Starting with a Prototyping Board for Better Design

Posted 1/8/2021 by AdvancedPCB
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Whether you’re just learning to design circuits, or you’ve been designing for years as a part of your job, you are likely familiar with the idea of a prototyping board. These boards are used to create a fast version of a PCB that can be tested to determine whether it is viable or not. Many designers will begin designing a circuit using one of these boards.

The boards have holes in them that let you add components to create your circuit. Depending on the type of board, you can attach them with or without solder. There are many different types of boards available including perfboards and breadboards. It’s important to have a basic understanding of what each of these is and when they might suit your needs.

Perfboards

These are thin sheets that have holes in them at the same interval that you would expect from a circuit board. Square pads cover the holes. Some of the lower-cost boards will only have pads on one side. Others, although they might be somewhat more expensive, will have the pads on both sides. Choosing from the better quality options for your prototyping board is always a good idea.

Once you have a plan for your circuit, you will then make a schematic that you will then use as a blueprint to build onto the perfboards. When creating the layout, be mindful of the spacing on the board and keep notes about what you’ll be placing and where they will go.

Once you have a good design drawn out, you can place the components onto the board and solder them. It’s a good idea to avoid using too many wires; otherwise, the design can look messy and be difficult to understand. If you’ll be presenting the perfboards to someone to examine, you’ll want them to be as clear as possible.

While perfboards can be helpful, these prototyping boards require solder, and they can only be used once. This can mean that mistakes could become more expensive than with a breadboard.

Breadboards

Breadboards are more popular than perfboards, and they are usually considered the go-to prototyping board option. These boards have holes similar to those on perfboards, and you’ll be using those holds to place your components. The modern breadboards are solderless, which is nice. The spacing on the board between holes is 0.1 inches, and the components can simply be placed onto them.

Since you aren’t using any solder, it means that they are reusable. It’s a good option for temporary prototypes to see if your design has merit. These tend to be quite popular with students and those who are just learning about designing circuits. However, they can be used by those who have a lot of experience with circuit design, as well. They are a helpful tool.

Although these prototyping boards can be helpful when determining the veracity of a design, many people want to use other means of determining how effective their design will be. They want to know that the design works in the real world in the devices that will ultimately hold the circuit.

Moving Beyond the Prototyping Boards

Although prototyping boards and breadboards may be a good way to start your design, you’ll soon want to move into the digital world and use software like PCB Artist to complete the printed circuit board design. Some people begin with software and no longer use the old-school prototyping boards. Ultimately, it’s up to you.

Using software like PCB Artist from AdvancedPCB is a good way to ensure that you have a design that will be easier to read and that will be viable. The software allows you to “see” and test the circuit to see how it works. You can quickly and easily make changes and adjustments to the digital version of the circuit as needed.

Many designers like the freedom that software can provide. Since it’s virtual, it doesn’t require any solder or any actual components. PCB Artist has more than half a million components that can be added to the design. It’s easy to see how they work together, and you can even receive a file review from an engineer before going into production.

Order a Completed Prototype

However, even if the digital prototype passes muster and looks like it’s good to go, you might still want to order a prototyping board. Remember that the real-world use of a PCB may be different from what it would face in a simulation or even with a breadboard. Ordering a couple of prototyping boards that are essentially the actual PCBs that you’ll be using is important. You will want to do this before you move on with production.

When you have a design that you like and think will work, order a few prototypes from AdvancedPCB. Then, use these prototypes in the devices in the manner that you or the customers would use them. Put the PCBs through the paces to see whether they can stand up to the rigors of actual use. Take note of how they perform. You may find that you hit it out of the park with the design. However, you might also find some problems that you’ll want to address. Perhaps the board gets too hot, for example. Maybe a heatsink or rearranging the components could help.

Make the changes that you need, get another prototyping board, and test again. This may seem to take a bit longer, but it’s better to know if there are problems now rather than when your customers start to complain about failing devices.

Going into Production

When you are certain the design is as good as it can be, it’s time to move into production. Always entrust the manufacturing and assembly of the PCBs to a company with a good reputation like AdvancedPCB. We have been in business for a long time and have built a solid reputation. We have our own manufacturing facility, we have the best, quick turnaround time you’ll find, and we strive to ensure our customers are happy with the results.

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