Prototyping boards

Protoboard-Header

“When in doubt – fail harder”
One of the many rules of development by Stijn Kuipers

Prototyping is a process of near constant failure until it suddenly (almost magically) all starts working. Afterwards you can then claim bravely that this was the intention all along and you knew what you were doing during the entire process.

To fail in style, you need tools with style.

One of the staples of any electronics workshop are the different kinds of prototyping perfboards, ZIF sockets and adapter PCBs. These almost inevitably end up in a prototype where the fact that it works might be dependent on semi-bad solderjoints that “worked at my place”.

Over the years, various systems have made this process a bit easier. First – spring-loaded breadboards with massproduced adapter-pcbs were the way to go. Then, PCB production prices rapidly dropped and finally the possibility to develop custom prototyping boards became available.

Our first prototype prototypeboard is based on the QFP50/80 boards by DangerousPrototypes, who kindly provided Eagle files under a license permissive enough to play with. Buy the original here

The main difference with the original is the fact that I prefer to have a few more standard circuits available when prototyping: audio output, double power supply to convert the incoming 5.0v to 3.3v and 1.2v, and MIDI input/output. Oh, and buttons. A full octave of buttons.

Behold:

Protoboard v1 with 1 octave of buttons and a MIDI-out plug mounted.
Protoboard v1 with 1 octave of buttons and a MIDI-out plug mounted.

The underside currently holds an Atmega 328 to convert button presses to MIDI signals.

There is an Atmega328 under the rainbowmess.
There is an Atmega328 under the rainbowmess.

There are still several flaws in this design (most notably connector-location). As soon as these are ironed out Eagle and gerber files shall be offered for download and production.

Quite possibly we will add a few basic schematics for an MCU to allow easy USB communication to the protoboard (Atmel Atmega32u2+ , Freescale Kinetis k20+ or something like it). This will make it easy to build fully self-hosted JTAG setups for experiments with new MCUs, FPGAs or other odd chips.