Dead bug prototyping and freeform electronics are a way of building working electronic circuits, by soldering the parts directly together, or through wires instead of the traditional way of using a printed circuit board (PCB.)

Dead bug prototyping got its name because when you invert a IC, and bend the legs out, it looks like a dead bug. Sometimes you can make your whole circuit work just by soldering the parts directly to an IC, and the easy way to do it is to lay the chip upside down, bend the leads out and solder parts together. Sometimes people use many chips, and glue them upside down to a blank PCB, then build the circuitry from part to part.
This type of circuit is often a quick way to get going on a project, and is a good way to test stuff, before investing in printed circuit boards, which makes it useful in prototyping, or even for building small quantities, but its fairly labor intensive, often difficult to build, and ends up looking ugly.
The neat thing about building circuits without boards is that it removes the need for everything to be on a plane, making for more interesting looking 3D circuits, rather than 2D circuits. Geometry comes more into play this way, and the way parts are manufactured, the number of leads, how they are organized all limit, and shape the way the parts can fit together. Some parts have 2 axial leads, others may have 2 or more linear leads or dual in-line leads, while another may have leads in a radial fashion. Surface mount parts and through hole parts have different properties, but they can both work fine and can even be mixed in the same designs.

When I used to work building electronics, engineers would revise designs, which would cause changes in manufacturing. We would do things like clipping a lead on a part, solder a different part on to that one, or sometimes on top of another part. It was pretty common practice to piggyback memory modules or chips to make a bigger memory module or chip. This sort of thing is practical and viable in many useful ways. Its also can be aesthetically appealing, and interesting looking.

The purpose of this instructable isnt to show you how to do this, but rather that its a fun way to build interesting electronic projects, as well as a quick way to see if your thing works.

Step 1: Piggybacked Shift Registers

Shift registers are component often used in digital circuits, in this case, im using 74HC595 shift registers, they are very popular among hobby electrics users. They are a serial to parallel device, you send it a series of data, it outputs in a parallel fashion. Serial parts work well for piggybacking, typically the outputs are parallel, and the input is chained from one chip to the next, with several leads in common. The leads that are common, can be soldered in a direct line, that makes things easy, the outputs are also in a direct line, which makes thing nice and easy. The data chain is a simple repeating connection between one chip and another. Fitting it together in a stack isnt usually all that much of a challenge, but it can be.

Im usually using shift registers with LEDs, which means they often output to resistors, which can complicate things, but it can also make for more interesting designs. Stacking is by no means the only way to do this. but its one of the more interesting ways, particularly because vertical, is an uncommon direction to build electronics. It also illustrates how the parts work together to make one big part, like a hotel with many floors and many rooms on each floor.

