Choosing PCB versus perfboard?

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by wayneh, Oct 28, 2010.

  1. wayneh

    Thread Starter Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    I've just completed a perfboard project that felt too big. As I was slogging thru adding the wiring and interconnects, I was wondering if I would have been better off making a PCB, whether this would have made the build easier.

    I've read about the pros and cons of both methods, which generally recommends the perfboard if you're only making ONE, as in my case.

    Still, since I've never made my own PCB, I wonder if you would ever choose a PCB over the perfboard for a single-build project? Or am I just doomed to the wires and hole-to-hole bridges?

    I tend to spend a LOT of time on design before I build. However I must admit I made a stupid mistake (swapped a couple of comparators on a quad) that was relatively easy to fix on my perfboard.

    What's YOUR rule-of thumb for choosing perfboard versus PCB?
     
  2. DonQ

    Active Member

    May 6, 2009
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    My rule is: Perfboards, the way many do them, are almost completely useless. The "solder wire and components to a partially plated perfboard" version takes a lot of energy for a mediocre result.

    My prototyping mainstay is wirewrap. Quick, reliable, easy to change, capable of a very high density, and adapters are available for many surface mount parts. It seems to be a lost art (many never even found it in the first place), but it hugely valuable as a prototyping platform and can create parts that are acceptable for final product in small quantities. I have industrial applications that have been running relatively complex circuits for over 20 years.

    Contrasted with:

    PCBs take a fairly large initial investment of your time getting up to speed. Once that is done, getting 2 to 4 layer boards done can be done very quickly, affordabley and give a much more polished result. Small changes can be made on the finished product, but I really don't recommend this for prototyping unless you are very confident of your ability to do it right (or almost so) the first time.
     
  3. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
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    With the ease of Toner transfer and auto-layout that comes with schematic capture products, it is pretty quick and easy to etch a PCB if you already have the supplies.

    If you had too many wires and made mistakes with the solderless breadboard, you will likely have more problems as you need to solder everything looking at the bottom side, the mirror image.

    I also like wirewrap for 1 offs, but that is something us "old guys" are kinda used to. Getting set up for etching PCs costs about the same as getting set up for wirewrap.

    Timewise, PC Boards are generally faster and more reliable, especially if autorouted by your design software. If you have to lay out the PC Board by hand, then wirewrap or protoboard with buses and using point to point soldering may be quicker.

    I guess the answer is "It Depends".
     
  4. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    I definately prefer protoboards for one of a kind, but I like to document. This is a technique I developed in the last 10 years, it saves a lot of tracing (but mistakes can still slip through, it just reduces the liklyhood).
     
  5. Audioguru

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    Dec 20, 2007
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    I have made many projects on stripboard, some were very complicated.
    I plan the connections and track cuts on grid-paper then simply count the holes for cutting the tracks with a drill-press and mounting the parts. Only one wire is in one hole the same as a pcb.
    The strips form half of a pcb and the parts and a few jumpers form the other half.
    My projects were all custom with only one circuit made. It was the sold one.

    Most of my audio circuits and test equipment are also made on stripboard.
     
  6. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    We don't see that much strip board in these parts. Why I don't know, it looks interesting.
     
  7. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 11, 2009
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    I also prefer strip board(picture). The advantage is that components and jumpers is on the top side only. And all soldering are done at the bottom side. That help to tide up things. I use a cheap HSS drill bit on a shaft to cut tracks(DIY type).
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Audioguru

    New Member

    Dec 20, 2007
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    If you used stripboard then all the wires on the solder side would not be needed.
     
  9. thatoneguy

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    Feb 19, 2009
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    Problem is, stripboard needs to be ordered around here. Local stores don't seem to carry it. I DO like working with it, though.

    The most popular board around the US is the Radio shack format, pads/tracks are similar to a solderless breadboard, but in PC Board form. The other common layout is pads only, as shown above. Stripboard/veroboard seems to cost more for the same size, unsure of reason.
     
