-formed circuit board material of copper strips on an insulating bonded paper board which was originated and developed in the early 1960s. It was introduced as a general-purpose material for use in constructing electronic circuits and is very useful for constructing small to medium size prototype circuits. The generic terms ‘veroboard’ and ‘stripboard’ are now taken to be synonymous. In using Veroboard, components are suitably positioned and soldered to the conductors to form the required circuit. Breaks can be made in the tracks and jumper wires are added as needed. The versatility of the veroboard/stripboard type of product is demonstrated by the large number of design examples that can be found on the Internet.[

Circuit Board Prototyping: Breadboards, Padboards, Stripboards and More

Manhattan style circuit construction

“Manhattan Style” is a technique for constructing electronic circuits by gluing pads or traces to make “islands” of separate conductivity on top of a base material. The “Manhattan style” is a very old method of circuit construction. It’s especially popular among radio amateurs for high frequency circuits because it has a solid ground plane that helps to reduce interference and noise. To build Manhattan style you need a copper clad board (one-sided is OK). The first step is to make small cutouts in the copper for the component pads and cut the board to a good size. Some builders do not make cutouts, but glue small pieces of circuit boards on the copper to get “isolated islands”. Cut out small pieces of copperboard (from another piece of board) and glue them onto the main copperboard to serve as component mounting platforms.

Extreme prototype board wiring techniques

Printed circuit boards

Printed circuit boards are the norm in most modern electronic products. A printed circuit board electrically connects, through mechanical support, electronic components through the use of conductive tracks or pads etched from sheets of copper that are laminated into a non-conductive substrate. Electrical components, such as capacitors and resistors, are then soldered onto the printed circuit board. Typically printed circuit boards are designed with PCB design software and manufactured by circuit board manufacturing companies. But it is also possible to make your own circuit boards.

Making of PCBs at home, DIY using inexpenive materials

DIY PCB Toner Transfer (No Heat) & Etching

294 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Proto stencilin käyttö ja kompojen asennus HM10 Carrier 03.05.22
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jUTpwzP_WK4&feature=youtu.be

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The fastest way to make crisp PCBs at home!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RudStbSApdE

    You can make nice, crisp PCBs on any budget MSLA resin printer – here’s how!

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    DIY PCBs At Home (Single Sided Presensitized)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wAer7a3tU4

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Templates for PCB layout in Eagle for “Jiffy boxes” available at Jaycar Electronics (Australia)
    https://github.com/bigredlevy/Jaycar-Jiffy-Box

    Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    High Quality DIY PCB Boards at Home, Step by Step detailed Instructions (PLUS SMD SOLDERING)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfhOYhjXLDg

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    “Absolute Magic!” – Building a Keyboard Using HOT AIR SOLDERING
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNOGEtqn85o

    As someone who finds using a soldering iron a pretty frustrating experience I am very pleased to have found this hot air gun and solder paste reflow technique to be super straightforward, very neat and nothing like as fiddly as using a soldering iron.

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Basics of Flexible Circuit Board Design
    March 15, 2022
    Flexible PCBs have transformed multiple industries, particularly the medical space in terms of formfitting biometric and monitoring patches. What’s the technology behind these increasingly important devices?
    https://www.electronicdesign.com/industrial-automation/article/21236209/electronic-design-the-basics-of-flexible-circuit-board-design?utm_source=EG+ED+Analog+%26+Power+Source&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CPS220308016&o_eid=7211D2691390C9R&rdx.ident%5Bpull%5D=omeda%7C7211D2691390C9R&oly_enc_id=7211D2691390C9R

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Forget The UV Resist Mask: Expose Custom PCBs Directly On Your SLA Printer
    https://hackaday.com/2022/08/09/forget-the-uv-resist-mask-expose-custom-pcbs-directly-on-your-sla-printer/

    For the enterprising hobbyist and prototyping hardware developer, creating custom PCBs remains somewhat of a struggle. Although there are a number of approaches to go about this, they usually involve printing or drawing a mask that is used to expose the photoresist layer on the to-be-etched PCB. Here [Andrew Dickinson]’s Photonic Etcher project provides an intriguing shortcut, by using the UV source of an MSLA 3D printer directly after converting the project’s Gerber files into a format the MSLA printer can work with.

    The concept is as simple as can be: since MSLA printers essentially function by creating a dynamically updated UV mask (either via an LCD panel or DLP system), this means that an MSLA printer can be used to expose the PCB’s UV-sensitive photoresistive coating, effectively making the mask there insoluble during the etching step. This can be done with negative as well as positive photoresistive coatings, depending on the use case.

