This is a prototyping board, with copper pads in a matrix layout. You solder the components in place, and then simply cut pieces of wire, and solder them to make the circuit. These boards are simpler to use than strip-boards because there is no requirement to break connections, and therefore useful for beginners.
Right Tools for the Job
These boards work well providing you use the correct tools with it. The correct soldering iron bit and temperature, as well as the correct solder are essential. Ideally, you want to keep the temperature to a minimum otherwise, the pads may detach. If you use the wrong type then you could end up making a mess, and not get anywhere. When you receive the board, also make sure the copper pads are clean for soldering.
Making Solder Bridges
For very short links two to three holes in length, it is possible to make solder bridges to connect them. The technique is to put some solder on the pads first, and then to join them thus creating a track. There is a limit to how long the line can be, but generally, around five pads may join easily. Ideally, you want to keep such a connection to around two to three pad lengths. If you need to have a long connection then it is better to use a wire link on the component side.
It goes without saying that connections such as this uses slightly more solder than usual, but gets the job done well if you use solder very thinly and sparingly. Rapid prototyping has always been an expensive venture.
As you can see, it is possible to make a straight neat line of solder. When I am designing a circuit, I tend to keep the connections to a minimum of two copper pads.
Avoid Adjacent Bridges
Making two adjacent lines of solder becomes tricky. You need to make sure that your solder is as thin as possible, and after soldering, you will need to check with a continuity meter to make sure that the adjacent lines are not touching. It is tricky but possible; however, it is best to avoid this in your design.
When you have completed all the soldering, your board will have a lot of flux everywhere. Moreover, the thinking that it looks messy disheartens many beginners. However, you need to use a flux cleaner to remove the flux. This will clean the board and the soldering will look shiny and professional.
Old Soldering Iron
If you have an old high-wattage soldering iron like this with a burnt tip, then it will not work, and you will struggle. You need to have a 17 W pencil soldering iron and anything lower such as 15 W is even better. If you use anything higher, the solder may not stick and even worse, the copper pads will come off due to the excessive application of heat.
If your soldering iron tip looks like this then you will need to get either another soldering iron or another tip. With a tip like this, you could end up using a lot of solder, none of which will stick to the join and places where you need it. Moreover, soldering will become a pain instead of a joy. As you can see, the tip has oxidation marks and there is a layer of oxide on the surface, which behaves as an insulator and prevents the transfer of heat to the join.
In the Electronics Tools section of this site, you can see some of my vintage Antex soldering irons that I use. You will not be able to buy those as they are priceless but it will give you an idea of what to get.
Get a Precision Soldering Iron
For precision work, you need to use a fine tipped soldering iron. Ideally, it should be around 2 mm or less. I use the Antex precision miniature 15 W soldering iron with a 2 mm bit for fine work like this. However, my soldering iron is quite old, I bought it back in the 1980s, and it was expensive then. However today you can get something equally good and cheaper.
For the solder, you will need cored solder that is lead free and ROHS compliant. Most of the tin solders work fine with this type of boards. If you are an asthmatic, or notice wheezing during soldering then you should get Omega: Rosin and Lead Free Solder, which uses a different flux ingredient and is ideal for asthmatics. With asthma on the rise, and most schoolchildren carrying inhalers it is probably better to get rosin free solder called Omega. Wartons Metals, which is a UK manufacturer of solders, is the only company that I am aware of that makes this type of solder.
These prototyping boards are currently available from places such as eBay, Amazon, and many electronics shops. I managed to buy ten universal prototyping boards for £1.50 including postage! Use the following search criteria to find dozens of sellers offering these.
“Prototype Paper Experiment Matrix PCB 50 × 70mm”
This is a small board measuring slightly smaller than a credit card, but very useful if you have a theory on paper and you wish to verify it with a quick rough circuit. It is great for building those little temporary projects for operational amplifier gain experiment or learning how to bias a transistor.
I placed some orders for these and they generally delivered within two weeks and came from China, occasionally the odd one does not get through but most of the time I have not had any problems, besides you always get your money back from PayPal if there is an issue.
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