Essentials Board

A universal breakout board that takes care of power and clock for SMD microcontrollers. Just apply power!

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This is a universal breakout board for any SMT IC with a given footprint, allowing faster prototyping and less waste.

All pins can be selected to either to be powered or grounded. Onboard clocks remove the need to breadboard external clocks, and power and ground are consolidated into two pins.

This is a modified a SMT-to-DIP prototyping board with all the supporting circuitry onboard that allows you to plug into and out of any breadboard. You can even use it as a reference design later.

This project was a result of too much time spent making almost identical breakout boards for SMT chips each time I wanted to test a new chip, and I test a lot of new chips, so you can imagine that's a lot of time wasted designing and manufacturing new boards.

I built this board because I have not seen another board do this, and I wanted it for my own prototyping purposes. It relies on the fact that there is a standard package size for different types of microcontrollers and sensors

This reduces the waste and messiness from having wires and capacitors all over the breadboard, and it allows you to easily deploy or remove this breakout whenever you want. You simply don't have to redo the entire process each time you want to prototype something new.

Finally, I think the best part of this board is that it is reusable across different chips that have the same footprint because it is generic. The simple hardware select that I designed can be used for other types of ICs as well: think voltage regulators, sensor packages... etc.

I have designed boards of various sizes and I have used them extensively in prototyping.


I looked at what these boards had in common and distilled it into a single board.

It turns out that for most basic implementations, you need four configurations for each pin:

  • Ground
  • Power (with a capacitor filter)
  • Pull-up
  • Pull-down

Therefore, I designed a hardware select for each pin. and integrated it into a form factor that can fit on a breadboard. The description of how the hardware select works is in the project logs.

The Essentials Breakout Board provides the option to pull up/pull down/power/ground each pin. Additionally, you can also provide filtered power to each pin. 

There is space for clocks so that you can connect external clocks to the mounted IC. Since it is not very predictable which pins will connect to the clock, I use wires (not ideal but it works!)

The board was made to fit onto a breadboard for easy prototyping.

The ground and power lines are consolidated into one single pin, therefore, in order for you to breadboard a SMT chip with this board, all you need to do is to connect power and ground a single pin and you would have a completely functioning circuit.


This board is mostly suited for MCUs as well as other types of ICs. It will probably not perform well if used with a wireless IC as it does not have room to incorporate an antenna.


Eagle BRD file

brd - 46.16 kB - 07/23/2021 at 01:04



Eagle SCH file

sch - 91.08 kB - 07/23/2021 at 01:04


  • Silkscreen Area

    Ben Lim07/23/2021 at 01:06 0 comments

    I'm trying to investigate what writes well on silkscreen. As you can see, ink smudges badly on silkscreen and ballpoint doesn't write well.

    Maybe a marker would do better

  • Explanation for how each pin is connected

    Ben Lim07/20/2021 at 08:43 0 comments

    Each pin is connected to a 0603 pad and a Normally Open (NO) pad. One end of the 0603 pad is connected to the pin, and the other end is connected to ground.  One end of the NO pad is connected to the pin, and the other end is connected to power.

    To connect it to ground

    1. Put a 0603 0 ohm resistor in the pad and don't bridge the NO pad.

    To connect it to 3.3V with filtering

    1. Put the appropriate capacitor on the pad (if you need multiple, you can stack the capacitors).

    2. Apply a solder blob to the NO pad to close it. Now the pin is connected to power with a capacitor to ground.

    To pull it down

    1. Put an appropriate resistor on the pad

    To pull it up

    1. (challenging) Bridge the NO pad with a 0603 resistor.

View all 2 project logs

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