HomeTips & GuidesCircuit Board Prototypes: An Ultimate Guide on PCB Prototyping

Circuit Board Prototypes: An Ultimate Guide on PCB Prototyping

About Circuit board prototypes, You can see printed circuit boards in almost everything you use, such as alarms, phones, cameras, computers, and cars.

PCBs have become more complex; thus, manufacturers must be cautious in designing them. Even the tiniest of errors are not acceptable, and thus, it is advisable to go for circuit board prototypes.

Printed circuit board prototypes understanding:

Testing the circuit board concept before moving into the manufacturing phase is always good. For this, you can use the help of PCB prototype boards, prototyping boards or breadboards.

These boards allow you to build and check the circuit board before sending it into the full printing phase, with holes/sockets where you can put electronic wires and components to make temporary connections. 

Thus, you can test different designs, resolve issues, and make circuit changes without damaging the components. 

Protoboards 

Protoboards 

Different types of circuit board prototypes:

Different boards, like perfboards, stripboards, or solderless breadboards, have unique applications and benefits.

Breadboard: 

It is a solderless prototyping board with spring-loaded sockets that allow easy insertion and removal of electronic components. 

You need not solder the wires and components, and you connect them with jumper wires.

Protoboard:

A protoboard comprises many boards, including solderable perfboards and stripboards. You can use prototype solder or wires to test a potential circuit board.

Perf board:

In this board, there are holes, and every hole has a conductor pad of copper. Thus, it is also popularly known as a pad-per-hole design. 

This setup allows you to test the connections by soldering individual pads. Alternatively, you can connect the pads through wires on a perf board.

Stripboard:

Stripboards also have individual holes set up like other common prototyping boards. 

However, holes do not have individual conductors but connect through parallel copper stripes under the board length. 

These copper stripes are the substitution for wires.

Like wires, you can make or break the connections using these stripes. 

The breaking of stripes allows you to break the component connections as and when required. 

You only need a drill bit for this process.

 Press a 4mm drill bit against the hole to break the connection. Twist and press slightly; you can cut the copper, leaving isolated stripes. 

Be careful when using a double-sided board, as these boards have copper strips at both ends.

Stripboards

Stripboards

Breadboard vs. prototype board: which one to choose

Some criteria allow you to pick the right prototyping board for PCB testing.

Flexibility:

If you are looking for fast prototyping, go for breadboard, as you can make changes quickly and easily on them without soldering.

 On the other hand, perfboards or stripboards help you get permanent solutions through soldering.

Durability:

Soldered prototypes are more robust and can bear higher current loads than the breadboard prototypes.

Size and complexity:

Go for breadboards if you are handling small projects or simple circuits. On the other hand, solderable protoboards are good when you work on complex or large-scale designs. 

You can move the component layout from the breadboard to the stripboard for further tests. 

However, a stripboard with a similar orientation is always better.

Reusability:

You can use breadboards again and again for different projects. On the contrary, soldered protoboards are more or less permanent and thus have less reusability.

Skill level:

Breadboards are good for beginners who do not have soldering experience. On the other hand, working on solderable prototype boards needs circuit layout and soldering skills.

Breadboards

Breadboards

How can you use a prototype board?

Prototypes are less expensive than PCBs and offer you permanent configurations. When working with circuit board prototypes, follow the steps mentioned below:

Planning:

Before you start anything, you need to plan your work to get the best results.

The best way to start is to use the board planning app on your PC. These apps allow you to see the circuits before you begin placing components on the board in real. 

However, some of these applications work for both stripboard and perf board, while others work with any one type. Accordingly, you must purchase your prototype.

If uncomfortable with this digital solution, use a graph and get a protoboard layout. 

Consider every point where lines cross as the holes of the prototype board; accordingly, draw all the components and make connections. 

You can also mark where you will break the copper stripes (for stripboards only).

Whether following digital or graph drawing techniques, planning helps you save time and cost before you build a prototype.

Cutting protoboards:

You may only need part of the prototyping sheet when working. As the circuit board sizes vary, you may need to cut the board to get a piece. 

However, the cutting task is complex because the board often comes with a resin lamination, which makes it resistant to soldering heat. 

However, the resin also makes it more prone to cracks, and thus, you must be careful.

Thus, following a straightedge while cutting the protoboard is advisable. Use a sharp knife and make a cut line along the edge. 

Repeat the same process on the other side. Now, take the board on the edge of a table or any other flat surface and snap it carefully.

For cleaner snapping, making marks on the protoboard’s holes would be good. Protoboard is less stable on holes and allows easy breaking. 

Also, using a sharp knife is always better than band saws/band tools as the latter tend to damage the protoboard.

Working with a prototype board:

  • On solderless boards, use jumper wires to make connections. However, use solder or wire wraps to secure the wires on solderable protoboards. Your project requirement determines whether you should go for a prototype board or breadboard.
  • Pick an appropriate soldering iron with changeable temperature control.
  • Use good quality solder with a suitable melting point.
  • Consider current capacity, insulating material, and flexibility, and pick the right gauge and wire type.
  • Always use wire strippers to strip off insulation so you do not damage conductors.
  • Ensure all the components and board are clean to ensure good soldering.
  • Use fluid on the joints to allow the solder to flow easily.
  • Heat the board and the component lead, then apply solder to the joint.
  • Don’t move the wires and the components until the solder cools down completely.
  • Proceed to tests for required functionalities.

Cloom’s PCB manufacturing capabilities:

Cloom is a leading PCB manufacturer that has made prototyping convenient for its customers. 

We can deliver quality PCB orders quickly and at affordable prices. 

We adhere to high-quality standards while manufacturing standard or custom-printed circuit boards.

  • Fulfill various demands: Cloom offers turnkey printed circuit board services, including fabrication, design, sourcing, and assembly. You can get combo and kitted options, whatever you wish.
  • PCB types: We have different PCB types, including single, double, and multilayer boards (up to 20 layers).
  • Assembly types: Our team is an expert in different PCB assembly techniques, including surface mount, single/double side placement, and through-hole.
  • Quality standards: Our PCB boards meet IPC class 2 and 3 specs.
  • Shapes and hole size: With Cloom, you can get PCBs in any desired shape with the final hole size up to +/- 0.005 inches. We consider hole sizes larger than 0.250 inches as cutouts.
  • Prototype options: You can get different prototypes like visual models, working functions, or proof-of-concept prototypes based on your needs.
  • Base material: We prefer standard base material, i.e., FR4 TD 350 for PCBs. Other than this, we can also use other base materials as per the client’s request. Our finished PCBs come with solder masks and silk screen legends. If you want, we also provide a lead-free final finish like ENIG or lead-free HAL.

Conclusion:

Since prototyping solves the verification purpose, it also assists manufacturing, as testing is a predecessor phase. 

Thus, at Cloom, you can get fast and high-quality prototyping services. 

Contact our professionals with your requirements; we will explain everything from top to bottom.

Hey, I am Lillian Yang, Sales manager of Cloom Tech.

I am a responsible, intelligent and experienced business professional with an extensive background in the electronics industry.

Reach me at [email protected] to get a quote for your projects.

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