MIT researchers have created a software design kit that can be used to speed up the development of prototype electronics. The software creates curved breadboards that have pinholes and connections automatically mapped out.
Traditional breadboards are rectangular circuitry construction templates that are used to build prototype electronics. However, with the advent of wearable smart technology that is curved or oddly shaped, rectangular breadboards are often not fit for purpose as they don’t probably map how pinholes and connections would lie on shaped objects.
The curved breadboards are created with software that automatically designs objects that have distributed pinholes which can then be filled with conductive silicone in order to test electronics.
Junyi Zhu, a graduate student in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory commented that: “On breadboards, you prototype the function of a circuit. But you don’t have context of its form — how the electronics will be used in a real-world prototype environment. Our idea is to fill this gap, and merge form and function testing in very early stage of prototyping an object.”
An integral part to the research and development of these curved breadboards is there accompanying design-editing software.
Essentially a user imports a 3D model of the device they are creating. The software will then automatically assign pinhole locations evenly across the model. You then choose an automated or manual approach when you assign the connection pattern of all pinholes. Users are also able to manually select groups of pinholes and indicate the connection type.
So far the MIT team have used the software to create an array of smart products such as a bracelet with a controllable digital display, a – very useless – teapot that uses a camera to monitor the water colour. They also made a set of headphones that have inbuilt speaker controls.
To be clear the researchers don’t see curved breadboards as a replacement to traditional methods as Zhu notes that: “People love breadboards, and there are cases where they’re fine to use. This is for when you have an idea of the final object and want to see, say, how people interact with the product. It’s easier to have a CurveBoard instead of circuits stacked on top of a physical object.”