Prototyping boards are available from
P2 Matrix Boards
You get 12 mixed boards for $10.00
Plus $4.00 postage
The boards are:
1 off: 20 x 15 holes
1 off: 38 x 11 holes
1 off: Surface
Mount Board MkIII and 1 - 15x40 SM-2
7 x 5 holes, 10 x 4 holes, 10
x 8 holes, 12 x 11 holes
(This link will send an email to Colin Mitchell and you will be
advised how to send money via Paypal)
You can also get individual prices for boards.
It doesn't matter if you are designing a new
microcontroller project or a simple transistor amplifier, the first
necessity of designing a project is the ease of
If you think a project will work without testing, modifying and
altering things, you are kidding yourself.
It sometimes takes hundreds of changes to get a project working
And if the components are not easy to change, you may be reluctant to do
the finer adjusting.
That's why a prototyping board must be designed for easy access and must
be universal, so that all types of components can be fitted.
Strip-board is a failure. You have to cut the copper track with a sharp knife
and this is very messy. Here is an example:
If you just want to build a circuit, see it work, then pull it apart,
you can use a BREADBOARD.
This is one of the worst breadboards. It does not have any positive and
This is the best breadboard with TWO power rails. When the board is
placed as shown, the positive and negative rails are close to the
components. The only problem with this type of board is fitting
components with thick leads such as power transistors, regulators,
If you are designing 10 projects at the same time, you will quickly run
out of breadboards.
They are also quite unsuitable for RF projects.
Breadboards also have a problem of wires touching and connections
Also, the connections become loose after a thick lead has been inserted
and thin pins do not touch the contacts. This especially applies to IC
sockets where one or more of the pins will not make contact and you will
spend hours trying to find the fault.
The solution is a PROTOTYPING BOARD
Here are some prototyping boards from Talking Electronics:
Surface Mount Board MkIII
Surface Mount Board 15x40 SM-2
40mm x 105mm
14 x 20 Surface Mount $2.50
Two surface-mount boards from
the range from Talking Electronics
This board accepts a 20 pin Surface Mount chip
10 x 4 holes 50cents
7 x 5 holes
10 x 8 holes 50cents
11 x 7 holes
12 x 11 holes
9 x 19 holes
15 x 12
20 x 15 holes
16 x 12 Surface Mount
9 x 20 Surface Mount
11 x 38 holes
(double-sided - PTH)
6 x 38 holes
6 x 40 holes
5 x 18 holes
5 x 23 holes
10cm x 3cm Matrix Board with POWER SUPPLY
10cm x 3cm Matrix Board with POWER SUPPLY
PIC Matrix Board with POWER SUPPLY
This board is specially
designed for a PIC chip with the power rails
to the chip already provided.
It is designed to allow you to produce a very fast, neat prototype.
There is a 5v rail from the regulator and a 9v rail from the battery.
The battery clips directly to the board or via a battery-snap.
Some prototyping boards are not designed to look beautiful. They are designed
to be functional and reduce frustration.
A prototype project is sometimes called a "rats-nest" or "birds-nest."
There are two levels of prototyping.
The first level requires no experimenting. It's simply building a
"proven" circuit on a board and connecting it to other items.
The second level involves experimenting and changing component values.
For this, the components should be on one side of the board.
The end-result is a jumble but it's the only way to be able to get-to-everything
and see the whole circuit:
A surface-mount 5v2 power
supply under development
A PIC microcontroller and
11 LEDs and surface-mount components
A very cluttered board
Rotating Beacon prototype,
after the "rats-nest"
design and before the final board
Download (ZIP 485 KB)
Using a Matrix Board for designing
Many prototyping boards on the market are quite useless. They are not
really prototyping boards but rather "Universal Boards" that will accept
different components and hand wiring.
The essential part of a prototyping board is the accessibility of each
and every component so the voltage and waveforms can be measured.
