I created what I am calling a “Solder Board” which is like a breadboard but with no internal connectors. The solder board is used for… soldering! Specifically, for soldering pins onto PCBs, and in this case, onto microcontrollers. But first, some history…
For years I’ve soldered pins onto PCBs by jamming header pins into whatever breadboard was lying around and then slapping the PCB onto the pins, soldering the pins on, and then prying the board off. It works… mostly.
A year or two ago I had to solder a lot of Teensy boards, and finally found a use for those tiny breadboard. I taped off the edges to mark the size of the board and then taped it onto a chuck of Aluminum I had lying around for some extra weight and height.
And it worked pretty well. I would stick the pins in the outer columns (which I sized using my Header Pin Snapper tool) and be ready to go.
Drop the board on top, get to soldering, and then pry it off. Was it the best thing? No. Was it better than other methods? Yes. Could it be improved? Probably.
Since I now solder a lot more Raspberry Pi Pico boards, the little Teensy jig was too small, so I started using a larger breadboard, which presented a few problems. The first is that unless you have an old and somewhat “worn out” breadboard, inserting the pins can be a bit difficult. Often it took a lot of pressure to get them inserted. Sometimes one or more would pop up and be uneven with the rest. After that you need to solder them and remove the board, which can take quite a bit of prying if it’s in there tight. None of this is super difficult, but it’s a pain point, and we don’t need to deal with it.
Also, the Raspberry Pi Pico boards are 20 pins long instead of 14 like the Teensy, so more pins makes it just a bit more difficult to put the pins in and remove the board after soldering.
So above you’ll see the solution. A 3D printed “Solder Board” which was specifically designed for soldering header pins in place. (Unlike a typical breadboard.)
Put the header pins in place… no hard pressing required! The holes are sized such that they just drop right in.
Solder those pins and the board lifts right out. No prying! No pulling. Heck, you can probably flip it over and the board will fall right out.
Here’s the 3D model. Pretty simple. It’s a block with some holes. This one is sized specifically for the Raspberry Pi Pico board. You can’t really put the pins in the wrong place, which means you can work faster with less guesswork and chance of screwing up.
But maybe you want more holes… Just set the “useMoreHoles” option to get all the holes. This might be handy if you just want a general purpose Solder Board, and not one specific to one board size.
Wait, you want even more holes!? You can make one any size, thanks to the magic of parametric design in OpenSCAD.
I’ve tried to add just a few parameters to the OpenSCAD file to allow for customizing it without going overboard. The number of rows and columns, the padding (part without holes) on the sides and top/bottom, the height, and even hole diameter, to adjust for (ahem) printers that are not quite dialed in very well. You’ve also got the useMoreHoles option if you want more holes. Overall it’s not very complex code, so you should be able to muck about with it fairly easily. I will say that if you want a large board with a lot of holes, it may take a bit of time to render the output. (At least it does on my 2019 iMac.)
If you do a lot of soldering this may be a useful thing to speed up the process. I’m constantly looking for ways to speed things up, whether it’s single-purpose jigs or specific-use tools. Having to not think about getting it right because there’s only one way to do it is often quite helpful.
Oh, I do recommend not printing this in black. Even though I’ve got a small lamp on my workbench pointed directly at what I am soldering, the holes just don’t stand out as well as they do on a contrasting color. (Then again, I’m old and my eyesight isn’t great. Still, keep that whole “speed things up” feature in mind.)
You can get the STL and .scad file from Printables.com – Solder Board. Print it if you need it!