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Constructing Circuits
By Tim Surtell
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Control your Meccano models (or anything else) from your Windows PC!
Take a look at my new MECControl project at meccontrol.com

If you need to construct a circuit, there are four ways you can do it, depending on whether you are creating a prototype of your design or producing a final version that will be incorporated into a model...

Hardwiring

Simply connecting the component leads together with wire may be the best method if there are few components in the design and they are just resistors, relays, switches, or motors.  But don't even think of soldering directly to the pins of an integrated circuit (IC) - use one of the other methods below.

Breadboard

A breadboard is a plastic unit that you can use to create prototypes of your circuits when they are in the experimental stage.  No soldering is required, so it is easy to move components around if you need to - the component leads are simply pushed into the holes in the breadboard.

Further Information Breadboard
Stripboard

Stripboard is similar in design to breadboard, in that it has a regular matrix of holes for component leads, arranged into parallel copper tracks.  The difference is that the components must be soldered to the tracks, meaning that you can use stripboard to produce your final circuits.  Unlike breadboard, stripboard can be cut and drilled to meet the size requirements of your model.

Further Information Stripboard
Printed Circuit Boards

Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) are boards produced specially for the circuits you are creating.  Because of this, components and off-board connections can be placed exactly where you want them and may be placed closer together, creating a smaller board.  Using multiple layers of copper track can also squeeze more complicated circuits into less space.  Like stripboard, a PCB can be designed, cut and drilled to meet the size requirements of your model.

If you need to build several identical circuits, a PCB design will make construction easier by helping you place components accurately when soldering, and it will reduce mistakes and short circuits between tracks.

While PCBs are the best method for producing final versions of circuits, you would require a fair amount of skill to produce a good design.  PCB production is also not straightforward and requires a fair amount of equipment and investment - a basic low-volume production set-up would cost over 400, although one-off kits are available for around 20.

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Article Information
Topic: Practical Matters | Created: 17/03/2002 | Last modified: 06/02/2007 | First published in EiM: Issue 2 (January 1999)

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