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Different Electronic prototype Build styles

Different Electronic prototype Build styles#

These are all prototyping methods. However, almost every one of these could be built as a final working unit.


Ugly circuits are not always the most beautiful of designs. The primary reason for this method is rapidity and ease of being able to change things quickly.

There are a few definitions of what makes an ugly circuit, one way of looking at it, is any circuit where the components are not completely mechanically connected to the substrate is Ugly. But this is not a law.

The substrate being usually a copper clad, but not always. This method can be a tricky to master, as it is literally a balancing act. The preferred method that we see being used is having a single copper clad board as a giant, unobstructed ground plane. Two wire passive Components are usually the easiest to start with (standard resistors/capacitors).

Soldering one side to ground, then soldering the other side to another component in the air. This can be a big benefit to RF circuitry or circuits that need good solid grounding. The unobstructed copper clad board means anything connected to it has a great connection to ground.

Note that notable persons with a PhD dislike using Ugly style build methods. These types of people are highly qualified, yet may lack a degree of nouse or common sense.

This is another Ugly RF construction that is mostly floating in the air and is not so robust. However, it is quick with this method to change out Components, adjust the Circuit etc.

The Ugly method is the least likely style for making a final circuit that will serve over many years.

No substrate#

An Arduino Uno made without any substrate, just wires and components. Made by Kimo Kosaka, it is not at all ugly, but it uses an ugly style of construction.

Ugly circuits don’t have to have a substrate at all, although it makes building such circuits easier. Loads of examples are out there, of ugly circuitry that just connects pins to pins via small wires. As said before, it can be very fiddly to make a circuit like this, but it is a valid art form.

The wires connecting the parts together can be part of the structure of the unit, and if designed correctly could be strong. The construction method can be useful in certain circumstances, and as long as you have the components, it can be built easily with just a soldering iron and solder. Although there are some remarkable looking circuits made from this method, the majority do earn the name of Ugly, despite being art forms.

Dead Bug#

This is a Messy Manhattan/ Dead Bug circuit - it is an RF Oscillator, made by GEOFF - ​MØOOZ (AKA Zorgrian) of YooFab™ and it works really well.

The idea is to take an IC, traditionally in a DIP package, and place it upside down on the copper substrate. Usually glueing the IC to the copper is best, but this is not always necessary.

With the pins facing upwards, it looks like a dead bug.

The pins can be bent to attach to the substrate if required, but they tend to be facing up. Taking many methods from ugly, the pins are usually directly connected to passive Components leads or by wires to other chips.

This implies the connections are in the air. The benefit to this method is that you don’t have to waste time drilling holes in the substrate, and can integrate IC’s into an ugly design fairly easily.

When using this method, be totally aware that all the pins on the chip will be the wrong way around, as it gets flipped when placed upside down. It is sometimes easier to make a physical layout-diagram to go from such that one does not become confounded as the to the pin numbering.

Dead Bug modification style#

This is an example of a modification to a PCB that has been done Dead Bug style to make the thing work, while waiting for the real part to arrive.

Manhattan style#

Manhattan style is so-called because of looking a bit like tower blocks and skyscrapers, like Manhattan itself.

Manhattan style uses cut out sections of copper clad board as small islands. This method means there are no connections floating in the air, as all points on a component are mechanically connected to copper clad in some way, even if it is only a small amount.

This results in a generally much better laid-out board, that can easily be followed and replicated. It also allows for use of SMD components, which is possible with ugly, but really difficult.

The small pads don’t have to be separate, they can simply be cut outlines on the same backplane, making the process cheaper, but get it wrong, and it can get messy. In other words, you can cut into the copper substrate to create the islands.

Manhattan can be a quick and elegant construction method, due to its neat look and ease of use. Another reason for the name Manhattan is the fact the capacitors and resistors tend to line up and are perpendicular to the substrate. The substrate is normally copper and this is the Ground plane.


It is true that small copper pads placed above the Ground plane will create Capacitance. The thinner the PCB material and the lager the pad, the more Capacitance is created. For this reason, you may be better off **making your pads than buying the QRPme types that are extremely thin. This is Especially true if you do not live Yankside.

Nevertheless, Rex W1REX has done much to further the Manhattan Build Methodology, which is accepted as Barefoot, so great Respect is due here.

A 1 cm square pad is somewhere around 4pF where the PCB thickness is 1.5 mm. This may seem like nothing, but in some applications, especially at UHF, this capacitance is a critical factor.

Direct to PCB with no testing#

Another way to do things is to Go-Direct to any of the sites.

This way, it costs you something like $5 for 5 PCBs. However, you have no idea of the validity of your Design nor your Layout. This may result in boxes of boards are of NO use whatsoever; all because you missed the whole point of Prototyping, IMO.