Prototyping Board – What Is The Unique?

A prototyping board is any electronic board used to make electric and electronic circuit prototypes before printing them on a fabricated PCB board.

Therefore, prototyping boards are built so that the assembly process is as practical as possible. The functionality will be approximately the same as a factory-made PCB board circuit.

There are various types of prototyping boards; the most common are listed and described below:

1. Breadboard

The leftmost picture shows that the breadboard is a plastic structure with holes interconnected in horizontal and vertical directions by copper wires hidden inside the plastic construction.

The breadboard can be used several times and is suitable especially for students, trainees, and hobbyists.

One disadvantage of a breadboard is that they are not rigid since connections are not soldered but made by putting jumper wires into holes.

Pad-per-hole Perfboard – shown in the middle left picture, is a plastic grid with holes stuffed with conductive pads to make the soldering process more accessible.

2. Prototyping BoardStripboard

Stripboard – shown in the middle right picture is a type of perf board whose holes are interconnected into stripes instead of single pad holes, so minor soldering is required.

It is easy to cut off the lines to avoid short-outs.

3. Homemade Etched PCB

Homemade Etched PCB – is a board that resembles the factory-made PCB.

However, it is made at home or in the workshop using randomly printed circuits on laminated paper, copper plate, and copper etching using acids, hydrogen peroxide, and lukewarm water.

This board is shown in the rightmost picture.

Since prototyping is a testing process, you should make sure that you buy at least two units of each component to have a backup if something goes wrong.

When working on a perfboard, it is advisable to use premade wires instead of wiring holes point to point. Recheck each connection after you finish wiring two assembly components.

Document everything you do and keep notes. If convenient, it is also advisable to prototype in a breadboard before moving on to another board type that needs soldering.

How Prototype Boards Work

Your typical prototype board has jumper wire connections to add and remove various electronic components. 

These components complete circuits and leave the prototype board functioning for another set of removable components.

These connections aim to make observations and record any changes so you can map out a final circuit board that works best. 

You can use a prototype board repeatedly and maintain its structural integrity and electrical connectivity. 

Note: A prototype board is not permanent. However, the results with different components are crucial in figuring out connection problems and design flaws. 

The final stage of using a prototype board is submitting designs and prototype results to your manufacturer. 

Is A Protoboard The Same As A Breadboard?

A protoboard(prototyping board) is different from a breadboard. 

However, you can consider a breadboard a type of protoboard. They are used interchangeably in electronics because the breadboard is a base for designing electronics.   

Unlike a protoboard, the breadboard is a temporary-use board. A breadboard doesn’t necessarily need soldering during early-stage PCB development.

The breadboard is a great starter package to learn about PCBs without destroying the board’s tracks. 

You can conclude that a breadboard is a design-only tool for building and experimenting with PCB design and connectivity. 

Prototyping Board Vs. Breadboard

Prototyping Board Breadboard
Uses jumper wires to create connections It uses spring loaded sockets/clips for connections
Prototype board soldering is possible and necessary for a protoboard.  You don’t need to solder on a breadboard
You can use a prototype board as a permanent connection board. A breadboard is great as learner material or a temporary experimentation tool.
They are most suitable for custom circuit designs and layouts. They are better for reusability and testing. 
Better for precise PCB building.  More margin for errors
They create more complex, functional circuits Characterized by simple circuits

10 Tips For Soldering Prototype Board

These tips reduce prototype board waste and achieve neat results. 

  1. Clean your protoboard and keep it contaminant-free before soldering. We recommend a soft bristle brush to avoid damage. 
  2. Soldering produces potentially hazardous smoke. Therefore, solder in a well-ventilated room with appropriate protective gear. 
  3. Match your solder with the material’s melting point. 
  4. Ensure your soldering iron’s temperature control is adjustable.
  5. Clean the soldering iron tip with a damp cloth or sponge after heating the iron. 
  6. Use a conical tip to reduce heat damage to the surrounding areas.
  7. Applying flux to the joints and pad improves the solder flow and makes adhesion more durable. 
  8. Simultaneously heat the component lead and board. Follow up with applying solder to the joint. 
  9. Avoid moving the components and wires before the solder joints cool and solidify.
  10. Insist on using lead-free solder. Pick flux core solder over acid-core to preserve the protoboard.

How to Work With Prototype Board Wires

  1. Chisel tips are the best for working with wires. Their broad flat tip is perfect for wires and wide coverage. 
  2. We recommend you handle your board wires with clamp devices. 
  3. Use solid core 18-22AWG wire for better flexibility and current and insulation capacity. 
  4. We also recommend wire strippers to remove insulation material and preserve the conductive core. 
  5. When using solderless breadboards, use jumper wires for better temporary connections.
  6. Use different wire-wrap techniques or soldering to secure wires to protoboards. Soldering wires only apply to solderable boards.

Requirements To Build A PCB Prototype?

You’ll need to prepare detailed documentation before building a PCB prototype. Log in every detail into the documentation, from concept to completion. 

The documentation should follow these guidelines. 

  • Provide context for every process in the documentation. It’s easy to interpret and understand the designs and changes after any handover. 
  • The building documentation should be easily readable and simple to understand.
  • Provide all the edits, additions, and deletions.
  • Have a review, sign-off, and final approval stage for the documentation.
  • Update all part numbers before handing over the documentation with the final design.

The documentation must also include these requirements.  

  • Gerber, centroid, NC Drill, and ReadMe text files. 
  • Bill of materials (B.O.M) with part numbers and quantities
  • Assembly drawings showing board layer stackups, board outlines and tolerances, and component locations.
  • What procedures did you use for tests? Follow up the procedures with pass/fail guidelines.
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Gerber files