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Major Pain Points in Electrical Engineering

Thread starter #1
My name is Austin. I am a co-founder of Raven Circuits, and we are building the first ever wire-free breadboard. You can check out our progress at (www.RavenCircuits.com).

We are trying to streamline the painful task of transferring a circuit schematic onto a physical breadboard, by eliminating the need to place any wires on the breadboard. A user simply inputs his/her schematic into our software application, places physical components on our breadboard (resistors, capacitors, ICs, etc.) and they're good to go.

As we are still in the prototyping phase, I wanted to start this thread in order to start getting the word out and to gauge interest in our product.

A few questions that would help us out so much:
  • How much would you be willing to pay for this product?
  • How useful would this product be to you?
  • Are you intending to use this in industry, as a hobbyist, a student, or as a parent teaching their kids electronics?
  • What voltage range do you typically work with?
  • How big of a breadboard do you need?
 
#2
Sounds like a great idea. I've taught basic electronics in the past and something like that would be very useful in a high school lab, so it may be worth while reaching out to schools and giving presentations to teachers.
 

Pommie

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
#3
Downside is you still need to lay it out on a breadboard. Plus, you can't physically see it.

Mike.
 

audioguru

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
#4
The spec's for your virtual wireless breadboard about maximum current and capacitance are missing. I used breadboards only in school. They frequently had intermittent connections.

I make all of my prototypes securely soldered on a stripboard. I lay out the parts (more compact than on a breadboard), mark where to cut the strips, add a few short jumper wires lying down, solder on the parts then test the circuit. The circuits all worked perfectly. Most of my designs were for only one or two and looked good enough to be sold as the final product.
I made a stripboard complex audio equalizer circuit and sent it to a pcb designs and assembly company who made a prototype pcb which I tested then tens of thousands of the product were made, each one tested by them on a complicated test circuit I designed and made also on stripboard. Only two products failed the test, one had an IC mounted backwards and another had a bad electrolytic capacitor. None of the tens of thousands failed after being sold.
 

JimB

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
#5
An interesting product, but...

How are the interconnections made between the various points on the board?
I am guessing mosfet switches.
I also guess that there must be a large number of them in order to make all possible connections between the contact strips of the prototyping area.

This add a great deal of complexity and scope for failure due to rough handling, both mechanically and electrically.
It has been suggested that these boards would be good to use in schools. I do not see these things as being "student proof".
How frustrating to have to faultfind the breadboard as well as the circuit under test.

We are trying to streamline the painful task of transferring a circuit schematic onto a physical breadboard, by eliminating the need to place any wires on the breadboard
Another level of abstraction from the real world.
Replacing a simple piece of wire with some software and a some relatively complex circuitry.
A few days ago I was listening to something in a programme on the radio, it was relating a problem with medical students.
Many of the medical students found it very difficult to suture (stitch up) cuts in the skin as required after an operation.
This was attributed to lack of practical manual dexterity in the wider aspects of life. People just don't do things with their hands anymore.

Your product takes this lack of practical manual working one stage further.

So going back to your questions:
  • How much would you be willing to pay for this product? I would not buy it.
  • How useful would this product be to you? Not at all useful.
  • Are you intending to use this in industry, as a hobbyist, a student, or as a parent teaching their kids electronics? I am retired and a simple hobbyist. But when my day job included electronics work, I would not have used your product then.
  • What voltage range do you typically work with? I have pushed my luck up to 250v DC on a plug-in breadboard.
  • How big of a breadboard do you need? Most things which I have done on a plug-in breadboard have fitted onto a single 4.6 inch long board. Odd times it has been simpler to spill over onto a second board.

In summary, for me this is a complex solution to a problem which does not exist.

JimB
 
#6
  • How much would you be willing to pay for this product? £50 would be fine, no more than £100
  • How useful would this product be to you? Completely useless, but great fun, especially once the hardware is modified to include voltage regulators and a few extra add-ons like LEDs, switches, square wave generator - the kind of stuff I need all the time, but gets messy on breadboard.
  • Are you intending to use this in industry, as a hobbyist, a student, or as a parent teaching their kids electronics? Hobbyist. Would make a TERRIBLE teaching tool IMHO, same reasons as JimB
  • What voltage range do you typically work with? 3.3V and 5V logic for microprocessors and support chips
  • How big of a breadboard do you need? The ones you show are just about right.
How about providing a footprints for some two-row 2.54 headers to make for easy expansion just by soldering standard sockets or pins. Maybe also leave footprints (or populated as an option) for barrel connector, diode(s) and a couple of voltage regulators.

