Breadboard and friends

I got a couple packages in the mail this week. One was an order of printed circuit boards from PCBWay, the other was some hardware from an Amazon marketplace vendor.

The hardware was a set of three solderless breadboards. And some jumpers. (The seller put a lot of emphasis on the jumpers but they’re not all that useful, at about 9″ long they’re way too long for most breadboard uses.) I went to look for something to mount the breadboards on, and found a cigar box. Well, why not? I can store (shorter) jumpers and so forth inside.

The PC board are based on Mutable Instruments’ “Breadboard Friends”, a collection of little utility boards useful in prototyping. They’re open source hardware, so you can go to that page and download the Eagle CAD files for them. Unfortunately they’re from an older version of Eagle CAD so they’re not the modern Eagle XML files but a proprietary binary format. I don’t normally use Eagle, I use KiCad, which can import Eagle XML but not the binaries. I opened them in Eagle, exported them as XML, and then imported them to KiCad. From there I was able to make Gerber files suitable for uploading to a PCB fab house.

Unfortunately one of the boards of most interest to me, one that holds four 3.5 mm audio jacks, uses a footprint for a jack I don’t have and can’t easily obtain. But that’s the thing about open source. If it’s not what you need, you can get the source to modify it and make it what you need. I came up with a variant that works with Thonkiconn jacks, and that’s what I ordered from PCBWay. With DHL shipping, it took about a week from order to receipt. They look good — no visible defects anyway.

The board has spaces for headers to plug into the breadboard, another header to take jumper wires, and four jacks. It breaks out both the tip and the switch contact on each jack. Having ten header pins at each end to plug into the breadboard’s power buses (it doesn’t otherwise use the ±12V buses of course; the ground buses connect to the jacks’ sleeve pin) means it’s a pretty solid mechanical connection — these jacks aren’t going to fall out in mid testing. Handy!

If you’re interested in the Eagle and KiCad files for the original Breadboard Friends, and the KiCad files and Gerbers for the Thonkiconn variant of the Eurojacks board, they’re in my Github.

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