Clockwise from top-right: breadboard, perfboard, homemade etched PCB, stripboard.
With the launch of our latest Weekend Project, the Luna Mod Looper, it dawned on me that we’ve now worked with every type of through-hole circuit board type available. With the Light Theremin, we demonstrated how easy it is to swap components in and out on a breadboard, in this case, getting different audible results from photoresistors versus photodiodes. We soldered up our Wearable Light Organ circuit on perfboard, and even etched our own printed circuit board with our recent Treasure Finder project. Lastly, with the Luna Mod Looper, we used stripboard on which to mount our circuit.
Of course they each have their own uses, advantages, and disadvantages. Breadboards are great for quickly prototyping a circuit, and allow you to easily re-use the components for other projects; but they’re not as rigid and don’t feel as complete as the same circuit on perfboard. Etched PCBs can take time and go amiss if you make them at home, or cost money and time spent waiting to have them manufactured, but can greatly reduce your time spent assembling the circuit – all you need to do is drop the respective components in place.
Perfboard is perhaps the most popular board type for makers and hobbyists. Most perfboards are pad-per-hole, with one conductive pad per hole, which are spaced on a 0.1″ grid. Stripboard is a type of perfboard with parallel strips of copper instead of individual pads, so the strips create a conductive thread between components without the need for additional wire or solder trace. You can create breaks in the copper strips in order to ensure the circuit’s components don’t short out.
So a circuit planned out in advance can be built on stripboard with little to no solder trace between components. Our next project will hack a PCB with pre-assembled components, which will be as close as we get to Surface Mount Technology in this round of Weekend Projects. Until then, happy modding!
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More: See all of the RadioShack Weekend Projects posts (to date)