Maybe the expansion connector footprints could double up as inter-board connectors to allow easy connection (by old fashioned wires) between two of your boards. - opportunity to sell multiple boards per user perhaps?

You have one likely buyer now :)
 
Last edited:

atferrari

Well-Known Member
#7
Downside is you still need to lay it out on a breadboard. Plus, you can't physically see it.

Mike.
Exactly what came first to my mind.
 
Thread starter #8
Thanks for the feedback everyone! I spoke to a professor today and his feedback seems to agree with yours.

It seems like hobby electronics is moving in the direction of moving from simulation directly to PCB, and that the prevalence of smaller components and surface mount components is only further driving this trend.

To drive the conversation in a different direction, what kinds of circuits do you guys typically build for your projects? Are you typically building small functional circuits (for ex: a filtering circuit, timing circuit, etc., or are they more like breakout boards? Also, are you guys typically building small PCBs to interface with Raspberry Pi/Arduino, or for an entirely different purpose?

I'm trying to get a better idea of the kinds of problems that others are encountering, or if the process is completely streamlined for them as is.

Also, hexreader, is this similar to what you are looking for (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/simonmonk2/monkmakes-protoboard?ref=discovery&term=breadboard)?
 

dknguyen

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
#9
I typically do not use pre-made boards like the Raspberry Pi or Arduino. For both work and home, I personally prefer a "bare-bones" module that I can use with ease in a prototype or integrate into a more final project easily. Something a bit more than a breakout board, but only just. I typically build circuits centered around a microcontroller to control a system of stuff.

There is a lack of "deluxe-breakoutboard boards" for all but the lowest pin count MCUs that contain just enough extra pads to stick onboard decoupling capacitors an an oscillator, and a possibly programming connector. Just the bare essentials that would almost always be required no matter where the MCU was going to be placed. Otherwise you have to cook a custom board everytime you want to prototype something with the MCU or live with a massive breakout board that still needs essentials to be wired up externally.

Another problem is when using 30AWG solderable magnet wire for point to point connections on protoboards. It's solderable but at much higher temperatures than I would like. Causes a lot of issues. I find it more reliable to use wire wrap wire but then you have to cut it to length every time (and it almost always ends up longer than it needs to be) and then strip the insulation off each end. I wonder if there's some other more easily solderable insulative coating.

There's a lack of good wiring pens too.
 
Last edited:

atferrari

Well-Known Member
#10
I typically do not use pre-made boards like the Raspberry Pi or Arduino. For both work and home, I personally prefer a "bare-bones" module that I can use with ease in a prototype or integrate into a more final project easily. Something a bit more than a breakout board, but only just. I typically build circuits centered around a microcontroller to control a system of stuff.

There is a lack of "deluxe-breakoutboard boards" all but the lowest pin count MCUs that contain just enough extra pads to stick onboard decoupling capacitors an an oscillator, and a possibly programming connector. Just the bare essentials that would almost always be required no matter where the MCU was going to be placed. Otherwise you have to cook a custom board everytime you want to prototype something with the MCU or live with a massive breakout board that still needs essentials to be wired up externally.

Another problem is when using 30AWG solderable magnet wire for point to point connections on protoboards. It's solderable but at much higher temperatures than I would like. Causes a lot of issues. I find it more reliable to use wire wrap wire but then you have to cut it to length every time (and it almost always ends up longer than it needs to be) and then strip the insulation off each end. I wonder if there's some other more easily solderable insulative coating.