But the most important reason is each component must be easily removed
and/or replaced. That's why soldering components through holes is not
suitable. Sometimes a component has to be changed 4 or 5 times. Imagine
the difficulty in pulling out a component every time you want to alter
Some of our prototype boards have certainly become over-crowded but
that's how a circuit gets designed.
Initially you think the circuit will need a few components and choose a
small PC board. It quickly gets over-crowded but as the circuit
develops, you can easily see what each component is doing and it's
really not complex at all.
You will notice many of the circuits in the photos above have been
designed with surface-mount components.
These are just as cheap as normal components and since they take up less
space on the board, it creates less clutter and you can see what you are
kits are available from Talking Electronics and when combined with
the prototyping boards, you will be able to develop circuits that are
The second step before making a PC board is to lay out the components on
a matrix board in the same locations as they will appear in the final
This will give you two answers. It will let you know if the project will
work and give you some idea of the size of the board and where each item
is positioned. The underside of the board is generally a mass of fine
wiring and it may need one more layout to produce wiring that does not
cross at any location. Any wires that cross each other need a jumper and
by carefully re-laying the board, no jumpers will be needed. Here is our
example of the PIC Lab-1 before the final PC layout. The stage before
this was a "rats-nest" and the final design you can see in the PIC Lab-1
If you think our projects "magically appear from no-where" you should
see our boxes of thousands of prototypes!
The second step to making a PC
If you are thinking of going to the next
step and designing a PC board for your project, here are a few tips:
DO NOT use PCB software associated with any PC manufacturer. You are
LOCKED-IN to their costing and it is generally EXORBITANT.
Do not accept "touts" sending you emails from PCB manufacturers. These
costings are also very high and generally the person behind the email is
working from home as a "go-between." They MARK-UP the prices from the
manufacturer and you don't get a bargain.
Here is a website that compares the cost of making a PCB from different
Many of the manufacturers are a RIP-OFF They quote $36.00
for 3 boards plus $15.00 delivery.
But the size of the board is 3cm x 3cm.
Who wants a board 3cm x 3cm ????
When you peel away all the SCAMs, there are only a few manufacturers who
offer low prices.
The cheapest and best is:
They produce 10 panels 10cm x 10cm double-sided green solder
mask, PTH, HASL with white legend on top and bottom for $12.00
Plus $9.00 shipping.
The quality is perfect and you could not buy the materials for $12.00
The only problem with low-cost boards is the size. You have to keep the
size smaller than 10cm x 10cm.
Any board over 10cm x 10cm costs 300% more and you will find this
provides a very good learning-curve to producing modular systems with a
maximum footprint of 10cm x 10cm.
You can stack the board on top of each other or provide plugs and
sockets to join the edges.
This way you can produce an OUTPUT BOARD, POWER SUPPLY BOARD, display
board and a number of INTERFACE BOARDS and create a whole range of
different produces with a small number of modules.
If you really want the simplest software for designing a simple board, try this
DOS Freeware version 1.61 - Complete PCB layout package with output
support for printers, pen plotters and Gerber.
To install: Download and run the file in the root
directory of your hard drive to extract the install program. The install
program must be run from the root directory.
Download (ZIP 821 KB)
DOS Freeware version 2.06 - Complete PCB layout package with output
support for printers, pen plotters and Gerber.
System requirements: PC-compatible; DOS 2.0 or later; 640K RAM; 2Mb of
hard disk space.
You can contact me (Colin Mitchell) for a list of features on how to drive the software.
Free and low-cost packages:
I have been using the same DOS software for 40 years because no software
is compatible with other programs and when you want to make a panel of
15 different boards, they must all be developed from the same software.
Many free software packages only allow you to make a small board or a
limited number of holes or you cannot export the file or some other
That's why I keep using the simplest package:
Here are some replies from readers who have used different
packages and found the pit-falls:
SoloPCB can be seen at
Designspark PCB: Requires a registration which is free but itís
bug-ridden and last time it didnít work. Support couldnít solve it.
