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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.

For example:

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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Nick Normal

I’m an artist & maker. A lifelong biblioholic, and advocate for all-things geekathon. Home is Long Island City, Queens, which I consider the greatest place on Earth. 5-year former Resident of Flux Factory, co-organizer for World Maker Faire (NYC), and blogger all over the net. Howdy!


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Comments

  1. Leif Burrow says:

    At radio frequencies there are stray capacitances that cause problems in those methods (except for a well designed PCB).  For these reasons hams have a couple of other circuit board methods that they use. With microcontroller and cpu clock speeds up in RF ranges I wonder if these methods would’t benefit those projects too?

    There is Manhattan style. With this method usually through hole components are used but they are surface mounted to an un-etched PCB blank.  The ground connections are all soldered directly to the blank PCB.  For non-ground connections little pieces of blank PCB are cut out (called pads) and glued to the copper.  Then the parts are soldered to those. http://goo.gl/NKcRA 
    An alternative is to use resistors instead of pads. One end of the resistor is soldered to the PCB underneath, the other is used as a connection point/support.  Technically this does mean every connection goes to ground but really high value resistors up in the megohm range are used so that the effect is minimal. 

    Then there is ugly Construction.  Non-ground connection are soldered together in mid-air, not attached to the circuit board at all. Since most parts don’t have much mass you can usually get away with this so long as you aren’t building something for a high vibration environment. http://goo.gl/2FeX9With ugly construction, for designs with ICs the ICs are often glued to the board upside down and then their leads can be soldered to directly.  This is often called ‘Dead Bug Style’. http://goo.gl/E4mSmI’ve been experimenting with copper tape construction.  I take a single sided circuit board blank and make ‘traces’ on the non-copper side using copper tape (you can find it at hobby stores, it’s used for glass etching).  I solder all my non-ground connections to the copper tape ‘traces’.  For ground connections I just drill a hole, run the lead through and solder to the copper side of the PCB blank.  That gives me a nice groundplane for RF circuits, similar to Manhattan and Ugly but without having to make pads or use resistors. The downside is I do have to drill holes wherever I need a ground.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Then there’s the XKCD way:
    http://xkcd.com/730/

    1. Anonymous says:

      Haha! I missed that one – thanks!

  3. Eric Aasen says:

    No wire-wrap prototypes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wire_wrap  I still use these at work since it’s really easy to replace parts that you burn up ;)

    1. Anonymous says:

      hi Eric. Well in our series we were looking only at through-hole PCBs and components – I’d love however to see you build one of our Weekend Projects wire-wrap style!

  4. alan saki says:

    That;s really very informative i like this and its helpful for me… I also design PCB.PCB

  5. Avoiftvoigatt says:

    Mi dispiace, ma, a mio parere, si sbaglia.

    1. Nick Normal says:

      Cosa c’è di sbagliato?