Creating a simple electronic circuit can be intimidating, but following basic guidelines can help. Understanding schematics, having the right tools, and knowing how to solder are important. A breadboard and clamp should be used to test circuits before soldering, and a multimeter can test component properties. Heat-sensitive components should be soldered quickly, and never work on a powered circuit.
Creating a simple electronic circuit for the first time can be an intimidating experience. Many things can go wrong, including overheating the circuit and destroying electronic components. Fortunately, it is possible to create a simple electronic circuit, such as a light emitting diode (LED) that turns on and off correctly the first time by following a few basic guidelines. Before building a circuit, every hobbyist should understand what a schematic is and how to read it, have the right tools, and know how to solder.
A schematic shows how electronic components are connected in an electronic circuit. Like a map, it uses symbols to represent components, such as resistors and capacitors, and lines to show how these components are related to each other. When reading schematics, beginners should pay special attention to polarized components, which are sometimes marked with a plus sign or line on one side. Unlike other components, polarized components contain an anode, where positive current flows into the component, and a cathode, which allows current to flow out. Polarized components, such as LEDs and some capacitors, must be installed with their anodes and cathodes in the correct traces, as indicated by the schematic.
Before building a simple electronic circuit, confirm that the schematic is accurate and generate a list of required components. The diagrams in books and on popular enthusiast websites tend to be accurate. When using one from the web, choose a pattern that has been reviewed positively by other hobbyists. Once its accuracy is confirmed, generate a parts list noting the names and values of each component in the electronic circuit.
It’s generally a good idea to keep a digital multimeter in your work area. This device tests properties, such as resistance and current flow, of electronic components and circuits. If the value of a component isn’t easy to determine, a multimeter will give an accurate answer. For example, if the value of a resistor is unknown, set the multimeter to read Ohms, probe each end of the resistor, and read the value that appears on the multimeter’s screen.
A breadboard and clamp should also always be in the work area. A breadboard is a tool used to test circuits before they are soldered to stripboards or printed circuit boards (PCBs). It’s generally a good idea to build a circuit on a breadboard before soldering it to the circuit to check for errors in the schematic and malfunctioning components. When the circuit is ready to solder, use a clamp to hold the stripboard or PCB in place. This can reduce the time required to weld and makes it easier to weld accurately.
People new to soldering should practice soldering inexpensive components, such as resistors and capacitors, to stripboard before soldering a simple electronic circuit. The soldering iron should always be fully warmed up before use and its tip should be applied briefly to the copper track before applying the solder. Many soldering irons provide a signal, such as an LED that turns on or off, when fully heated up.
Heat sensitive components need to be welded quickly or they last a lifetime. Diodes and microchips are two types of heat sensitive components. For microchips, integrated circuit (IC) sockets can be soldered to the board in their place. After the IC sockets have been soldered to the board, the microchips are inserted into their respective sockets. This also makes it easier to replace microchips that fail, as they don’t need to be unsoldered.
You should never work on an electronic circuit while it is powered. This can cause electric shock and damage to electronic components. Once the simple electronic circuit has been built and ready for testing, the power supply can be connected. If the powered circuit produces smoke or a burning smell, disconnect the power immediately. If it produces no smoke or burning smell, the test can continue.