Building Tips

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When building circuits, tips and advice are almost always welcome. The following is a general list of tips you should take into account when constructing any circuit. If you feel that I have left out anything, then don't hesitate to email me. Any good tips that I receive will be added to the list.

Plan all projects first.
Plan your project out on paper, noting down all parts required, where those parts may be obtained and if possible the price of each part. Be sure that you can get all the parts necessary before starting the project. It is very annoying when you spend $30 on parts only to find that you can't get a specific IC. If none are present, write down the steps to take when assembling the project. Look over the steps three times to make sure you are working in a logical order. Remember that smaller parts are to be soldered/bolted/etc. before larger parts, unless there is an obvious reason to follow a different order. Flow charts can also help.

Get all materials ready first.
Gather and organize all materials before you start placing and soldering parts. This way, you know exactly what you have and where it is before you have to keep track of a hot soldering iron.

Solder smaller parts first.
Soldering on resistors, diodes, jumper wires and other such parts will make it much easier to put the thing together than soldering large capacitors, transistors and ICs on first will.

Check everything.
After soldering each component, make double sure that it is the right component in the right place. Also check for cold solder joints. 90% of all circuit failures are due to incorrect component placement or poor solder joints.

When possible, test circuits.
It is a good idea to test circuits on a solderless breadboard or other prototyping equipment before assembling a "good" version. Errors do creep up in magazines or on Web sites, so an easily changeable test version of the circuit is great in case you need to work out the bugs. When assembling circuits from magazines, wait a month or two for the next issue. If there are any problems with the printed circuit, corrections will be mentioned.

Use sockets.
Except where space is at a premium or cost is very important, use sockets for all ICs. This reduces the likelihood of you damaging the chip when soldering or testing other parts of the circuit. Install ICs in their sockets as a last step in assembly of the board.

Use heatsinks.
Most semiconductors are heat sensitive. Therefore, it is a good idea to place a clip on heatsink on the lead you are soldering. This directs the heat away from the component. If you don't have a clip on heatsink, then pliers will do fine.

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