LabGuy's World: Hobby Electronics How To

Typical Labguy video project vector boards

       I have worked in the electronics and video industry since 1981. As a lab technician, it is expected of you to build complex electronics assemblies. Not only that, you must do this quickly and reasonably error free. Over the years, methods are worked out to solve various problems and to improve efficiency. Some of these steps can be pricey. But, time is your most expensive commodity. The trick is to balance time and cost while producing a working project. A good looking project is a bonus and usually indicates good quality. Working with analog video signals forces one to become extremely disciplined in signal integriy techniques.

       My construction method is a hybrid technique that mixes through hole and surface mount parts. Surface mount parts are standard components like resistors, capacitors, inductors, etc. But, without wire leads. Standard components have wires that you must form and poke into holes in the circuit board. Extra work is needed to trim them after the part is soldered in too. The end result is usually unsightly and all of this costs time. Surface mount parts, on the other hand, require no holes to be drilled and no leads need be trimmed. Just solder it down to the copper pads on the board. Simple.

       In the second photo above, look close and you can see the capacitors and resistors soldered to the bottom of the board. 0603 size resistors and capacitors fit neatly between the IC pins which are spaced 100 mils apart. I call this method of passive component placement, "brick laying". For every SMT part I use, that is at least two wires I don't have to measure, bend, thread and cut. The part connects directly to where it needs to go. This board took less than three hours in total to assemble thanks to this technique. Note the lack of a wire jungle as well. I highly recommend surface mount parts for this reason. The SO size ICs, the video amps, were mounted to small red adapter boards to mate them to the 100x100 mil grid of the vector board.


       First, I use only the best fiberglass vector board. The material I prefer most has a solid ground plane on top and drilled through copper pads on the bottom. [Twin Industries] makes the best prototyping materials I have used. I prefer their 8100 series material which has 100mil spaced drilled pads on one side and a solid plane on the other. This solid plane is our circuit ground and is the single most critical aspect of high quality construction. Proper grounding will avoid and prevent so many other problems. More on that later.

       [Anchor Electronics], in Santa Clara carries Twin Industries and other prototyping materials in a retail setting. They carry a full line of electronic components, tools, chemicals, and other technical items. Anchor also accepts internet orders. For technical help choosing materials, ask for Orville. Tell him Labguy sent you.

       [ElectroBoards Prototyping] has a full range of adapter boards that make it easy to use all manner of surface mount parts on regular vector board. ElectroBoards has a very large selection of adapter boards. The quality is tremendous! I know this for a fact. I use them all the time. Price is very low considering the problem it solves for you.

       These are just a couple of resources. (Un paid plugs) Search the web for the specific items you seek and ou will find them.


Surface mount component kits

       Here is my source of surface mount passive components. The company is called [Analog Technologies, inc]. (formerly SMT ZONE - I can not vouch for the accuracy of the label in photo #2) They sell these excellent SMT kits with 510 unique values of 1% resistors and 79 values of capacitors. I am referring only to the 0603 size parts kits. The kits come in five cases of 128 bins each. Each bin contains 50 parts. Initial cost is almost $500. But, don't freak out. This is an absolute bargain compared to the value of your time spent hunting down each part value independantly, organizing and storing it. Think of your hobby construction time as costing you $100 per hour and you will get an idea of how fast these kits pay for themselves. No serious hobbyist lab is complete with out at least one set of these. SMT Zone also sells these kits in other component sizes like 0402 or 1206. They also source inductor kits. Be sure to confuse them at SMT Zone by telling them Labguy sent you.


       The following three videos demonstrate how I assemble surface mount components on vector board. Especially important is video number two. In that video I demonstrate how to get your wires neatly dressed and cut to length. The last video is a demonstration of some interconnect wires that I like to use when interconnecting modular project boards that I some times build. These jumper wires are available premade from Anchor Electronics. (The royalty free backgorund music is very annoying. Feel free to turn down your volume!)



Created: April 17, 2014 Last updated: May 26, 2014