Learning Circuits

Introduction: Learning Circuits

About: I like to make all type of gadgets and weird scientific creations. I majored in EE in college so I understand something about electronics. I lack in the "professional looking" gadget maker department.

This instructable will show you how to make neat, efficient and cool-looking proto, or circuit boards.  These are great for beginners because they allow you to see all components and how each piece is connected, which is sometimes difficult with traditional boards, as you have to constantly flip the board to see what is connected where.

I came up with this idea a few years ago because I had a lot of scrap Lexan sitting around and I wanted to know what I could do with it.  At the same time I was building a great many circuits and going through the expensive Radio Shack proto boards, wishing I had a cheaper alternative. Then I had the idea to solve the 2 problems with my left over Lexan pieces.

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Step 1: Gather All the Supplies.

In order to make Learning Circuits you will need a few items:

1. 1/8" Lexan sheet. (8x10 from Home Depot is only $3.89)
2. Circuit components (For this ible I only used 1 resistor and 1 Blue LED)
3. Tool for cutting Lexan. (Next to the Lexan at Home Depot)
4. Solder and solder iron.
5. Tape, glue, a lighter and candle.

(Notice my custom cardboard component holder) get it here https://www.instructables.com/id/Cardboard-Component-Storage/

Step 2: Ready the Lexan!

Since I was using scrap Lexan pieces I wanted to cut it to a smaller and more manageable size.  Something that resembles the small square proto boards I am used to.

1. First score the Lexan where you want to make the cut. (Be careful the blade is sharp!)
    A. To score the lexan put the bottom tip onto the Lexan surface and pull toward you.  You should see little squiggle shaving        come off the Lexan.  If you try to use the tip top of the tool you won't get a good score on the Lexan.

2. After scoring the Lexan (I like to score both sides.)

3. Snap off the piece and you are ready to use the scrap Lexan.  Be careful not to cut yourself or break the Lexan in the wrong spot.

4. Now that you have a small square to use as a circuit board you should decide what you want to do with the "Circuit board."
        A. I wanted to make a pattern on the Lexan so it would light up when I attached a LED so this is what the additional score
            lines are from. 

Step 3: Circuit Design.

1. Mark Points on your Lexan where you wish to put holes for the components.  Use a Sharpie.

2. THIS STEP SHOULD BE PERFORMED OUTSIDE WITH GOOD VENTILATION.   Now heat a needle (and hold with pliers) in the fire of a candle or a lighter.

3. Press the hot needle point into the Lexan where you have your Sharpie dots laid out. (Don't breath the fumes)

4. Check that the holes go all the way through the Lexan and aren't clogged by stray Polycarbonate. I checked the holes in my board with the leads from a resistor.

5. The wiring diagram is showed in the picture.  It is very simple just 5 volts (represented by a battery) connected to a resistor and the resistor to the LED then the short leg of the LED (which also has a flat spot) is connected to ground. The resistor is a 470 ohm resistor so the bands are colored yellow, purple, brown, gold.

I have my ready Lexan "Circuit board" and I scored lines (like a checker board) onto it.  Now I positioned the LED onto the Lexan so I could figure out where to put it.  I heated the pin and pushed it through the board for my LED and resistor, making sure enough of the LED lead was left so I could properly position the LED so it points at the boards edge.

Step 4: Assemble the Circuit

1. Put components in place and solder them as you would a regular circuit board.  But take care not to burn the board with the solder iron, as this will create fumes and make the board less transparent in those spots.

2. When using polarity sensitive components such as LEDs make sure that you put them into the circuit properly the first time.  Especially with Lexan circuit boards it is more difficult to desolder and fix any mistakes. 

The weird contraption that my iron is sitting on is a solder iron "hot and ready" alarm that I made.  When it's hot it cuts the solder wire and sets off an alarm. :)

Step 5: Power Up!

1. Check that the circuit is connected and soldered properly.

2. Connect the power.  I loathe using batteries because I have so many little devices running around I use a lot of them.  So now I just use an old cellphone charger to test my LED and low power circuits.  It puts out 5 Volts and with a limiting resistor it is perfect.

Notice my power supply.  I can never tell which wire is positive or negative so I just connect it both ways until 1 works.  It shouldn't hurt the circuit, since this is a simple 2 component circuit.

Step 6: Admire

Check out what you made and realize that making any LED circuit with a Lexan circuit board will make it look infinitely cooler.
I added some black electrical tape to cut down on stray light from the LED.  I wanted all the light to be focused on the edge of the Lexan so I covered it with tape.  It also cuts down on the amount of light that escapes the board, since most of it reflects internally.
The last picture shows that the board remains very transparent even after components and scoring.
If you want anymore info about topics related to electronics you can ask me or Wikipedia has a great electronics library

Hope you enjoyed this and vote for me in any contest I may enter. Thanks!
Also, if you use this to make circuits or have criticism let me know in the comments.

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    5 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Wow this is awesome. I'm taking a basic electronics course from home right now


    but this instructable takes it to the next level of coolness! Thank you.


    7 years ago on Step 3

    you could use a drill and a very small drill bit


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I make circuits sort of like how you describe but I use plain phenolic board to build them on. I design the boards just like I am going to etch them in software then instead of etching them I print out the board on paper, tack the print out onto a piece of board, drill holes, and assemble the circuit point to point.

    It is how I made these:


    It is kind of nice because I don't have to worry too much about how the traces route. Just how the parts are laid out.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You're exactly right. I don't like worrying about the traces either. Plus these circuits have the added bonus of being easily reverse engineered because the proto board is transparent. I have been teaching anyone that wants to know electronics using these boards and it has been just one more useful pedagogical device. Thanks for looking! Your instructable is awesome BTW.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I'm glad you liked it.

    I'm happy with how it came out. One problem I have had has been using boards a bit too thick for some component legs. That can make it hard for me to assemble. If I ever run out of phenolic board I might try your see through plastic idea though. Stuff is easy enough to get. I worry about its ability to withstand the temperature of soldering though.

    I've a few other electronics related articles up on this site too. I think some are better than my motor driver one. So if you liked that one then give them a look when you get the chance.