DIY Breakout Boards for Prototyping

I have been prototyping a drum machine on breadboards lately and found it difficult to make some components sit well in the boards, especially potentiometers and jack sockets.

Although I had carefully selected components that would fit in a breadboard, I was experiencing annoying issues with unreliable connections. I even had components falling out of the boards when I was moving them around (I am the proud father of a very curious 2-year old boy and need to store my prototypes on a high shelf when I’m not working on them).

I decided to solve this problem once and for all and spent an evening designing and building a couple of simple breakout boards for my project, using Olivier Gillet’s breadboard friends as inspiration.

Prototyping breakout boards

The breakout boards work just as I had hoped. They sit really tight on top of the breadboards and the connections are 100% reliable.

I also picked up on Olivier’s idea of using jumpers to set default connections – e.g. connecting the sleeve of the jack socket to ground and bridging tip and ring so that only a single wire is needed to incorporate the socket in a circuit in “mono mode”. This approach not only saves time but also reduces the number of wires in my prototype, making it easier to work with.

I really recommend this approach, even for fairly simple prototypes: What worth doing is usually worth doing well – especially in engineering projects.

You could use strip board for your own designs as long as the power rails on your breadboard match “standard” dimensions – this is not the case with all boards. If you enjoy etching your own circuit boards like I do, that’s obviously the way to go – you can grab my Eagle files on GitHub and use them as a starting point for your own designs.

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