Later I realised it required constant connection to the net with cookies
It's to hard to use. And
the schematics it produces look terrible. The only thing I can see that
it's good for, is if you need to make a really big PCB. Because you can
make a up to a 14 layer board, and it has no pad number restriction.
Also, it has a 3D PCB function.
It's the best EDA software I have ever used! It has a HUGE library of
parts, and a really neat 3D PCB feature. And it's super easy to use!
It's documented better then any EDA program I have ever seen.
Fritzing is a toy.
Kicad I found to be full of bugs to the extent of uselessness. I
deleted it when I found myself fighting the software rather than
designing a PCB.
It's really easy to figure
out, but it takes to long to do anything in it.
FreePCB wasnít maintained for the last three years Ė since 2011. This
tells the story.
All I remember about it is,
I did not like it, and uninstalled it within two days of getting it
(that's most likely not very helpful).
Unfortunately, you can only do PCBs in it. It's really good if you have
a Mac computer, and it's also really easy to use.
TinyCad is what the name says: tiny. The library is extremely limited.
For example there are only 11 microcontrollers.
ExpressPCB is anything but express. Very difficult to use it. If you
re-position a part, you have to re-align every-single-connection going
to it. This means, every corner of every line. This is perhaps the most cumbersome to use among all of these. Badly limited library.
Really great program, easy to use, and it produces really nice
schematics. Only thing I don't like about it is, you can't export boards
to send to manufacturers other then ExpressPCB.
I could never figure out how to use it. It looks like it would be very
useful if it had better documentation.
LIST OF EDA SOFTWARE (ELECTRONICS DESIGN AUTOMATION)
These packages include schematic "capture" and PCB layout. Some include
autorouters. The commercial packages also include autorouters,
simulation, and other features.
Web-based (run in browser):
Professional with free limited versions:
Professional without free or cheap versions:
Windows, Linux, X11/Unix. Schematic is free; PCB has a free demo
But you may not be able to use the free version to make a PCB.
Bartels AutoEngineer Light,
the entry level system for double-sided PCBs up to euro format size
(160 ◊ 100 mm) is
159 Euro plus
VAT and delivery.
Free version limited to 300 pads and 50 components
Windows/Linux. Free version limited to 300 pads and 2 layers.
KrisBlueNZ: Produces very nice-looking schematics. Supercap2F:
Highly recommended. Huge parts library; 3D PCB view; very easy to
use; very well documented.
Mac only. Free version limited to 700 pins. Supercap2F: PCB only.
Very easy to use.
Free version limited to 250 pads and 2 layers
Some software will freeze-up and you will lose everything you have done.
Other software cannot be saved as a file. Some software cannot be sent to any PCB
manufacturer . . . it can only be sent to the expensive manufacturer that
supplies the software.
Here is an interesting article from David L. Jones on the terminology
you need to know when designing your own Printed Circuit Board:
PCB Design Tutorial
Here is an interesting discussion on CAD
Does anyone know of a Good Free EDA design package?
I have been looking for a good free EDA design
package, I have looked at Design Spark ,Ki cad, and Easy EDA. Has anyone
recommend a EDA package that has stable parts and components and that is
easy to use.
Iím not sure any decent EDA suite will have ďstable parts and
componentsĒ. That may suggest it is stagnant!
Answer from ANDY FIERMAN:
Of all the free EDA tools, I can recommend EasyEDA.
It is still in the earlier stages but is developing rapidly into a very
capable EDA tool for schematic capture and PCB layout (up to about 6
It includes simulation too.
It has a lot of library parts but the single thing that makes it stand
out is that it is easy to learn to drive.
That means that even if the part you need is not there already, itís
easy to create your own and that automatically gets shared with the
whole library so the library builds up very quickly.
EasyEDA has several import options for Eagle, KiCad and LTspice files.