    The obvious advantage of this approach is that you don’t need an additional UV source or any kind of separate mask, only an MSLA printer with a large enough work area to fit the PCB you wish to expose.

    https://github.com/Andrew-Dickinson/photonic-etcher

    Reply
  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Breadboarding Basics – creating a basic guitar booster, Vlog #10
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkIFdSfFvT8

    Here’s a basic video showing you how a breadboard works, and how to breadboard a basic jfet booster circuit. If this video is helpful to you, please share! :)

    Reply
  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Make a Distortion Pedal!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1-G_yVuv3g

    Here’s a killer circuit to build your own distortion pedal! Distort all kinds of sounds.. like from your guitar, synth, or whatever.. and who doesn’t want to save $100 or more on some sweet gear?? Let’s face it, this is a fast-paced video to get inspired and be creative – but don’t forgot to follow your map! You can easily do this if you follow the schematic and find some little parts to complete your puzzle. Not just your typical pedal.. it has mods! Like tremolo and stuff.. Original music composed, performed, and produced by Jeff Johnson. There’s Component lists and Schematics listed in the vid!

    Reply
  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Techniques and Strategies for Building Electronic Circuits
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vq968AFgPhg

    Take a deep-dive into smart strategies and methods for building circuit prototypes faster and easier, including a method for making instant surface-mount boards.

    Reply
  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Essential Electronics Components that you will need for creating projects!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4md32GMX28

    Reply
  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Laser cut & engraved PCB made on a Laser cutter.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuSg7-hMaQg

    Making a printed circuit board on a 60 watt Universal laser cutting and engraving machine. This is complete with laser drilling and copper etching and solder mask.

    Design was done using Kicad.

    0:00 intro
    0:21 Cad
    1:15 Phenolic PCB and cleaning
    2:00 Cut out blank
    2:38 Top side painting
    3:28 Cut holes and engrave designators
    3:50 Engrave and cut top side
    5:12 Etch resist painting
    6:55 Cut alignment pins
    7:50 Engrave copper resist
    8:18 Etch copper in ferric chloride
    10:38 Paint solder mask
    11:15 Reveal the pads
    11:35 Outro

    Reply
  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Home made PCB using Mini CNC 1.5 W laser engraver
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01RhuVn3ZIw

    Simple home made professional PCB using mini CNC 1500 mW laser engraver, etched by etching solution.

    Reply
  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    DIY PCB – Single Sided Presensitized PCB – PCB Making
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0gPjN4yH6A

    In this year semester, my college professor give us school activities that involved PCB making. I have been trying to make a PCB for the past few days, and I have already conducted a lot of trials and errors. In this video, I will show you how I make my PCB at home

    Presensitizing is a method of processing PCBs (printed circuit board) that involves using UV light exposure. Presensitizing your PCB using UV light is an enjoyable and unique way to process your DIY electronics project.

    0:00 Introduction
    0:17 Part 1: Printed Layout
    2:36 Part 2: Light Exposure
    3:43 Part 3: Developer Solution
    6:55 Part 4: Ferric Chloride
    8:20 Part 5: FInishing The PCB
    10:10 Ending

    Reply
  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Make a PCB with a 3D printer (no mods required!)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6T5zfDgzyK0

    How to manufacture a PCB using the Ender 3 3D Printer – a step by step guide
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUOClDzL5lY

    Reply
  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    PCB Manufacture and PCB Assembly inside PCB Factory China – PCBWay
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8NOK1JJbgw

    Reply
  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Print PCBs (3D Printed Circuit Boards) – All You Need to Know
    https://all3dp.com/1/3d-printed-circuit-boards-pcb/

    Reply
  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Fiber Laser Your Way To Flexible PCB Success!
    https://hackaday.com/2022/10/26/fiber-laser-your-way-to-flexible-pcb-success/

    It’s not often we feel that something we’re featuring is a genuinely new and groundbreaking technique, but a team from the University of Maryland’s Small Artifacts Lab may have done just that with their foldable and flexible PCBs created using a fiber laser engraver.

    Fibercuit: Prototyping High-Resolution Flexible and Kirigami Circuits with a Fiber Laser Engraver
    https://smartlab.cs.umd.edu/publication/fibercuit

    Reply
  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Electronic Design: Then and Now
    Nov. 7, 2022
    We take a look back at Electronic Design issues over the years as we wrap up our 70th anniversary.
    https://www.electronicdesign.com/blogs/altembedded/article/21254239/electronic-design-electronic-design-then-and-now?utm_source=EG+ED+Analog+%26+Power+Source&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CPS221103026&o_eid=7211D2691390C9R&rdx.identpull=omeda|7211D2691390C9R&oly_enc_id=7211D2691390C9R

    Reply
  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Aesthetic PCB Design Tips For Improved Functionality
    https://hackaday.com/2022/11/29/aesthetic-pcb-design-tips-for-improved-functionality/

    Those of us hardware types that spend a lot of time designing PCBs will often look at other peoples’ designs with interest, and in some cases, considerable admiration. Some of their boards just look so good. But are aesthetics important? After all, for most products, the delicate electronic components on that PCB are tucked safely inside a protective enclosure. But, as [Phil’s Lab] explains, aesthetic PCB designs can lead to functional improvements, such that better-looking designs are also better performing, in terms of manufacturability (and therefore yield), electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), and several other factors that can be important.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2UaRPkRExw

    Reply
  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Prototyping The Prototype
    https://hackaday.com/2022/11/29/prototyping-the-prototype/

    For basic prototyping, the go-to tool to piece together a functioning circuit is the breadboard. It’s a great way to prove a concept works before spending money and time on a PCB. For more complex tasks we can make use of simulation software such as SPICE. But there hasn’t really been a tool to blend these two concepts together. That’s what CRUMB is hoping to solve as a tool that allows simulating breadboard circuits.

