The electronic Breadboard is perhaps the most popular way to prototype and test out electronic DIY circuits.
Conceptually the Breadboard is very hands on and you can make things work without having to learn any software but eventually there comes a time when you want your electronic project in a permanent format and that's when you need a PCB.
Making a PCB though requires you to learn a bunch of new stuff like schematics and PCB layout. Wouldn't it be great if you could just turn your Breadboard directly into a PCB.
That's exactly what you can do now with PCB Direct feature of Virtual Breadboard ( VBB )
Well, almost exactly, you do have to input your Breadboard design into the VBB software but that's pretty easy.
Lets' take a look at the basic steps and if you want to find out more the PCB-Direct KickStarter project page is a good place to start.
Let's dig in.
Step 1: Create a New Project in Virtual Breadboard
You'll be needing the VBB software of course. download it here
- Open a New Project
- Click on the Breadboard Template and move (not drag) it onto layout
- Click again to finalise it's position
Step 2: Layout Your Breadboard Circuit
Transfer your Breadboard circuit to the layout using components and links
You would use your own Breadboard circuit but 555 Timer circuits are always fun by way of example.
- Click [+] to open the Timer group and place a 555 timer component.
- Click [+] to open the Breadboard component group and place resistors and capacitors.
Step 3: Emulate the Circuit [Option]
For the adventurous you can try out the VBB emulation capabilities. It's not SPICE ( whatever that is ) but its pretty darn handy for many of the type of circuits you might try to build with a Breadboard.
Did I mention It's not SPICE ? You have to learn the VBB Way which basically comes down to modelling the circuits behaviour with component properties and function blocks. For example the frequency a 555 timer flashes is not determined by the connected resistors and capacitors but is instead a property of the 555 component itself.
VBB also supports virtual Arduino , PICMicro and AVR components so there is plenty of functionality to grow into.
Of course you don't need to use emulation to actually make a PCB so let's push on.
Step 4: PCB Direct ( by Magic)
To convert your Breadboard layout into a PCB just click the PCB Direct preview button. That's it. It's kind-of magic.
To recieve the PCB just upload the project to VirtualBreadboard to have it cloud-fabbed and shipped to your door next day. That won't be available until the end of the PCBDirect Kickstarter campaign so check back for details.
Step 5: Go Nuts
You can make PCB's for more than just Breadboards. You can make Arduino Shields and even PCB's with integrated microcontroller modules. Once you learn the basics PCB's will be your new Post-it's!