Organize That Messy Prototype

You’re working away busily at your project. A pcb here cabled to a breadboard in the middle, and over there some motors and other devices. It should work but it doesn’t. Time to hook-up the multimeter but the test point is on the other side. As things are moved around to reach the point, the magic smoke escapes from a critical component. Should have put those pliers away.

Workbenches are always messy. [Ryan Clark] may have an idea that can help.  His Jigmod system — currently running a kickstarter campaign — uses an acrylic a polycarbonate sheet with a grid of mounting holes to keep prototyping hardware in place. If you need to move the prototype around there is no strain on the wiring and no way to set a circuit down on that pair of pliers. The positioning of everything is your decision.

[Ryan] is also providing breakout type boards for connectors like USB and Ethernet, switches, battery holders, and other typical components. This is one place where the system really shines. A lot of these interface connectors tend to be breadboard-unfriendly and the terminal blocks these modules offer solves those issues. When you need to demonstrate your project it’s easy to transport since everything is attached to the plate. No more disconnecting cables, especially jumper wires, and hoping you get them all hooked back the right way at the destination.

With so many dev boards out there we really enjoy seeing jigs that can hold them along with a breadboard. This Stickvise-inspired 3D printed jig sticks out in our minds as a favorite. Do you have your own system of organizing your prototype builds? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

35 thoughts on “Organize That Messy Prototype

  1. I just bought a bunch of ethernet break out boards yesterday on ebay for $1.99 each; similar but with screw terminals. Seems like they would be cleaner for certain applications where you are sending a number of signals to another nearby box. Ethernet cables are everywhere. I read in the write up acrylic sheet and thought that’s a bad idea if you want to use screws for anything having broken a lot of acrylic with screws, but if you read the Kickstarter the sheets are polycarbonate.

  2. That’s fine as long as the mounting holes on all your boards line up with the grid. Nice for [Ryan] as it encourages you to buy everything from him. But not so nice for you.

    For a more universal system, just epoxy some small supermagnets on standoffs. Mount the standoffs on your boards. Done.

    Now you can snap your boards to anything a magnet will stick to. Your filing cabinet. Magnetic dry erase boards, on which you can also write notes, like what the pinout for that unlabeled header is. Cookie tins or baking sheets from the dollar store. And so on.

    Depending on the size of the magnets you choose, and what they’re sticking to, it can be very secure; enough to survive transport without anything moving.

  3. Why not use commonly available pegboard from hardware store that is readily available: – They sell huge 4′ by 8′ size. I am sure most of the store can cut it down for you. These can handle quite a bit of more abuse than plastic and quite cheap. They have 1″ grids.

    For the breadboards, you just need a base which can be small pieces of the cut peg board. Glue wooden dowels to the back side of that and now you have a base that can move around on the larger peg board. Use velcro strips to attach your beadboard/protoboard/breakout/what have you. If you specifically design breakout boards, you can align mounting holes to their grid and use standoffs as pegs.

    1. I Agree. This should just be an Idea that people mention and tell other about. There is no reason why this has to be a seperate Product. I see why [Ryan] thinks it should be a product and modules should only derive from his design and also have to be purchased from him, but seriously: This is a idea that does not warrant a new seperate product. But I guess this is the capital idea in full swing inside the human mind: Dont waste your time giving other ideas; Create a product out of your idea and sell that. I’m not the least stimulated by that blant concept (the kickstarter-culture)

    2. A fool and his money are soon parted. Remember there is a HUGE market for noobs that have to buy stuff to fill their emotion needs to be “cool”. There are even jumper wires that are being sold and people actually buy that for their breadboard instead of the old fashion $5 wire stripper + solid core wires.

        1. The ones you buy are mostly made of solid core wire with some neatly trimmed heat shrink to keep the ends clean or attach an actual lead. Used to love them myself until my dad demonstrated just how noisy they can be compared to plain ol’ copper solid core stripped at the end. His point was primarily about the ones that use hard metal leads though so your run of the mill ones may not have this issue

          1. I have a bunch that I buy with my eBay bucks. They are stranded so they are very flexible and they have a little heat shrink collar and a solid wire. You do have to watch that they don’t go wonky, but they are super handy. Even though I have plenty of wire I find I reach for them now instead of cutting and stripping (and I even have thermal strippers) or using those preshaped ones.

      1. Most of the stuff I do is SMT parts and I know and care enough about signal integrity, so not using messy breadboard. I route my own PCB and use insulation displacement connectors with twisted pair cables/ribbon cables. I gave away some of my breadboards. I still have a bag od my stripped wires that I have if I need to connect a handful of older through hole parts.
        My money are better elsewhere than foolishly spending on stuff that I am too lazy for.

  4. I use velcro on my modules and have a old Cohiba cigar box with all the parts. The lid has the opposite velcro so I stick things to the lid as a project. attaching the velcro to pcb’s with though hole parts is no problem with a base of hot glue. :-)

  5. Hi there, you are welcome to make your own PCB’s to fit the platform, but this system really strides to improve electronics for those people who don’t have time or resources to make their own PCB’s. By the way I really appreciate the feedback, sincerely.

    Regarding the material, it is polycarbonate. Acrylic was a bit of a fail – I took 2 years to develop this system, design all the boards, but designing and sourcing the polycarbonate platform (and adapters) was one of the biggest challenges. Tapped polycarbonate was the ultimate solution, but even the thread pitch was a focus of many trials! And you wouldn’t believe how many people said I should just use threaded brass inserts. Those were a fail too :)

    Regarding the magnets, this idea has been patented several times, and I was looking for something a little more robust. Plus I have a few more ideas in store that will maximize the usefulness of the threaded holes :)

    Ryan Clark

  6. Let’s consider the breadboard, which originated as the piece of wood someone’s mother used for making bread. Nails, screws and whatever were used to mount the parts. Today it’s a piece of plastic with integral wires, pin contacts, and holes to accept wires.

    Ryan’s Jigmod may not be the analogous replacement for jigs and the original breadboard, but a lot of people probably thought our modern breadboard was not that great an idea.

  7. I like using 3m double sided foam sticky tape to stick modules to scrap pieces of 1/8″ plywood. You can usually find it in big-box hardware stores around the paint section. If you stick two pieces of this foam together it is high enough to clear th component leads and keep them from getting crushed. Don’t go too overboard on it’s application however for more delicate parts (i.e. electronics) it sticks well :)

    In all it’s not so much to make things tidy as it is to to allow projects to be temporarily portable:

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