Prototyping PCBs are the type of PCBs with holes and patterns in it already, as show in the picture below.
Prototyping PCBs are commonly used in simple projects – because they are cheap, easy to troubleshoot, and they save time compared to etching and pre-synthesizing.
In this topic I will give you a tip on how to utilize prototyping PCBs in a way that it will look presentable and professional.
These are examples of the boards I did not design. By design I mean, I haven’t planned the placing of components at all, just plug it in whenever I get one component, connect it, and solder it immediately: As you can notice components are in distance, wires are flying all over, and I tell you I have been gone a lot of troubleshooting before they worked.
And these are examples of boards I designed. Boards that are being planned out from start to end. As you can see, components are quite close and organized. I’ve experienced minimal troubleshoots.
The difference is when you plug components without a pattern, you get messy boards AND most of the time you make connection mistakes! I bet you understand this if you already had your attempts.
So, how to make a pattern?
First: You need to have a prototyping board. You really need one because you are going to draw down its copper traces into ExpressPCB.
ExpressPCB is a software that lets you design your circuit board layout. You can download it FREE by clicking this —> ExpressPCB download.
Once you have already installed the software (2) shortcut icons namely ExpressSCH and ExpressPCB will show into your desktop. ExpressSCH is for drawing schematic diagrams and ExpressPCB is for making layouts.
We’ll go for ExpressPCB for now.
Once you opened your ExpressPCB, this pops out as your main page.
First we need to set up the configurations. (View > Options)
Make sure that the configuration is the same as this one below.
Display Units: Inches, Show Grid, Grid spacing 0.1, Snap to Grid, all of them.
Set up your Snap Distance at the bottom of the window to 0.025”
Now going back to the main page, every white dot represents 0.1” of spacing, THAT is the actual distance for every hole you have in your Prototyping PCB.
We can now proceed to drawing the copper plate. Copper traces are displayed as green
if set by default.
Click on the trace button on the left most of the window.
And choose green for copper trace, and 0.050″ on its thickness.
This is the prototyping board I have. We are going to copy the copper pattern shown on the left picture.
Just remember that when you start to draw your copper trace, view the prototyping pcb COMPONENTS SIDE facing YOU and the COPPER SIDE facing away. In that case, designing and analyzing will be a lot simpler.
Viewing the board by pointing light on its back makes the copper traces clear and copying it will be easier.
This would result to the picture below. I don’t think I need to enumerate the steps one by one since its quite easy plus, exploring the software is quite fun, might of it leave it to you.
Every hole in the prototyping pcb is represented by one white dot in the software. And I can guarantee that after printing results to the exact sizes and distances as on the actual.
You can click on some devices at the component button, and drag them all in to your drawn copper pattern.
This is an example of a 5 volt regulator circuit. Electrolytic and mylar capacitors, diodes, and T0-220 package (7805) regulator are present. The red lines are connecting wires, that’s for me of course, you can represent any connecting wires you want. It’s your call.
This is an example of layouts being printed.
All you have to do is put the following components to their following coordinates and done.
You now have a neat and well-planned prototyping pcb.
I hope this helped. Have fun designing!