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Electronic Circuit Designing: Modular Approach (Part 1)

A person’s inquisitiveness and curiosity can do wonders. It can open a realm of ideas and imaginations never thought before and create something worthwhile. When I was a child I used to read lot of electronic articles and magazines regularly. I’ve seen a lot of interesting circuits and tried as many of them as possible at that time. Whenever a new circuit catches my attention I can’t resist myself trying it out. Every time I buy a new general purpose PCB and the required components listed with the circuit diagram and spending a lot of time soldering the components in the general purpose board. I used to implement the developed board for its practical purpose but it won’t last too long in its place and eventually end up in my small junk yard. As a child, I couldn’t afford the cost of all these hardware and now with the passing years I have a large collection of useless circuit boards with costly components soldered into it. I’ve successfully de-soldered few components but most of the time the process end up with broken leads or damaged component due to overheating and lack of skill. I was familiar with the bread-board but even today I don’t find it quiet useful for practical implementation other than testing circuits before soldering into a circuit board. Above all I find it a waste a lot of time is wasted first in soldering then testing, de-soldering and again soldering and testing; just because multiple mistakes were made while soldering the complex looking circuits.

After few years of building circuits from other designer’s article I tried to design my own circuit projects. I had my ideas and made circuit diagrams, but when it comes to the prototyping of the circuit idea I used to find it very difficult and most of the time I give up without any results even though the circuit diagram seems to be perfect. I realized that I was missing the knowledge of key technique or method which was keeping me away from realizing my circuit ideas. I don’t need just a circuit diagram or a breadboard full of components with ugly looking wires and loose connections, but I need a fully working and ready to implement circuit board   developed within a short span of time.

 The story might be same for almost all electronic hobbyists and beginners. With this idea in mind I started  thinking about a better technique to prototype electronic circuit projects. The technique that would bring an end to the wastage of hardware and help  to finish the project or prototype within a short period of time. The technique should save time, money and increase efficiency by reducing chances of mistakes. Finally it seems that I’ve found the answer which I was looking for a long time.

 

I would like to call the technique as Electronic Modular Design and Assembly.

This is not a new technique or method and is not defined anywhere, but I’ve observed the experienced guys following this method for developing electronic prototypes. The technique is to design a complex circuit from the very basic known circuit and then build these basic circuits into modules, test them individually and finally assemble the entire modules in a single board to complete the prototype. This is a technique that most of the designers use to build the prototype of a project within a short period of time and sometimes in actual manufacturing process as well. Since we are dividing the entire circuit into simplest modules we can test them individually and also reduces the complexity during the time of assembly. The chance of misconnection is highly reduced since we are actually building only the simplest known circuit each and every time even though the original circuit is highly complex. The most attractive part is that once we build a module we can reuse them in another circuit project.

In this article my intention is to familiarize the reader with the technique of electronic Modular Design and Assembly.

The technique and its steps are explained based on a project which I’ve prototyped myself using this very technique.

Even though all the details of the reference project are explained in this article, I request the reader not to consider this article simply as an explanation of the project idea or circuit. The article discusses the steps and techniques to develop the circuit itself and the method of prototyping the same using the electronic Modular Design and Assembly.

The way of explanation in this article might not be comfortable for those who just want to know the overview of the reference project only. But in the course of explaining the modular design method I’ve given special care to go in depth of the working details of the reference project

When I start the process I have nothing but some requirements of the project, not even a circuit diagram. I will design the circuit diagram somewhere during the course of this process and finally with this method itself I will build and assemble the hardware.

You can call this method as modularization technique, fast prototyping, hardware reuse etc. since this technique is not defined anywhere as such. All the data in the article simply represents the way in which a designer like me approaches a prototyping project and finish it quickly and successfully. Consider this only as yet another useful technique other than those already known to you and I’m sure it can take you a long way further. A representation of electronic Modular Design and Assembly is shown in the following figure.

electronic Modular Design and Assembly

Figure: representation of Electronic Modular Design and Assembly

In the above figure A, B, C... up to H represents separate modules or circuit boards which are individually designed, built and tested and finally assembled in the main circuit board marked as Z. This is the whole concept of modularization or Modular Design and Assembly.