Hey there! Today I want to show you how to make your projects more permanent. Many of you have been asking how to transfer your project into an enclosure, for example. Or how to put your project on a different chip and make a circuit board for it.
I’m hoping to answer your questions here:
Your arduino project probably looks something like this at the moment:
and it is really cool to get this far. Everything is wired up correctly, your code works and you are well on your way to becoming an arduino ninja ….until wait, why is that wire sticking out…where was that meant to be plugged in???
Yep, the issue is that its just so vulnerable, you have to be super careful when moving it around and once a few wires come out, its nearly impossible to remember how the spaghetti of wires is meant to be connected.
So, if you know how to use circuit board design software – or fritzing of course, which is a much easier alternative to some others- you can design a PCB i.e a printed circuit board like the ones you find in commercial products.
For most hobby projects however all you really need to do is get hold of some strip board. Which looks like this:
If you look closely, you’ll notice that the top looks very similar to your breadboard – just with less plastic and no coloured lines
And you drop in your components almost as you would with the breadboard – however the components don’t fit tightly and stay like they do in a breadboard. Everything has to be soldered in place – which is good, that’s why we use it.
So let’s look at the bottom of one. I’ll show you a close up of one that I made with just LEDs, this is hopefully going to be used as a lamp when I get round to it.
The bottom of the board is made up of strips of copper. So once you solder the components on and add power, you have a working circuit board.
For layout purposes, sometimes you will have components on the same strip but don’t want them to be connected. In this case you will need to break the track – i.e. make a gap in that particular copper strip.
On the above picture, you will see I have connected LEDs and resistors in parallel, and I have cut the track between the resistors.
To do this, I actually have a cute little hand drill that came in a printer ink refill kit.
You can buy a proper track cutter or use a stanley/craft knife – anything that is sharp enough to cut and make a gap in the copper strip.
Before you disappear and start ordering a load of this stuff, there is something you should know. There are different types of stripboard, and you can also cut them to the size that you need.
To cut a stripboard, use a craft knife and score between the copper strips several times. Do the same on the same place on the top side of the board. If you score it enough and put it on the edge of a table and snap it, you will get a nice clean edge. You can also use a scroll saw or similar if you have one.
Some boards have copper strips all the way across, like the ones I have shown you so far. Some however have sets of strips like this one:
These are good if you are using a lot of ICs/chips as you will always have to break the track in the middle so that pins aren’t connected to each other. And this is the type of board I am using for my test circuit on my drone (feel free to laugh at my soldering, it starts off well and then I end up rushing it and it looks awful!):
The problem with this type though, is you end up having to do a number of solder bridges to make a power rail or to connect to IC pins…I won’t be using this for my next drone circuit…
So how long do these circuits last? It depends on how well you look after them of course, but I made this 5v regulator circuit at least 7 years ago if not longer and it still works great:
Those spikey things on the side are called header pins, which I realise you’ll be probably be curious about and I still need to explain how to get your program onto a separate chip…another blog post coming soon!
Hope that helps for now.