There's a lack of good wiring pens too.
I recall soldering what I believe was wire-wrapping wire using the iron to remove the ¿plastic jacket? simply by heating it. Soldered quite well every time.
 

atferrari

Well-Known Member
#11
What I do not assemble initially on a protoboard I do it on a Veroboard.
 

dknguyen

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
#12
I recall soldering what I believe was wire-wrapping wire using the iron to remove the ¿plastic jacket? simply by heating it. Soldered quite well every time.
Can you do that with kynar insulation? I started using kynar because it doesn't melt as easily from the iron heat compared to PVC, but I wonder if you can actually solder straight through it if you actually wished to. Because that "solderable" nylon/polyurethane coating on magnet wire. Ugh.
 

atferrari

Well-Known Member
#13
Can you do that with kynar insulation? I started using kynar because it doesn't melt as easily from the iron heat compared to PVC, but I wonder if you can actually solder straight through it if you actually wished to. Because that "solderable" nylon/polyurethane coating on magnet wire. Ugh.
Sorry but I am at lost regarding what kynar is.

What I used was a very thin wire with light blue color insulation and very expensive.
 

rjenkinsgb

Active Member
#14
The "solder through" stuff that was supposed to be easy to solder was used in the "Road Runner" wiring pen many years ago.

Apparently they are still being made! It's decades since I used one, I only built a couple of boards and did not get on with it; the wire was not that easy to solder though even though made for the job.. And it made fitting decoupling caps directly to IC pins tricky.
http://www.roadrunnerelectronics.co...tPath=/Shops/BT3782/Categories/Wiring_Pencils

The wire was used in conjunction with "wiring combs", like miniature slotted trunking that fitted down the centre of IC pin rows (or other components) on the underside of the board, to keep the wire organised.
The ones I had were white if I remember correctly, the current one appear to be black..
http://www.roadrunnerelectronics.co...ps/BT3782/Categories/Wire_Distribution_Strips

I switched purely to wire wrap back then; I now use wire wrap wire but soldered point-to-point under the board, with occasional stubs of copper wire sticking through the board as guide pins to keep it tidy.
 

unclejed613

Well-Known Member
#16
Can you do that with kynar insulation? I started using kynar because it doesn't melt as easily from the iron heat compared to PVC, but I wonder if you can actually solder straight through it if you actually wished to. Because that "solderable" nylon/polyurethane coating on magnet wire. Ugh.
"solder-stripping" kynar wire is not recommended. like teflon, kynar is a fluoride polymer, and has a tendency to release small amounts of fluorine when the polymer breaks down. the fluorine, being very reactive doesn't go very far (i.e. you probably wouldn't have any detectable amounts in the smoke from burning kynar insulation), but will bond with the metals in the tip of the soldering iron. it has been my experience that a soldering iron tip, after making contact with kynar or teflon, has a very short life span. most soldering tips are made of copper, with a tin (or other bright metal) coating, and the corrosion begun by burning teflon or kynar gets into the copper underneath and spreads quickly, with the eventual result of the surface of the tip looking ok, but collapsing because the copper underneath has been eaten away. i'm guessing the fluorine, in addition to starting the corrosion process, acts as a catalyst for the copper oxidizing, because every time i've experienced this, the process was started by one slip of the soldering iron, and i doubt there was enough fluorine released to corrode the entire mass of copper that gets eaten. and it's not just fluoride polymers that can cause soldering iron tips to self-destruct, but chloride polymers (PVC for instance) can cause the same type of damage. i discovered the effects of PVC when i was 12... i happened to bump a soldering iron into a piece of cable insulation, and it stripped the black oxide off of the soldering tip, leaving bright copper. i thought i had discovered a great way to clean and tin soldering iron tips.... as it turned out, not so good... the copper under where i tinned the tip would literally disappear, leaving a thin skin of tinned copper, and nothing underneath.
 

JimB

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
#17
"solder-stripping" kynar wire is not recommended.
Ooops!

I am in the habit of using 30awg kynar wire for various prototypes on matrix board, and for "bodge wires" to make modifications and repairs to existing circuit boards.
Guess how I usually strip the insulation of the end of wire...
With the tip of the soldering iron of course.

The tinned tip of the bit looks ok, but there is a build up of corrosion on the iron plated pert of the tip which I was looking at the other day and thought "that is unusual".

Sounds like I may have some bad habits.

JimB
 

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