Solderless Breadboards and PCBs

Whether you are making a robot or any other electronic project, chances are that you will prototype the wiring on a solderless breadboard, and then make a permanent circuit on either perforated board or a printed circuit board.

Perfboard and breadboards are readily available with single-sided or double-sided generic (not project specific) layouts containing distribution buses and groups of holes to make connecting multiple wires easier. In contrast, a printed circuit board is usually a custom wiring layout designed using a computer program for your specific purpose. A printed circuit board can be ordered from a PCB service shop or etched at home.

Copper Connection thumbnail Copper Connection PCB Editor
Easy-to-use free PCB software from Robot Room. Hobbyist and student friendly, but with powerful features. All of the standard drawing tools, plus continuity tester, board flip, dynamic fills, notes, and even images. Create your own robot and electronic-project circuit boards in no time! And with the Export to Gerber upgrade, you can order professionally-manufactured boards from the vender of your choice.
Single-sided perfboard Prototyping Breadboard and Other Tips
A variety of topics regarding breadboard patterns, surface-mount prototypes, inline resistors to save space, wire loop for hook test probes, shunts to protect fingers, and repairing squashed alligator clip barrels from soldering aids.
Five columns of 5 tie-points on a solderless breadboard Solderless Breadboard
You can assemble circuits quickly or for experimental purposes without solder using one of these boards. There are a wide selection of solderless breadboards in various colors and sizes. The small ones can even be mounted on robots.
Lead forming tool thumbnail Resistor Forming Tool
Who hasn't looked at a classic red resistor lead forming tool and exclaimed "I could 3D print this!" I took a shot at designing and printing a few variations. The end result is a functional tool with a couple of improvements, but not as crisp, due to the limitations of home fused-filament resolutions.
Open Face Sandwich robot with red PCB Color Printed Circuit Boards
Green is so boring! Finally, your electronic devices can have beautiful red, black, and blue color circuit boards. The example shows an exposed-PCB Sandwich robot that starts with colored copper clad boards. The PCBs are etched at home with a peristaltic pump, after including an image of my dog and dealing with government-coded dots. The project is rounded out with a clear DIP socket and a shrouded battery cap.
PCB layout thumbnail PCB Layout Tricks and Tips
A few extra holes, wider pads, and copper fills can greatly increase the versatility, solderability, and ease of testing of the printed circuit boards you design.
PCB hole size thumbnail PCB Hole Sizing
How big of a hole do you need drilled in a printed circuit board to fit a part? Don't just measure the part with calipers and use that for the hole size! You must make the hole larger to account for the tolerances of the part and the circuit board manufacturer. Of course, that brings up the question of how much can you trust the size of the holes the manufacturer is drilling. Let's see what pin gages say about some of the boards laying around the robot room.
Erasing PCB tarnish with a pencil eraser Erasing PCB Tarnish with a Pencil Eraser
Microscope images of pads and holes on a printed circuit board after being rubbed with various types of erasers, a buffing wheel, and Scotch Brite scour pads. This is a simple method for removing oxides from PCB plating and electronic part pins prior to soldering.
Thumbnail Removing Solder from PCB Holes
Excess solder can clog circuit board holes due to overzealous soldering or when desoldering to remove a part. It can be annoying to try to get the solder out of the hole, but these methods and tools can help. Article also describes how to make your own Teflon desoldering tips.
A DIP socket with a temperature sensor Thermal PCB Motor Driver Tests
Advantages of extra copper on PCBs, stacking motor driver chips, and DIY heatsinks. Flip to the last page to see the fancy graphs.
Add-on board with ISP6 programming cable Atmel STK500 DIY Adapter Boards
STK500 helper and adapter boards for Atmel 8-pin, 14-pin, and 20-pin microcontrollers, specifically the ATtiny85, ATtiny84, and ATtiny861.
Artistically-enhanced image of circuit board traces at 60x magnification Microscopic Views of a Printed Circuit Board
Photographs of homemade circuit boards under 10x, 60x, and 200x magnification using the Intel QX3+ microscope. Shows details of pixel aliasing, copper cracks, poor resist transfer, and soiling from sticky flux paste.
Video camera zooming in on small electronic parts Do-It-Yourself Video Inspection Microscope
There are times when a small magnifying glass is inadequate -- such as sorting a lot of small parts or inspecting a batch of circuit boards. You can use a consumer video camera and a monitor to get a close-up view for a lot less money than buying a special tool. This article also includes a tip about using a rare-earth neodymium magnet for collecting SMD parts.
Etching tests thumbnail Better Etching of Homemade PCBs
You consistently create homemade PCBs with traces as fine as 6 mil traces, using common household objects, such as sandpaper, cleanser, aluminum foil, and a clothes iron. I test various chemicals, temperatures, and pressures to determine how to make circuits with minimal voids, distortion, and fills.
A homemade printed circuit board Homemade Printed Circuit Board
Making a custom printed circuit board (PCB) takes some setup time and supplies, but is well worth the repeatable, reliable results. The example board is single-sided copper with through-hole components. Two-sided and surface-mount circuit boards follow.
A homemade double-sided printed circuit board Homemade Double-Sided Printed Circuit Board
After learning how to make a single-sided board, creating a double-sided PCB takes nothing more than a little careful alignment and some through-hole soldering. The example board is two-sided copper with components and DIP sockets on one side.
A homemade printed circuit board with surface-mount components Homemade Circuit Board with SMTs
Surface-mount components are now the mainstay of the electronics industry. The ability to create a board for these packages is important to anyone wishing to access the latest and greatest technologies.
PCB Survey thumbnail Printed Circuit Board Survey
What features do hobbyists, students, and small shops look for in a PCB manufacturer? Do people care about lead free? What about board shape and internal cutouts? Is board color important enough to offer as an option? Find out the results of the PCB survey...