Arduino ProtoShield From "Household" Items (<5$)

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Introduction: Arduino ProtoShield From "Household" Items (<5$)

I love my Arduino. It got me into, and hooked on, microcontroller programming. I
also like the expandability that shields provide. My Arduino can be a GPS Locator
one minute, and be connected to the web the next. There's also a kit that lets you make your own shields.

That last option always bothered me. If you're making a bunch of different shields, the
cost of ProtoShields starts to add up. Wouldn't it make more sense to just take a standard
prototype board from Radio Shack, get some connectors and slap THAT on my Arduino? Sadly, no.
One of the flaws with the Arduino's design is that one of the female headers doesn't align with
the standard 0.1" spacing followed by, well, most electronics.

Mulling over this problem led me to my favorite type of solution: cheap & simple. By using wire instead of male headers, the misalignment can be handled with a simple bend.

Enjoy.

UPDATE: I'm embarrassed. Not one day after I posted this Instructable, I thought of a much better method, which I have documented here. This Instructable is still useful if you need a shield TODAY and don't have any male headers. If you have some, however, or if you can afford to wait, the new method is faster, easier, and more robust.

Step 1: Required Materials

Arduino
Radio Shack PC board (Available at every Radio Shack location I've ever visited)
Solid Wire (I used 20ga)
Sand paper
Wire strippers
Wire cutters
Flat toothpicks
Tape
Epoxy
Solder (and soldering iron)

Step 2: Insert Wires

  • Remove some insulation. Leave yourself with about 1 inch of exposed wire.
  • Sand off any burrs or rough spots from the end. This will make the final shield easier to insert and remove.
  • Cut off ~3/4 inch (2cm) of wire and insert the sanded end into one of the female pins on the Arduino.
  • Repeat (27 times) until all holes have a bare, sanded wire in them.

Step 3: Bend

To compensate for that pesky misalignment, give the wires on that header a slight bend.

Step 4: Mate

  • Align wires with prototype board holes and slide board (metal towards Arduino) down until it is flush with the USB connector.
  • Insert spacers and tape them in place. Why spacers? We want the shield to be level, we want it to clear the USB connector, and we need room for solder. (I used 3 flat toothpicks. you can use anything that's the right thickness)

Step 5: Trim and Mask

  • Trim the exposed wires so ~1/8 inch (2mm) of wire is left
  • Use tape to mask off the area around the exposed wires. You're going to want to use those holes later; let's protect them.

Step 6: Epoxy

  • Mix epoxy and apply (I use JB weld for this, and it works really well. It has an almost paste-like consistency. Some epoxies are more runny)
  • Remove the mask BEFORE the epoxy sets.
  • Wait until epoxy sets before proceeding to next step.

Step 7: Solder

  • Remove the shield from the Arduino. Do this GENTLY (some wiggling will be necessary). The pins aren't very supported at this point and they can be bent pretty easily.
  • Place the board on a towel, epoxy side down.
  • Solder all the pins to the board

Step 8: Reinforcement

For some added stability, apply epoxy to the underside of the wires. The procedure is the same as on the top, with additional masking on the wires. This will keep epoxy off the contact area.

Step 9: Enjoy

And there you have it. Some wire, solder and epoxy can turn any standard board into an Arduino shield.

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28 Comments

that's not a breadboard, that's a circuit board breadboards are plastic and have holes in them and you can change them around... solderless too

There are infact many types of "breadboards". My 1st one was in fact a section cut from a discarded kitchen board used for kneeding bread in 1960.

It's been answered somewhat already, but there are a dozen types of breadboards. One type is the solderless breadboard, which consists of a plastic case and metal clips - that's what you're talking about, and they are great for very fast prototyping. Another type is a through-hole breadboards (these were around long before solderless breadboards). These are now often called proto-boards, as they are a little more permanent than solderless breadboards (though they are still often re-used). These are for slightly longer-term prototyping (and many hobbyists never move beyond them). Once you move to a PCB, though, there is no reason not to de-solder the breadboard and use it again. The original breadboard was literally a wooden board with nails driven into it, and the wires for the circuit were wrapped around the nails. This type of circuit is still in use (obviously they don't use wooden boards any more) for telephone communications and many industrial applications because with specialized wire-wrapping tools the connections are far more robust than soldered connections. None of these are printed circuit boards, even though the through-hole boards do have copper on plastic like PCB's. Breadboards do not have any circuits. They have options - if you want to create a circuit you can connect a wire from this hole to that hole, or if you connect a component in one set of holes the holes directly next to it will allow you to connect another component to that particular pin, etc. A PCB, on the other hand, has a very specific circuit pattern printed on to it, and the correct components must be connected to their designated spot to make the circuit work. They don't have wires either, that's the whole point of the circuit being printed on the board. PCB's don't have options, and they are not used for prototyping. They are the final product that you conceptualized with a breadboard.

Many people refer to these types of boards as breadboards. The type you're referring to are solderless breadboards.

good catch. thanks. thought I had changed all of those.

Why don't the wires bend when you insert the shield?

I used solid wire, which is more rigid than twisted strand varieties

Just a heads-up: JB Weld contains steel. it is slightly magnetic and slightly conductive, so in my opinion, I would use a different type of epoxy.

Great write-up, though. Clean, simple, and to the point. I'll have to try this sometime.

or you can use a bread board and wires and shove the PS on that.

hey, I've done this before, very neat idea. :D J. B. Weld is sooooo addicting :P