Universal PCB Prototypes Circuits with Ease and Beauty

A better looking and more functional alternative to a traditional perfboard.

James Lewis
7 days agoHardware 101

The starting point for many circuits is the humble breadboard. The design has not changed much over the decades, with columns and rows to form interconnects. A more permanent solution is a "protoboard" or "perf board." While a few have done some innovative changes, they have mostly just remained a solderable version of a breadboard. The Universal PCB from Volos Projects is a huge step forward in prototyping circuits. Its distinctive design is flexible enough to build many circuits cleanly and more easily than traditional prototyping boards.

"These PCBs can be used for many electronic projects. With this board, you can make cool projects very fast. And project looks much better than perfboard projects. It is also great for SMD components because the lines are not isolated so you can solder directly to them."
Universal PCB explanation and demo

The 60 x 80 mm Universal PCB has two sections. At the time is an area for DIP ICs. Each of the footprint's 16 pins breaks out to individual solder-trace pads. The unique pad design allows them to support both through-hole and surface mount components. Also, those pads have alternating VCC and GND connections surrounding them. This layout makes power connections straightforward and clean, while also making it very easy to add SMD components, like decoupling capacitors.

For a good example of how the top section works, jump to about the 7:10 mark in Volvo's Universal PCB video. There they show how to wire-up a simple 555 timer circuit.

The bottom section has areas for power supply connections, pushbuttons, square-style potentiometers, and traces similar to a small breadboard. That area can support a 10-pin DIP package. An example that shows off the Universal PCBs flexibility is CD4017 decade counter, driven by a 555-timer. The output of the counter has through-hole LEDs. Potentiometers change the clock speed of the 555, and power comes in through a screw terminal.

Our take on the Universal PCB is that it is not just a semi-permanent alternative to perf-board. Instead, it has as much potential for prototyping circuits as a breadboard. The video provided on Volo Projects' YouTube channel shows six different examples. Our favorite is the ATmega328P with an OLED display and a 5-way switch to play games.

You can either order the boards from PCBway or buy the Universal PCBs from the Volos Tindie store. They sell the boards as a 5-pack for $16, including shipping!

James Lewis
Enginerd at night. Electrical Engineer on paper. Fan of making things that blink, fly, or beep. Creator of: http://addohms.com. KN6FGY.
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