Stripboard or Permanent Circuit Board
Stripboard has parallel strips of copper track on one side. The tracks are 0.1″ (2.54mm) apart and there are holes every 0.1″ (2.54mm).
Stripboard is used to make up permanent, soldered circuits. It is ideal for small circuits with one or two ICs (chips) but with the large number of holes it is very easy to connect a component in the wrong place. For large, complex circuits it is usually best to use a printed circuit board (PCB) if you can buy or make one.
Stripboard requires no special preparation other than cutting to size. It can be cut with a junior hacksaw, or simply snap it along the lines of holes by putting it over the edge of a bench or table and pushing hard, but take care because this needs a fairly large force and the edges will be rough. You may need to use a large pair of pliers to nibble away any jagged parts.
Avoid handling stripboard that you are not planning to use immediately because sweat from your hands will corrode the copper tracks and this will make soldering difficult. If the copper looks dull, or you can clearly see finger marks, clean the tracks with fine emery paper, a PCB rubber or a dry kitchen scrub before you start soldering.
Placing components on stripboard :
Components are placed on the non-copper side, then the stripboard is turned over to solder the component leads to the copper tracks.
Stripboard layouts are shown from the component side, so the tracks are out of sight under the board. Layouts are normally shown with the tracks running horizontally across the diagram.
Placing components on stripboard requires care. The large number of holes means it is very easy to make a mistake! For most small circuits the best method is to very carefully place the chip holder(s) in the correct position and solder in place. Then you can position all the other components relative to the chip holder(s).
Minor position errors left and right will not usually be a problem because the component will still be connected to the correct tracks. However, up and down position errors must be avoided because just one hole too high or too low will connect the component to the wrong track and therefore the wrong part of the circuit.
Some people like to label the holes with letters (up/down) and numbers (across) to give each hole a ‘grid reference’ but this still requires careful counting of holes.
Planning a stripboard layout
Converting a circuit diagram to a stripboard layout is not straightforward because the arrangement of components is quite different. Concentrate on the connections between components, not their positions on the circuit diagram.
Collect all the parts you will be using in the circuit so you can use a piece of stripboard to work out the minimum space they require. For some components (such as chip holders) the space required is fixed, but for others you can increase the space to obtain a better layout. For example most resistors require at least 3 hole-spacing’s if they are to lie flat on the board, but they can easily span across a greater distance.
If necessary resistors can be mounted vertically between adjacent tracks (0.1″ spacing) as shown in the diagram. This arrangement can help to produce a simpler layout but the tracks are more likely to be damaged if the resistor is knocked. If you are designing a stripboard layout for a serious long-term purpose it is best to mount all resistors horizontally.
Plan the layout with a pencil and paper (or on computer if you have suitable software) and check your plan very carefully against the circuit diagram BEFORE you attempt to solder any part of the circuit. The best way to explain the planning process is by example, so
there is a step-by-step example to follow below.
Planning the layout
Place the chip holder near the centreof your planning sheet with pin 1 at the top left (as in the diagram). You may find it helpful to number the pins.
Mark breaks in each track under the chip holder with a cross (X). The breaks prevent opposite pins of the chip being connected together. The track beside each pin of the chip is connected to that pin, the diagram shows this for pins 3 and 6.Mark the power supply tracks+Vs and 0 V, choose tracks which are 2 or 3 spaces above and below the chip holder as shown in the diagram.Now add the wire links. Draw a ‘blob’ () at each end of a link. The links are vertical because the stripboard tracks make the horizontal connections. Tinned copper wire (with no insulation) can be used for these links unless there is a risk of them touching other wires (in which case use single core insulated wire). Work round the chip pin-by-pin from pin 1.
- Draw all the direct links to the supply tracks(+Vs and 0V). The diagram shows pin 1 connected to 0V and pins 4 and 8 connected to +Vs.
- Draw any links required between pins on the same sideof the chip. There are none in the example, but these links are straightforward to add.
- Links to pins on the other side of the chip require more thought. If the pins happen to be opposite one another you can erase the track break (X) between them. Otherwise the pins can be linked by connecting both of them to an unused track above or below the chip. The diagram shows pins 2 and 6 linked in this way. Another method is to link them with insulated wire bent around the chip (see the Flashing LED project for example).
Add components which will be mounted on the stripboardsuch as resistors, capacitors and diodes. Make sure you allow for their size which determines the minimum number of holes, and sometimes the maximum as well. This is usually the most difficult stage of planning a layout so expect to change your plan several times! Remember to label the components, otherwise it will become confusing once there are several on the plan.
Connections which do not involve the chip are made using an unused track. For example resistor R3 and the LED are connected by an unused track above the chip.
Watch for alternative arrangements using the links you have already made. For example the LED needs to connect to 0V but it is a long stretch to the 0V track. It is easier to connect the LED to the same track as pin 1 of the chip because that track is already connected to 0V by a wire link.
Resistor R2 needs to connect from pin 7 to pin 6 and it could do this directly by mounting it vertically. However, it has been connected from pin 7 to the track used to link pins 2 and 6, the extra space this gives allows R2 to lie horizontally on the board.
Add wires to components which will be off the strip board such as switches. These should normally be on the left and right at the edges of the board. Start by adding the battery clip or power supply leads to the +Vs and 0V tracks. Connections for the other off-board components are usually easy because you do not need to allow for their size, just draw wires to the correct tracks.
Check your plan very carefully by checking every connection shown on the circuit diagram. A good way to do this is to work round the chip pin-by-pin. Check all the connections and components connected to pin 1, then move on to pin 2, and so on.
Look for ways to improve your plan. For example it may be possible to eliminate an unused track by moving a supply track nearer to the chip – but make sure there is still sufficient space for the components. It may also be possible to move links and components closer to the chip horizontally to make the area of board required a little smaller.
Unused tracks above and below the chip have been eliminated in the example. This affected two components, resistor R1 and capacitor C1, but both will still fit in the reduced space. The plan could be compressed a little further by moving components and links closer to the chip horizontally but this has not been done.
Finally, check your plan again and make a neat copy fully labelled with all the component references or values. Work out the size of stripboard required. Notice that an extra hole has been allowed on the left and right to avoid soldering at the end of a track. Joints made at the end of a track are likely to break because the small piece of track beyond the last hole easily breaks away from the board.
It is tempting to rush straight into soldering the circuit, but do check your plan carefully first. It is much easier to correct errors on the plan than it is to correct to correct them on the soldered board!
- Used for making permanent circuit
- Also used to clean and compact project
- Low cost
- High life spam of project