  10. djsfantasi

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 11, 2010
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    I prefer PCBs - but they are not without their difficulties. One exists in either case - the ability to think in mirror images - so will not be mentioned further. I think the effort of tracing and re-tracing all connections is the same in either case, but PCBs tend to enforce more rigor up front. I like work up front and no headaches later. I have used software from ExpressPCB and print many, many, many copies of my layout before committing it to copper. The software also minimized the mirror-image effect... I find soldering much easier to a PCB. I also find having to deal with fewer wires/jumpers is a benefit. My last circuit was built on a PCB from a service and worked without any problems related to the circuit, soldering or wiring! (Of course, PEBCAC did raise its ugly head).
     
  11. nerdegutta

    Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
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    I do not like perfs or stripboards. I like to make PCB's, even for just one board. I spend long time designing in KiCads schematic, and after that I place all the components in KiCads Board. KiCad has a 3D view section, so as I design/place components, I'm able to see what it looks like.

    After that, I use my UV-light box to transfer the design to the PCB.
     
  12. Audioguru

    New Member

    Dec 20, 2007
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    Years ago and for many years I used epoxy-fiberglass Veroboard from England. It was strong and didn't break nor warp. Then Vero stopped making it and I tried Radioshack boards but they had holes too big, copper too thin and the cheap paper-phenolic base broke easily and warped.

    Luckily a local store had very high quality Chinese epoxy-fiberglass stripboard that I bought for about 15 years until they didn't sell it anymore. Maybe I was the only person buying it.
    Another local store had cheap Taiwan stripboard that stinks. I used it for a few years until they stopped selling electronic parts and sold illegal satellite receivers and antenna dishes instead.
     
  13. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
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    For hobby work, DigiKey and a couple robot sites sell the stirpboard, I have one on hand, but once the circuit is bigger than about 4"x4" of small components and IC's, I usually end up etching or ordering a PC Board once the prototype is verified. Especially when there are a lot of buss lines, or operation at very high (RF) clock rates.
     
  14. punisher454

    Member

    Jun 29, 2009
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    Once a project becomes too much for breadboarding I almost always go straight to PCB. My method is to use layout software, touch it up to my liking in photoshop, and print durabrite pigment ink (epson) DIRECTLY to the pcb using a modified epson inkjet. Then bake the ink (more like thin paint) in a toaster oven. After that straight to etch and drill.
    Frequently I have gone from idea (or revision) to board in hand in under an hour.
    Stuff I've been doing lately is a mix of through hole and surface mount so breadboarding and perf-board are problematic.
     
  15. DonQ

    Active Member

    May 6, 2009
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    Have you seen stuff like this?
    http://schmartboard.com/index.asp?page=products_qfp&id=66
    or
    http://www.beldynsys.com/singledual.htm

    They convert different SMDs to 0.1" through-hole. Then I go straight to wire-wrap from these, usually using them to proof a circuit before I commit it to a PCB. Some of the more complex devices are just to much to go directly to PCB, especially since the spec-sheets often lie.

    FYI, solid model of my current PCB attached below. Not a good candidate for the 'straight to PCB' design method. Many of the SMD components were proofed using adapters like those above, on a mix of breadboard and wire-wrap.
     
  16. John P

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 14, 2008
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    Well, dunno if it'll work, but the graphics are gorgeous.
     
  17. DonQ

    Active Member

    May 6, 2009
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    Thanks. Made the manager types happy long before I had product in-hand. Their bragging started early on this one.

    I'm bringing it up as we 'speak' (so to speak). Mostly working, so far with only 2 jumpers and with no jumpers over ~0.2" long (pull-up instead of pull-down and 0-ohm instead of 10k).

    This is largely because I could do some early testing before I committed the design to PCB, thanks largely to adapter boards like those I listed above.
     
  18. RockyBlackburn

    New Member

    Sep 11, 2006
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    Looks like I have a use for an old 740 I've got in the closet. It looks like the durabrite pigment ink is not available for it, but printing directly to a presensitized board may work with the standard black cartridge. Hmm, something to look into maybe. (That is, if it still works in the first place!)
     
  19. kubeek

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 20, 2005
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    What software do you use for the model?
     
  20. wayneh

    Thread Starter Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    But when is that? I mean, how big or complex would it have to be before you go the PCB route? I had my circuit working nicely on a breadboard before going to perfboard for a more permanent, rugged and compact solution. My project definitely wasn't "too much for breadboarding", although it was getting unruly.
     
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