Instructables

How to Prototype Without Using Printed Circuit Boards

When I learned how to build ‘one-off’ projects thirty years ago, I used the "wire wrapping" technique. Back then, I had access to an electronics shop with a $100 wire wrapping gun, kynar wire and a supply of wire wrap IC sockets. At home, however, with limited resources and no wire wrap gun, I had to make do, so I developed a technique that uses perfboard, kynar wire and solder that results in a neat, quick to assemble and very dependable electronic board.

Assuming you've developed your design on a breadboard and made a schematic, the steps to build your circuit board are:

1.  Place your components on the circuit board
2.  Plan the wiring on the board using a Perfboard Layout Planning Sheet
3.  Connect the components using Kynar wire

 
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Step 1: What You'll Need

Picture of What You'll Need
In addition to the perfboard and a soldering iron, you'll need some fairly common tools and supplies:

Kynar wire: This is an insulated 30-gauge single strand wire. It's a rather thin wire which is useful for low current and low voltage digital circuit connections. I use three colors: Blue for Ground, Red for +, and Orange or Yellow for all the other connections. This wire is also "pre-tinned" so it takes solder very easily.

Wire Cutter, Wire Stripper and Needlenose Pliers: I have a special stripper that is permanently set to strip the Kynar wire. It may take a few tries getting the correct setting, since you don't want the stripper so tight as to nick the wire itself, or so loose that it just slides off of the insulation. A good pair of needlenose pliers are required to hold short lengths of wire when stripping off an end.

8mm Rosin Core Solder and Solder Paste: The paste (you can use a rosin pen as an alternative) is useful if you want to flow solder over and join a socket pin, a wire and copper pad quickly and without too much heat.

Tweezers: I have a surgeon's tweezer (the kind you got in biology class in school when you had to dissect that frog) that I use for looping wire ends and a sharper, more precise steel electronics tweezer for holding wire during soldering.

“Helping Hands”: This inexpensive reconfigurable alligator-clip holding device is an indispensable tool when using this prototyping technique.

Reading Glasses / Magnifying Glass / Manual Dexterity: Depending on your age, reading glasses may be of assistance. If you don't have steady hands, you may have difficulty managing some of the smaller, more finicky aspects of this technique. If that's the case, printed circuit boards are probably a better choice.



kgwolf6 months ago

Great writeup! I'm just getting started with building circuits, and I found this very helpful. However, the planning sheet is a bit confusing. The numbers and letters on the sheet correspond to the letters and numbers on the front of the board, so rather than just being able to fill in the holes that correspond to your setup, you have to count backward from opposite end on the sheet. It would be more helpful if the numbers were inverted on the sheet, so you could just look at where your parts are plugged in, and fill in the corresponding inverted holes. Your description was very clear and useful though.

MaXoR3 years ago
very interested in knowing what you used, how you programmed this, and yeah... this just ENTIRELY interests me, aside from what you're actually trying to show here.... no concerned over the solder technique, just interested in how you built that thing, and got it programmed?!

I'm new to programming electronics, however no noob to programming. I design web sites, write scripts, and can code programs in C#, and C++. I've wanted to get my feet wet on a project like this, and you're seems just perfectly simple, yet challenging enough for me to be interested in doing it. (Don't just want to make a board that will blink lights in a predefined patter, you're flow (Amerage or whatever it measured) meter is awsome!
ninjanody3 years ago
nice technic..
snowpenguin4 years ago
Why not just..... solder? It's not exactly difficult, nor does it look like it's much more work than this is.
jdege4 years ago
I've been doing much the same, except that I use a wire-wrap pen to connect the wire to the post, prior to soldering.  The manual wire-wrap tools don't make as tight a connection as a gun, but then, you can't really get a tight connection unless you're using wire-wrap sockets with their special sharp-cornered pins.

Which is, of course, why we're soldering.