    Currently, most basic circuit functions are working for version 1.0. This includes passive components like resistors, capacitors, switches, some LEDs, and potentiometers, as well as some active components like transistors and diodes. There are some logic chips available such as 74XX series chips and 555 timers, which opens up a vast array of circuit building. There’s even an oscilloscope feature, plus audio output to incorporate buzzers into the circuit simulation. Currently in development is an LCD display module and improvements to the oscilloscope.

    MULTI-PLATFORM ELECTRONIC SIMULATION
    https://www.crumbsim.com/

    3D Rendered Components based on real-life

    Our modern world is dominated by electronics. With a diverse range of careers in electronics available for young and adult minds alike, CRUMB offers an easy to use and interactive introduction to electronic circuitry

    Fully realised in 3D, you can construct prototype circuits as you would at the workbench without the risk of terminal component failure or the hassle of ordering individual components

    Reply
  23. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Debinix’s TinyLedSwitch Aims to Replace Discrete Switches and LEDs for Your Next Breadboard Build
    https://www.hackster.io/news/debinix-s-tinyledswitch-aims-to-replace-discrete-switches-and-leds-for-your-next-breadboard-build-4a5a8a168225

    Published under a reciprocal open source license, this compact board provides a quick way to check inputs and outputs.

    Reply
  24. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Internal Heating Element Makes These PCBs Self-Soldering
    https://hackaday.com/2023/01/18/internal-heating-element-makes-these-pcbs-self-soldering/

    Surface mount components have been a game changer for the electronics hobbyist, but doing reflow soldering right requires some way to evenly heat the board. You might need to buy a commercial reflow oven — you can cobble one together from an old toaster oven, after all — but you still need something, because it’s not like a PCB is going to solder itself. Right?

    Wrong. At least if you’re [Carl Bugeja], who came up with a clever way to make his PCBs self-soldering. The idea is to use one of the internal layers on a four-layer PCB, which would normally be devoted to a ground plane, as a built-in heating element. Rather than a broad, continuous layer of copper, [Carl] made a long, twisting trace covering the entire area of the PCB. Routing the trace around vias was a bit tricky, but in the end he managed a single trace with a resistance of about 3 ohms.

    When connected to a bench power supply, the PCB actually heats up quickly and pretty evenly judging by the IR camera. The quality of the soldering seems very similar to what you’d see from a reflow oven. After soldering, the now-useless heating element is converted into a ground plane for the circuit by breaking off the terminals and soldering on a couple of zero ohm resistors to short the coil to ground.

    https://github.com/CarlBugeja/Open-Reflow

    Self-Soldering Circuits
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0csHZveVvY

    Reply
  25. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A New Proto Board for 2023
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5daN7hp3sQ

    In this video we put the circuits together for my newest protoboard design. this board has a 5VDC regulator in an AMS1117-5 and clock generator for digital circuits. This PCB is not yet ready for primetime.

    Reply
  26. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Want Better 0402 Reflow? Consider These Footprints!
    https://hackaday.com/2023/02/01/want-better-0402-reflow-consider-these-footprints/

    Assembling with a stencil is just that much more convenient – it’s a huge timesaver, and your components no longer need to be individually touched with a soldering iron for as many times as they have pads. Plus, it usually goes silky smooth, the process is a joy to witness, and the PCB looks fantastic afterwards! However, sometimes components won’t magically snap into place, and each mis-aligned resistor on a freshly assembled board means extra time spent reflowing the component manually, as well as potential for silent failures later on. In an effort to get the overall failure rate down, you will find yourself tweaking seemingly insignificant parameters, and [Worthington Assembly] proposes that you reconsider your 0402 and 0201 footprints.

    https://www.worthingtonassembly.com/perfect-0402-footprint

    https://www.worthingtonassembly.com/perfect-0201-footprint

    Over the years, they noticed a difference in failure rates between resistor&capacitor footprints on various boards coming in for assembly – the size and positioning of the footprint pads turned out to be quite significant in reducing failure rate, even on a tenth of millimeter scale. Eagle CAD default footprints in particular were a problem, while a particular kind of footprint never gave them grief – and that’s the one they recommend we use. Seeing the blog post become popular, they decided to share their observations on 0201 as well, and a footprint recommendation too. Are your 0402 resistors giving you grief? Perhaps, checking the footprints you’re using is a good first step.

    Reply

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