Prototyping Boards

Working with Prototyping Boards
Boards are available from Talking Electronics.

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 changing components.
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 perfectly.
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.
Here are 4 prototyping boards from Talking Electronics:

Matrix Board MkIII

Matrix Board MkIV

Two surface-mount boards from
the range from Talking Electronics

Prototyping boards are not designed to look aesthetic. 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:

A surface-mount 5v2 power supply under development

A PIC microcontroller and op-amp with
11 LEDs and surface-mount components

A very cluttered board

Rotating Beacon prototype, after the "rats-nest"
design and before the final board

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 that 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 though holes is not suitable. Sometimes a component has to be changed 4 or 5 times. Imagine the difficulty of pulling out a component every time you want to alter the value.
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 doing.
Surface-mount kits are available from Talking Electronics and when combined with the prototyping boards, you will be able to develop circuits that are very compact.

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 design.
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 article.
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 board