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CHAPTER 5 Starting with Electronics
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Circuit Assembly
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PROTOTYPING BOARDS
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When you are experimenting with a new circuit, you normally want to put it together in a temporary fashion to test it. Test versions of a circuit are prototypes, and prototyping boards, often called breadboards, make it easy to quickly wire a circuit. An example breadboard is shown in Fig. 5-3. Once a circuit has been tested, you may want to make a permanent version using either a generic or custom circuit board. Each hole in the breadboard is a socket that you plug wires or components into. The holes are connected together in a standard pattern, as shown in Fig. 5-4. The long bus or rail, a series of connected holes on the outside edges of the breadboard, is normally wired to the power supply. I usually take a red and black permanent marker and draw lines along these holes, to identify which strip is which. Black is the color traditionally used to represent ground and
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Fig. 5-3. Prototyping breadboard.
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Fig. 5-4. Breadboard circuit layout.
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CHAPTER 5 Starting with Electronics
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Fig. 5-5.
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Breadboarded circuit.
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red is positive voltage. On a long breadboard like this one, the power rails tend to be split in the middle. I ll also usually take short wires and connect them together into one long bus. Our previous circuit, plugged into the breadboard, might look like Fig. 5-5. Breadboards come in many di erent sizes, though the internal wiring is usually pretty standard. The 64-unit long board shown here is a common size. Other breadboards may come with interlocking wedges along the sides so you can connect several boards together into one unit. You can also nd prototyping stations that come with multiple breadboards plus built-in power supplies and other attachments. These cost more, but can make the task of prototyping easier. You can buy circuit boards that are laid out like the breadboards. These let you solder your components and jumper wires into place permanently. You can often take a design straight from the breadboard onto the matching circuit board.
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DEAD BUG AND WIRE WRAPPING
There is one inelegant method of assembling components that is often referred to as the dead bug technique. It is called this because it is normally used with integrated circuits, which look like futuristic bugs. Dead bug assembly is where you solder the wires and components together without any type of printed circuit board, prototyping board, or other
CHAPTER 5 Starting with Electronics
structural support. The circuit simply hangs together in space, waiting to get bumped and shorted out. Wire wrapping replaces soldering with tightly wrapped wires. Though a popular prototyping method, I ve never enjoyed the process so can t recommend it.
SOLDERING
Most of the work in this book is done on breadboards, so soldering is a useful skill to have. Soldering is the process of joining two wires together, or a wire to a circuit board, by melting a soft metal, solder, into the junction.
Equipment
Solder (Fig. 5-6) is a soft metal wire made from a mix of tin (symbol Sn) and lead (symbol Pb), usually about 60% tin and 40% lead. My solder is marked SN63PB37, indicating the popular mixture of 63% tin and 37% lead by weight. This solder melts at the low temperature, for metals, of 1908C (3748F). Since there is lead in solder, it is a somewhat hazardous material. You don t want to eat lead or rub it in your eyes, so wash your hands after handling solder. When metals get hot they react to the oxygen in the air more than they would normally. This creates an oxidized layer on the metal that interferes with the solder sticking. It also insulates the metal from what we are trying to solder it to.
Fig. 5-6.
Solder.
CHAPTER 5 Starting with Electronics
To prevent oxidation, as well as to clean o existing oxidation, you use solder with a ux. In plumbing and other large-scale soldering projects this ux is an acid paste. Never use acid ux in electronics! It will damage your circuit. Electronic ux is usually a rosin paste, based on pine-tree sap. For convenience, most electronic solders are formed as hollow tubes with a rosin ux core. Sometimes you want lots of extra ux, so you can buy rosin ux in liquid form, thinned with alcohol. Solder is heated with a soldering iron, such as my old workhorse shown in Fig. 5-7. A basic soldering iron is a cool handle with a hot tip, plus some kind of stand to keep it from burning your desk. A better soldering iron includes temperature controls and a place for your sponge. All irons feature replaceable tips, since these wear out over time. Since you have a choice of tip, use a small pointy tip. While you can get large tips, at screwdriver-shaped tips, and so on, these are clumsy for most electronics work. It is important to keep your tip clean. This is what the sponge is for. Never use sandpaper or other abrasive materials to clean your tip, since these will damage its protective plating. When your soldering iron is hot, you clean it by wiping the tip on a damp sponge. Once you wipe o as much crud as you can that way, cover the hot
Fig. 5-7.
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