Let's face it, building a circuit, under any circumstances, is a slow and tedious process. Here are some of the methods I have found to be the fastest way to prototype electronic circuits.
These solderless breadboards are the fastest way to hook up a circuit of any complexity. They are three or four times as fast to set up and test as a traditional printed circuit board would be. The picture above is of the back of Clasper the robot which uses a basic stamp2 as its microcontroller. DIP relays control the motors. I have found these breadboards to be very reliable in building robots faster. To compensate for any problems that might be created by the vibration of the robot, critical circuits like power supplies and resistive inputs are hard soldered on a circuit board and then connected to the breadboard. Do not use the cheapest breadboards you can find. The more expensive ones have better plating and higher socket spring strength which makes them much more reliable.
The drawbacks of breadboards are that they are heavier and take up two to three times the volume of a printed circuit board. In larger robots this is no problem. Occasionally, if your circuit involves high amperage, high frequency, or critical capacitance issues, breadboarding may not work. For smaller robots, where weight and especially volume are an issue, I use the method below.
Hardwiring Using Solderable Perfboard
Creating a custom printed circuit board is the ultimate solution in size. However, if you are building a one-off circuit or robot, custom etched printed circuit boards are usually impractical. Remember that you are prototyping, and even using the fastest methods can be ridiculously slow. Prototyping on perfboard is at least twice as fast as a custom printed circuit board.
Full Line Perfboard
Perfboard is available in a variety of materials. You can get it in phenolic, but I prefer those made in FR-4 fiberglass. It is much more rigid and will not deform with moisture or heat. It comes predrilled on .1" centers with various patterns of copper clad traces on one side. I prefer the full line pattern that has copper traces running the full length of the board. With these, you can produce soldered circuits that have nearly the same density and volume as a custom printed circuit board. You can get this fiberglass perfboard at: Allelectronics
Top of Basic Stamp2 Circuit Module
Here is an example of a Velleman full line pattern perfboard that achieves the same density as a custom printed circuit.
Bottom of Basic Stamp2 Circuit Module
In this simple application, there is no wasted space or time. Where you do not want the copper trace to continue, a 1/8" drill bit will sever the connection. You can also use a cut-off wheel on a Dremel tool. If space is really tight, you can cut the copper trace with a sharp knife. In more complicated circuits, jumper wires will have to be soldered in. This can increase the thickness of the board and if you aren't careful, it can create problems with crosstalk--if the jumper wires end up too close to each other.
Remote Control Case
Another advantage of this type of perfboard construction is that the perfboard is strong enough to create the case of very small, pocket sized circuits. The perfboard becomes the top and bottom of the case. This seven channel infrared remote control is 1-3/8" X 2" X 9/16".
Jameco-Good source for high quality breadboards
Send questions or comments to:
Copyright 2008, Inkless Press