I've been planning a Veroboard/stripboard layout for four dot matrix LED displays. Most of the complexity is due to the daft way companies break out the pins on the 8x8 modules. This is what I have so far:

Veroboard layout

The fat lines are wires, and the striped orange bits represent stripboard. The colored dots are the pins of the 8x8 dot matrix displays. I only intend to use the red dots, not the green ones

I've got a couple of questions concerning this layout:

  1. How can I physically connect the strips of perpendicular stripboard at the top and bottom (which will have male headers attached) to the main board? Hot glue? Overlap the boards and "sew" them with wire?

  2. Is this really an achievable thing to do? Should I be looking into PCBs?


Looking into PCBs. Board design:

PCB Layout

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd just design a PCB. Something like that would take me under an hour to design and make at home. \$\endgroup\$ – Leon Heller Dec 18 '11 at 13:19

To answer your first question, either glue/wire or both should work fine. As will anything you can come up with that's suitably electrically/mechanically sound.

To answer the second question:
Yes it's achievable with stripboard - folk have built entire discrete logic based processors and other similarly complex circuits using stripboard.
That said, anything past a rough prototype is better done with a proper professionally made PCB. If it's a personal (i.e. one off non commercial) project then you could maybe etch your own.
There are plenty of cheap prototyping services available nowadays that offer far better results that you can get at home.
We just tried out the Seeed Studio service (10 boards for $10, sounded a bit too good to be true) and the results were excellent. The "catch" is the $10 is only for the smallest (5cm x 5cm IIRC) boards but even for the larger ones it's cheaper than any place I have seen so far (e.g. 10cm x 10cm is only an extra $15)

In the end which route you choose it depends very much on the project's end requirements, but the stripboard will certainly work okay for something like this.

  • \$\begingroup\$ One of the things putting me off PCBs is that I've never made one before. I've played around with eagle, but the ordering process always seems too complicated. How long did it take to get the seeed boards made? And are they based in the UK? \$\endgroup\$ – Eric Dec 18 '11 at 14:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If you want to do much more than tinker with electronics then I would say learning about PCB's is necessary. Most decent PCB design software has a pretty steep learning curve but there are plenty of good guides/forums out there to help you get started. Ordering is often as simple as generating the gerbers and sending - usually many places will go easy on new customers and let you know if you have made mistakes (tell them it's your first PCB) The seeed studio service took around 2 weeks and is based in HK. \$\endgroup\$ – Oli Glaser Dec 18 '11 at 14:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you want to use a UK based service then Spirit Circuits are quite good. We are in the UK too and have found their free Go Naked service pretty useful - it is a completely free service for 2 layer PCBs of any reasonable size, but with no mask or silkscreen. Turn around is usually about 3 days for places in the UK. Might be worth you trying out your first board design there since there's nothing lost if you get it wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – Oli Glaser Dec 18 '11 at 14:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is "Go Naked" via email only? I don't see any kind of form on their website \$\endgroup\$ – Eric Dec 18 '11 at 14:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yep - just ask at the address given and they will give you the necessary info for ordering. It goes something like: you send an email titled "Go Naked" with a zipped attachment of your Gerbers and NC Drill file and ask if they can put it through the service. They will reply telling you if it's okay and been processed or something needs fixing. \$\endgroup\$ – Oli Glaser Dec 18 '11 at 14:33
  1. Overlap, sew and glue ;) Depending on the intended lifetime and stresses (vibration, temperature) one of the methods might get flakey.

  2. Given that you've pretty much done most of the PCB work anyways, I think this ciruit could be done on a single layer. If that's the case, just use some Eagle or GEDA, and use termotransfer method to get the PCB home-made. Or just throw a couple of bucks and wait 2-3 weeks for batchpcb.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I hihgly doubt that this can be done on a single layer. Remember, my diagram at the top currently has three layers - the stripboard, the horizontal wires, and the vertical ones. While I can trivially reduce it to two, reducing it to one would be very tricky. \$\endgroup\$ – Eric Dec 18 '11 at 14:32

For a personal one-off board I would be tempted to do a home etching with Toner Transfer.

However, I would design the board slightly specially:

First I would design the board as a two-layer board, but make sure that I got as much on the solder side as possible.

Second I would ensure that the few bits I had on the component side were away from the components.

Third, I would replace all the component-side traces with links and wires.

That way you get the neatness of a PCB combined with the ease of routing of wires.

I have got my design skills down to just a few short wire jumpers on a lot of my more complex layouts now.


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