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By now, through-hole components have almost completely disappeared from consumer devices and also professional PCBs.

But what is the alternative to build breadboard-veroboard for SMT technology? Prototyping will be confined to simulators and custom boards?

I know that there are sockets or adapters for some SMD integrated circuits for through-hole boards, but I don't think at this like a definitive solution; I wonder when TH will disappear, what will be the common way to design prototypes?

I'vre read all the answers until now, and somehow I agree, but the basic question is: thru-hole components and breadboard will continue to have an use also in 10-20 years?

(I couldn't find this question anywhere, but tell me if there is)

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What I'm starting to do is design some small breakout board PCBs that I can plug into a breadboard or just connect together. I made one with 8 surface mount LEDs and resistors on with a set of pin connectors that I can plug wires into and into a breadboard. I made that PCB myself but the effort involved made me decide that gettting them manufactured was far easier. I then use it with a purchased microcontroller board.

My current project is an SOIC style PIC on a board with a crystal clock, and necessary decoupling etc with some pins. Basically my own prototype board. It no doubt won't be anything like as good as one I bought for half the price, but its fairly simple and lets me learn how to design a 2 layer pcb in eagle, and the process of getting a board manufactured. And then some further practice at soldering small parts. I've also made a small breakout board for a memory chip although I think that particular project is doomed and wont be any use when I get it back for various reasons.

I plan to make various small boards that I can plug together to make things...

All this is just practice though, once I'm happy that I can make small boards, I'll start making something more ambitious.

Anyway my point is that PCBs and many surface mount parts are not outside the reach of a hobbyest, and even if you don't want to make full circuits you could always make small boards to interface the components you want to use to connectors. Obvious this won't work in all cases but for many things it will!

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First off, through hole components are far from gone. Even some of the more complicated microcontrollers still have through hole versions available, specifically for the purposes of quick prototyping. The through hole version go away when you start getting into speeds that just can't be done with through hole.

As far as prototyping with SMD, it really is not as bad as you seem to think it is. In about a week of practicing soldering surface mount components, I was able to remove and add SMD parts quickly with hand soldering (and I wouldn't consider myself great at soldering). This means that when you get a prototype you can fairly easily swap components out. And if you find that you have your circuit wrong, as far as connecting a trace to the wrong location, it is fairly simple to use a razor blade to cut a trace and then solder wire to jump to the correct place.

As far as the cost, prototype PCBs aren't that expensive either. Many people are able to make them at home now. Even when you send out for one, there are places that you can get a professional style 2 layer board for $33 or can get a board with out plated through holes and solder mask for cheaper.

What I have found is that for prototypes of any amount of value, as in will do more then flashing an LED or something, the problems that people run into with breadboards tends to be things like plugging a wire into the wrong row, or accidentally pulling a wire out while trying to do something. All of those things go away with PCBs resulting in it being much easier to focus on the prototype.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ But you would spend $33 on a board without trying your design in a simpler form? I've seen a wrong design made in 10+ copies before discovering the issue... \$\endgroup\$
    – clabacchio
    Jan 26, 2012 at 13:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @clabacchio: $33 is cheap compared to the time wasted otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2012 at 13:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that it depends how much is worth your (in a general sense) time, and related to the value of the design; without considering that in many places ordering a PCB requires some time \$\endgroup\$
    – clabacchio
    Jan 26, 2012 at 13:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @clabacchio that is why you do things like cut traces and solder wires. Almost every board I have made I have been able to get working the first time, just required lots of wires. That then gave me all I needed to know to make the 2nd board perfect. And if you have an area on a board that you really aren't sure is right, then you just leave lots of extra space, maybe even some headers, so you can do prototyping just like you would on a breadboard. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kellenjb
    Jan 26, 2012 at 13:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @John: It takes just as much time for us when we're doing it professionally. Don't you have something else to do in the mean time? After sending out for the boards, you do the BOM, order parts, and get the kit together so the boards can be built up when they arrive. Usually boards and parts converge here at about the same time. While you're waiting, work on another project or get a head start on the firmware. It's hard to imagine your life is on hold while the boards are being made. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2012 at 17:43
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Basic thru hole components like resistor, transistors, and some capacitors are still available. You can still do quick and dirty testing of circuits on those plug in breadboards with the holes at .1 inch pitch.

However, the more exotic the circuit, the more you will need a custom board for other reasons anyway. Fortunately nowadays getting PC boards made is fairly cheap. For the first version of a circuit on a PC board, leave lots of extra room, bring out unused pins to labeled pads, etc. That way you can make reasonable edits of the circuit as needed when you discover issues in testing.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, and I think that shools will have them for a long time, as for instructional purposes I think that they are the base. But I'm wondering if it's realistic to think to something like the boards with the matrix of pads for SMD components. \$\endgroup\$
    – clabacchio
    Jan 26, 2012 at 13:11

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