Today's commercial PCBs employ sophisticated design tools and manufacturing techniques, but some hobbyists still delight in making DIY boards.
I also used Veroboard, which Max mentioned in his introductory blog for PCB Designline. This is a commercially-made PCB with copper strips every 0.1 inches and with holes drilled at the same spacing. Layout needs some thought and skill, and usually lots of jumpers between tracks. But it's good for one-off projects that are not too complicated. Veroboard is so-called because the company that first made it was Vero Electronics in the UK, but nowadays it's made by many different companies and usually called stripboard. You were supposed to buy a specially designed cutter to cut holes in the strips where a connection was not needed, but a friend of mine set a 4mm drill bit into an old razor handle, and this works really well to this day.
Bare Veroboard without components.
Typical hand-drawn Veroboard layout diagram (the Xs indicate cuts to be made in the tracks).
My first real job was as a "Radio Tech" in the grandly-named British South Africa Police. They had a Radio Lab staffed by impossibly clever people, mostly with university degrees, who designed and manufactured power supplies, chargers, and remote control gear for our radios. They produced very creditable PCBs using screen-printing, but I very rarely went in there and did not get much knowledge of their processes.
Fortunately, one of the guys who worked there became a friend and told me a little about it. He also gave me a bit of Rubylith, which was a 2-layer sheet, one layer clear and the other dark red. You could, with a fine knife, cut and peel away the red layer to make a layout. I made a couple of PCBs with this, but I didn't really like it -- it was very difficult to create tracks and pads as fine as I could achieve with a drawing pen. Having said this, I've seen some incredibly detailed designs done with Rubylith -- not just PCBs but graphic designs as well. Also, I understand that the early Intel microprocessor chip layouts were designed using this technique.
A graphic design on a sheet of Rubylith (I couldn't find a PCB design anywhere!).
One of my next jobs was running a small electronics design lab attached to the electricity supply utility. There I discovered Bishop Graphics. This consisted of sheets of stickers of single black pads, multiple pads for transistors and integrated circuits, and reels of thin tape for the tracks. You stuck these onto clear acetate sheet to make a positive image of your board layout. You could, if you wished, work with double-sized pads, and later reduce to true size so as to obtain better resolution.
Bishop Graphics tape used for tracks (top) and a typical layout style with sweeping curves (bottom).
If you were really clever, you could also get Bishop Graphics in red and blue, which you could use to create double-sided layouts, but I never got that far. Once your design was finished, you took it to a photographic house and they produced a positive image on film. You could then take this to a PCB house (we actually had one in Salisbury where I lived) and get your PCB fabricated. My results from this process looked really professional (I also sneaked some of my own jobs through this process).
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