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I just watched this excellent video tutorial that shows a simple Arduino program that toggles an LED via a pushbutton. Very cool!

In the video, the author is using a breadboard for prototyping his circuit. What's the next "step up" from this? In other words, say I get my breadboard circuit working perfectly, is it now time to create a PCB? If my understanding of circuitry is correct, this is not a trivial process. I would need a CAD program to design my circuit, and it would likely be very expensive to get the design actually fabricated. At least too expensive for simple hobby purposes. Is there a middle ground between breadboard and PCB?

marked as duplicate by Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams, LoganBlades, jfpoilpret, BrettAM, JRobert May 12 '15 at 23:45

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  • But there are free EDA packages out there as well as affordable (but not truly cheap unless you're going for hundreds of boards) PCB fab services. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams May 6 '15 at 0:42
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You can build your project on stripboard (aka Veroboard, which is a particular brand). The wiki page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stripboard covers most of the salient points - it is essentially a generic PCB. You can cut tracks, either with a knife, or a specialized tool, and you can solder your parts on to the tracks.

They come in various configurations - my personal preference is just straight strips - and you can cut them to size with a hacksaw.

If your project is non-trivial, you might still like to spend some time working out a decent layout. There are free, and not quite free, products to help you - I use Kicad, which is free & opensource, there are many others.

I have also used stripboard to group a few components together - for example, 2 7-segment displays and two SIPO chips to run them - this can then be a "component" for future bread-board projects.

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Eagle CAD is one of the most popular E-CAD programs, and is reasonably priced free for personal use. When Libraries, tutorials and examples are made available it is most often in Eagle CAD format.

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Once you ready your design and layout (in Eagle) you can get boards made for $30ish (https://oshpark.com/)

You will have to obtain parts and solder yourself for assembly, but your time is free, right? I have done a few. I was a software only person until I started in November 2014 (http://www.spiked3.com/?p=5981)

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If you are only making one or two the following works well:

  1. Download Kicad (Free) and design your board.
  2. Print out the layout on special film, and transfer to a blank PCB using a domestic iron.An example: http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/press-and-peel-film-pcb-transfer-system-ab15r
  3. Etch the board in ammonium persulphate or ferric chloride solution.
  4. Drill the holes. You will need some 0.8 and 1.0mm drills and a Dremel drill press or similar.
  5. Mount your components and solder away.

The above works well for single-sided boards. Double sided are possible, but will take some practice.

There is a learning curve getting to grips with Kicad, but if you are serious about electroncs, the time invested is well worthwhile. I got from being a Kicad novice to producing a specialist Arduino shield in a weekend. I had the advantage of having used similar tools in the past, and the disadvantage of being 67 years old (with eyesight to suit)

All the required parts should be available from agood electronics parts suppier (For example Jaycay here in New Zealand)

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Is there a middle ground between breadboard and PCB?

A prototype PCB with breadboardlike layout is a fast way to turn a breadboard design into a permanent build. So it may be in the range of valid answers to your question.

(-: The link below is just an example, there are lots of other names, designs and sellers and I am in no way releated to any of those... :-)

https://www.tindie.com/products/Schmart/400-tiepoint-schmartboard-breadproto-board-bundle/

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