Product Roundup – PCB Prototyping Boards

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Spanning many types – from perforated bare phenolic prototype boards to glass and plated thru-hole – a PCB prototyping board features a non-conductive landscape for electronic components, vias, tracks, and more. Single- or double-sided, these PCBs offer a fast and inexpensive means of manufacturing circuits, eliminating more involved wiring methods.

The most common material used to make PCBs is the flame-retardant glass epoxy laminate, or FR-4, with eight layers of glass fiber [VP1] material. It represents a versatile high-pressure thermoset plastic laminate-grade that features strong strength to weight ratios. It also absorbs little, or near zero, water so it can be used in both dry and in humid conditions. Based on its electrical insulating qualities in a variety of conditions, it’s used across many applications, representing the majority of rigid PCBs. FR-4 is also used to construct relays, switches, washers, transformers, busbars and more, mostly due to its strength, cost and flame-retardant characteristics.

Today’s boards are more complex than those available even just a few years ago. They can be ultra-small, flexible, add wireless capabilities and even simpler[VP2] simplify  testing. Gone are the days when lead solder dominated the marketplace, boards were huge in comparison, and large components resided.

A000082 PCB prototyping boards by Arduino Corporation simplify the design of custom circuits on Arduino projects. Developers can solder parts to the prototyping area or use it with small solderless breadboards to rapidly test circuit possibilities without going through soldering. Connections exist for the Arduino I/O pins and space is provided for both through-hole and surface mount ICs. Features include Arduino 1.0 pinout, a large 0.1 prototyping area, reset button, 14-pin SMD footprint, 20-pin through-hole footprint and SPI header.

In comparison, the RFD22125 PCB prototyping board (RFduino) by RF Digital Corporation is a general-purpose PCB in a Bluetooth 4.0 low energy (BLE) RF module with a built-in ARM Cortex M0 MCU targeting rapid development and prototyping projects. In effect, the design shrinks an Arduino to fingertip size and adds wireless capabilities.

The Adafruit 572 FR4 general-purpose PCB board is a Proto Cape kit for Beagle Bone or Beagle Bone Black. The PCB fits on top of a Beagle Bone but does not interfere with the Ethernet jack. It provides a breakout to both 46-pin headers, providing individual numbering. The strips access 5 V and 3 V power supplies and two SMT breakouts, one for SOIC-8s and one for SOT-23s. The Adafruit 572 FR4 general-purpose PCB board includes a double-sided FR4 PCB and 3 sticks of header.

While many boards are still in basic perforated format, most designers prototype by starting with a solderless breadboard and then transfer parts to a more permanent PCB. In comparison, boards exist such as the Perma Proto board created by Adafruit featuring the basic layout of a half-sized breadboard but adds a white silkscreen top and a 5-hole bad design bottom that matches traditional breadboards. It also has four power bus lines on the sides and no mask for easy trace cutting. Holes are through-plated, and do not peel off should rework be necessary. Finally, the finish is a gold plate, and two mounting holes enable easy attachment of the PCB to a project box.


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