<p>thanks </p>
<p>My LED cube in Freeform style:</p>
<p>That is very impressive. Do you have more infro about it? A website or instructable or something maybe?</p>
<p>Thank you for rating :) This cube was made 3 years ago. Before its I was made another one for traditional technology - PCB, cover (slim box) for controller. Circuit, design and firmware for controller I was take from russian forum <a href="http://roboforum.ru/forum10/topic9342.html" rel="nofollow">http://roboforum.ru/forum10/topic9342.html</a> </p><p>When I saw the creation of Kimio Kosaka <a href="http://make.kosakalab.com/arduino/obaka/project-7/index_en.html" rel="nofollow">http://make.kosakalab.com/arduino/obaka/project-7/index_en.html</a> I had a great desire to do something like! :)</p><p>I did the photo process to make my own instructable :( The are only textual description of the manufacturing process <a href="http://roboforum.ru/forum10/topic9342-60.html#p229898" rel="nofollow">http://roboforum.ru/forum10/topic9342-60.html#p229898</a> but russian. </p><p>In short: I was design PCB on 4 (or 5) layers (ground the lowest), printed on paper separately layers and took a pack of metal paper clips. Then I straightened and bent paper clips, applying to the printed image. Soldering places on wires I tinnyng using orthophosphoric acid and much washing with soap and water to avoid rusted, then dried. I first soldered base frame - electrical ground for circuit. Then solder other layers of wires and electronic components. Led layers I soldered separatelly on the plywood template with holes and gathered together. Then mount to the controller.</p><p>On the first photo controller without leds. Sorry, poor quality.</p><p>That`s all.<br></p><p>There will be questions - ask :)</p>
<p>I agree, those photos are terrible, I would like to see better pictures. The layout and workmanship looks terrific, very clean and nice to look at. <br>I would like to include them in another instructable, when I can get around to putting together some new example, and this is exactly what im looking for.</p>
Very cool, can I ask you a question, when you piggy back memory chips how do you let the CPU address the additional memory banks? Thanks in advance.
I never really did much with those computers. I think I did do some basic testing, and that probably did include memory checks, but I dont remember doing any software changes to enable higher amounts of memory. It may be that we had a jumper or mod wire that enabled larger memory size? <br>I was working in prototyping, and repair, not engineering, and we often didnt get to see the final product.
Thanks for your reply I will do some google research on this subject. Once again,you are creating working electronic art, awesome! Thx
<p>I used to do this to upgrade the amount of memory on Atari Computers 800XL to 256K by stacking the memory chips.</p>
<p>I am guessing you are talking about piggybacking?</p>
<p>Yes, like step 1. Only with memory chips.</p>
<p>Yeah, I used to piggyback ram chips/boards too, and I applied that to the shift registers, which worked out really well. I did it for essentially the same reason that we build hi-rise buildings, more usable space on a smaller footprint. When I think about how they work, that also reminds me of something like a hotel with many floors too. The similarities are interesting.</p>
<p>Great circuits, I've made a 120A voltage regulator for my motorcycle, those are three phase 40A bridges that get very hot, original regulator burns out very often, this circuit is stable for a year for now and stays almost cold because of huge power reserve, now it moved under the seat.</p>
<p>That looks very nice! Can be this useful for an old Africa Twin? There is the same problem: it gets very hot and it will be damaged in the end, buying new one solves the issue if you are close to a shop, if you are in the middle of nowhere, you need a more reliable one. Can you you please share a schematic or any advices on how to build a similar one? Does it contain regular electronic components? Thank you!</p>
<p>Some more people asked me the same, I'll make an archive with schemes and elements list and photos that I'll be able to find and send to you. </p><p>I made this circuit for Honda X4, but it worked well on CBR and other ones that have three phases coming out of generator and require two pluses and two minuses for motorcycle circuits. I made two pluses and minuses to lower the load on wires, but Honda X4 has 4-terminal connector, so it fit perfectly.</p><p>Give me a day or three to gather all =)</p>
<p>I'd like that link too.</p>
<p>Cool Arezus! May I ask - how did you weatherproof the circuit? i.e is that hot glue?</p>
No, this is epoxy compound. It's something between glass and hard plastic when it's hardened. It's pretty stable to vibration and can handle soft direct hits with the hammer, not speaking about weather, sand, petrol, oil and other. When it reacts after mixing two components it gets pretty hot due to chemical reaction and gets even to the smolest gaps. In Ukraine it is selled in ugly package which contains the epoxy tar and hardener. They need mixed together and spilled to the needed form. In 24h it's like transparent concrete.
<p>Thats pretty cool. You did a nice job with the photos too.</p>
<p>I think I am in love with your regulator. What a gorgeous build :)</p>
<p>That's pretty cool. Though I'd love the instructable for how to go about doing this. I've tried doing things like this and when ever you need to add another part, all the parts disconnect because the solder was holding things in place until it reflowed. So information on how to do this and keep parts still while adding connections would be much appreciated. Also, some chips and parts are heat sensitive. I try to clamp or clip a tool to act like a heat sink between the part and the solder joint. Curious if that consideration is used while making these free form solder joints. Thanks! :)</p>
<p>I also wrote this one about soldering, it might be helpful.</p><p>https://www.instructables.com/id/Soldering-Electronics/</p>
<p>I rarely have an issue where the whole part is hot enough to melt solder. When im soldering, I rarely have the iron on a single lead for more than 2 seconds. I also like a very hot iron, I get the heat in and out as fast as possible. I have used heat sinks and tweezers as heat sinks for doing wiring, but never for electronic parts.<br>If you have parts that are particularly sensative, then you should probably use a socket instead, most of the parts that I use dont need any special treatment. <br>Sometimes it may help to bend and clip your parts in advance, Sometimes you can take advantage of surface tension, and the parts pull themselves together while the solder is a liquid.</p>
Thanks, there is no rush!
<p>I made a small kit a while ago that used this approach.</p><p>http://www.surprisingedge.com/AnnoyATtiny85/</p><p><a href="http://www.surprisingedge.com/AnnoyATtiny85/images/27.jpg" rel="nofollow">http://www.surprisingedge.com/AnnoyATtiny85/images...</a></p>
<p>Neat, what does it do?</p>
It's for pranks, it just beeps at random intervals.
<p>i made it!</p>
<p>Cool, I like the LED matrices, those are nice. </p>
<p>This is working electronic Art man...........keep it up !!!</p>
<p>Thank you, Im glad you enjoy it. I do too!</p>
<p>Very cool, I'm a big fan of creating 3D circuits. It just seems like a more creative and efficient use of space. Thank you for posting all these examples.</p>
<p>You are welcome.</p>
<p>That Arduino skeleton is a work of art!</p>
<p>We used to call it &quot;haywiring.&quot;</p>
<p>Loving the artistry in these builds. Those thick busses remind me of old chassis built equipment, but these are done for show :) Never had much luck with dead-bug myself, but this 'ible is quite motivating!</p>
<p>Thank you</p>
<p>Back when I worked in an aerospace electronics lab, a manager from another department came and requested that I build a one-IC circuit, dead bug style for some experiment his department was doing. </p><p>So I did build it as requested. Then months later said manager came to me and thanked me, saying that this experiment came off very well in the space shuttle. Egad, the space shuttle! I had no idea. Had I known, I'd have been sure to be extra careful about cold solder joints and general structural integrity. But all's well that ends well! </p><p>In retrospect I wish I had asked him if it were possible for me to get the circuit back, which I would have framed, or something. </p><p>My most memorable dead bug circuit!</p>
<p>Thats a pretty groovy story. Its a shame that you dont have pictures to go with it.</p>
Many thanks, this kind of creative thinking helps foster even more such inspirational thought... Kudos!
<p>Thank you. I was hoping others would be inspired to make their own groovy things.</p>
<p>Ok... that's just<em><strong> effing cool</strong></em>.</p><p>I've seen a ton of circuits... but these are ART that happens to work as a circuit...</p><p>To you... <strong>I tip my hat!!!</strong></p><p>this is getting shared at the <strong>ATX Hackerspace</strong>, and the <strong>Austin Robot Group</strong> too!</p>
<p>Thank you.<br>Yeah, its gotta work, thats the primary function!<br>I hope you all are inspired to make your own cool stuff too.</p>
<p>This is the coolest stuff I have ever seen!... Great!!...</p>
<p>Thank you</p>
<p>Very nice, after you finish them you can cast them into resin or even wax, that will make those projects functional art pieces.</p>
<p>Ive never cast resin before, maybe I should try it. <br><br>Someone asked me for help buildinga cube, and they said that they were going to cast it in something, but I never heard back on how that went.</p>

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