Converting a SMD Packaged Chip for Breadboard Use

An SMD packaged chip converted for use on a

Figure 1. An SMD packaged chip converted for use on a breadboard

Sometimes, you only have the surface mount device (SMD) package of a chip to work with in prototyping, but SMD chips do not fit into breadboards. Common ways to solve this problem are getting the dual in-line package (DIP) version of the chip or soldering the chip to an SMD adapter board. What if you really needed to use the chip NOW? An alternative to the aforementioned sensible options is converting your SMD chip manually by soldering them to headers.

The Not-So-Sensible Solution (For Desperate People)

Here, I solder an SMD packaged chip (a MCP2551 in this case) to a perforated prototyping board with headers. The chip is flipped upside down to prevent its pins from touching the plated vias and to bring the chip's pins to an easily accessible height for soldering. The flipping technique is sometimes called "turtling" by some people in the industry. If you have a non-plated perforated prototyping board, you can simply connect the chip's pins to the headers with thin traces of solder without flipping the chip, but this method is impossible to carry out for chips with more than eight pins. It may help to scrape some markings on the bottom of the chip to indicate its orientation. The chip is rotated 90 degrees to fit the chip easily between the headers and to prevent the wires from overlapping.

The soldered header pins

Figure 2. The soldered header pins

The headers were soldered on first. Then, a single connection was made between a header pin and a chip pin, so that the chip was securely attached to the board while soldering. Finally, each chip pin was soldered to the correct header with 30 AWG wire-wrapping wires. The chip is held down by the many wires connecting across it. An extra drop of adhesive would firmly secure the chip to the board.

A top-down view of the soldered chip

Figure 3. A top-down view of the soldered chip

In case of a larger chip, a thin enameled wire may be used, since the lack of thick plastic insulation allows more wires to fit across the chip. The wires will overlap on a larger chip, and the chip's orientation will be parallel to the headers. When I was finished, I clipped a corner off of the board to indicate chip orientation (e.g. indicated the position of the first pin). The entire process took me 45 minutes on the first try. I estimate that it would take me about 30 minutes to do this, if I knew what I was doing.

A top-down view of the soldered chip

Figure 4. A view from the side


Written on the 21st of November in 2014