It also has several export options (have a look at their Tutorial).
KiCad and gEDA are more powerful cross-platform tools but are quite hard
to learn. Being FOSS, they have open file formats. Simulation is not
well integrated with them.
Design Spark is developing well but I donít know much about using it. I
assume it has open file formats. Itís import and export look reasonably
expressPCB is another free tool but watch out for being tied into buying
PCBs from them.
Even though EasyEDA offers a low cost PCB service, they donít tie you
into using it. Gerbers can be downloaded and sent to any PCB fab.
The thing I donít like about being tied to a PCB vendor is that you do
all the work and then you end up with nothing you can carry away with
And if you seriously want to do controlled impedance work then
you must have the freedom to choose your PCB materials, stackup and
maybe even fab house.
EasyEDA supports a single set of PCB track design rules but tracks can
be modified on a per track basis so you can manual define tracks that
you need to be specific widths.
For a defined impedance you will then have to specify a substrate
material and Ė if itís really important Ė a material manufacturer.
You will also have to specify the layer spacings. EasyEDA currently uses
a default set of layer spacings and the material is uncontrolled. You
can contact EasyEDA via their support email address to discuss your
requirements or to find out what the default stackup and materials are
and then design the trace widths to suit.
If that isnít enough then you still have the option to specify what you
want in the design in EasyEDA, generate and download the Gerbers at the
end of the design and then take them to a PCB fab house than can make
exactly what you want.
Thatís the crucial bit that you canít get with a tied-in free tool.
I donít think any online tool (certainly not a free one, unless the free
version of Upverter supports it?) allows you to define a trace impedance
and then have it work out the required trace width for you on a given
substrate and stackup.
KiCad has a trace impedance calculator built into it but that is not
tied into any form of Design Rule definition or checking. There are many
similar online trace impedance calculators that would give adequate
trace dimensional information consistent with the degree of impedance
control precision you might be able to achieve using EasyEDA.
Itís not until you get up to the higher end tools like Altium (maybe),
Cadence and Mentor that you get true controlled impedance design
capability. In tools like that you can specify the detailed layer
stackup and then specify trace impedances in the schematic. Then they
are passed through into PCB layout and actually define the trace
All of that information is then used to run Signal Integrity simulations
and, in some tools, RF and Microwave simulations.
That said, it is possible to create quite effective simulations of
controlled impedance circuits in EasyEDA because the underlying spice
engine supports a range of transmission line structures.
Itís fiddly to set up and again is not tied into the PCB design rules in
any way: it just shows what the circuit would do if the PCB had all the
right impedances in it. You still have to manually calculate all the PCB
trace width and stack-up dimensions, taking into account the dielectric
constant of the substrate material. That can be partially automated by
building parameterised expressions into the simulation to incorporate
those given substrate parameters. If you wanted to go into that much
depth, Iím sure contacting support at EasyEDA would get you some further
guidance on this.
50 Top Product Design and Product Development Software Tools
The link above covers 50 CAD packages that allow you to produce a
PCB from a circuit or from laying out the board yourself.
Remember, some of the FREE packages from PCB manufacturers only allow
the board to be made by the company that has supplied the free software
and they generally charge a lot more than the Chinese manufacturers.
In addition, you cannot get the artwork without paying a lot for it.
The free package ends up a lot more than using a package that is not
tied to any manufacturer.
If you are just starting out, you need to use the simplest software
because that is all you need and keep to the same package as you will
need to import older boards when you make new panels.
The cheapest is to get 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 boards on a panel 100mm x 100mm
and cut them yourself with a hacksaw. Make sure the cut lines can be
done with a saw. You can get 10 panels for $25.00 incl post from:
without any complex forms on the web and without any tricks.
MORE NOTES ON MAKING YOUR OWN PC BOARDS
It's wonderful to have a CAD package that creates a CIRCUIT BOARD
from a schematic.
But there are a number of things you have to remember.
