Often there is a need to test an experimental prototype circuit, trying things quickly and cheaply, with predictable performance and reliable results. While it is now remarkably cheap and easy to create PCBs, the turnaround time is often too long. One alternative is solderless breadboards, but they have significant limitations. Fortunately there are better alternatives.
- discusses the ideal properties of “breadboarding” construction techniques
- illustrates and outlines the characteristics and applicability of various techniques, including cordwood, pegboard, stripboard, matrix board, rat’s nest, dead bug, live bug, manhattan, and some proprietary products
- shows some examples of their use
Obviously those techniques don’t replace PCBs, but they can be a useful complement during early experimentation and prototyping, and in some cases can be surprisingly permanent.
The TL;DR is to start with manhattan techniques and add other techniques as beneficial. That way you can speedily create predictable and reliable circuits.
I have been creating circuits for mumble years, using wirewrap, IDC and standard PCB technology with plate-thru hole (PTH) components. I’ve recently been “forced” to use surface mount devices (SMD), and was concerned that it would be too difficult for an amateur using only equipment available at home.
I was wrong; it was easy.
On the off-chance it inspires others, here’s what I’ve used, what worked and what didn’t. The tl;dr version is DesignSparkPCB, DirtyPCBs, OSH Stencils, 179C SnPb paste, magnifying visor, *8 lenses, reflow sand in skillet, soldering iron.
Design Layout View
Also see my techniques for designing, making and assembling homebrew PCBs, and reference material.
Summary: it does work and isn’t too painful. Naturally I’m evolving methods and techniques as my skill improves.
This outlines how I placed solder paste, placed components, saw small components, soldered and reworked small PCBs. I didn’t want to be constrained by the time it takes to apply solder paste, position components, and reflow in the HackSpace oven, so I looked for ways I could do the whole process at home.
Also see my techniques for designing and making homebrew PCBs, and reference material.