These types of packages has a lot of automatic or "controlled" features
that make it difficult for you to "do your own thing."
It's only a completely manual package that gives you full control.
On top of this, some packages are very difficult and time-consuming to
learn and things such as "reverse reading" of text may takes you hours
The first thing to do is try a number of packages and make sure thy can
be saved to a file and then sent to a manufacturer. Some packages can
only be sent to one manufacturer and the cost will be very high.
When you are satisfied with a package, it will be the only one you use
It may not be possible to combine two programs and thus you
will not be able to import old boards to your recent panels. So, stick
to a single package.
Stick to dimensions up to 10cm x 10cm as this is the cheapest panel to
get processed and if you are thinking of making boards larger than this, consider
creating modules of 10cm x 10cm and plugging them together.
This will make manufacturing and servicing easier and cheaper.
When creating the layout, you need to place the major components on the
layout in places where you want them. The program will then connect them
via tracks. Always use a double-sided board as this is the cheapest
Always identify EVERY component on the board so you can build it without
referring to any other list of materials.
Give every board a name, add your email address and date of manufacture,
so anybody can contact you if a fault occurs.
When you have hundreds of boards, you will appreciate this. Customers
email after 10 years and want a replacement.
Now we come to the technical side.
Don't expect a project to work perfectly the first time.
You may need to add or move a component or add more text.
If these changes are major, re-name the board with a new serial number and make sure the old
boards are placed in a sealed bag and destroyed when the new boards
When making changes, you will appreciate software that allows you to
move any track or component without moving other tracks on the
Some software moves tracks "off the screen" and when you zoom out, the
whole board is messed up.
You also need to be able to change the size of any track or pad to make
modifications, so make sure the software can do this before deciding on
the package you will use.
Always save your work after 10 changes so you can go back to a
previous board if you make a mistake.
Use the simplest software package so you are in charge and able to make your own
modifications without being limited to angles, widths, sizes etc.
If you get frustrated with a package, try another. There are over 30
packages on the web.
Once you enjoy making boards you will want to create something every few
I have been making boards for over 30 years and I am creating a new
board every week.
I use the first CAD package to be invented PROTEL (Easy Trax
version). It has NEVER fallen over, crashed or frozen-up. Unlike some of
the other packages that run out of memory when you are trying to combine
It is up to you to choose a package and stick with it and enjoy the
reward of making your own boards.
It is not economical making one board at a time.
You can fit 5 small boards on a 10cm x 10cm panel and only get the outer
edge routed. This will cost $25.00 posted for 12 panels.
Make sure you can cut the boards yourself with a hack saw and allow 70
thou between boards for cutting.
Linish the edges with sandpaper and you will have expertly made boards.
And finally, the most important tip of all.
As you get a collection of boards, you can use various parts of the
previous boards to help create a new board.
This is a very good idea because you know the size and shape of the
components is correct and things like switches and sockets will fit the
board without any problems.
You also need a digital caliper to measure different components to make
sure the spacing is correct.
All boards are measured and created in inches but the final boards have to fit in
a 10cm x 10cm (3.93inches) panel. I know it is messy but digital calipers cost
less than $25.00 and are useful in the workshop for measuring all sorts
of things. They are especially useful when making components (for your
own library) such as switches, to get the spacing correct.
Here is a set of notes and more references to additional PCB design
(copy and past if this link does not work inside this frame)
There are some manufacturers that combine your boards with those of
others and charge by the square inch.
You have to do your own research before starting - to find out
which is the cheapest and best for your situation.
In the end you will get great satisfaction in creating a compact board
from a very complex design.
Here's a list of 14 FREE CAD packages from:
The website shows some amazing things you can create with these
These designs take years of experience to master.
Just start with simple boards and get the satisfaction of seeing your
ideas come to life.
Work up gradually and make sure you use a package that does not make you
Making PC boards is one of the best things you can do. It is so