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BEAM Techniques is a BEAM Reference Library site.

"Freeforming" BEAM circuits
Let's get small

Freeforming is a technique that allows for miniaturization of circuits, achieved through the elimination of circuit boards. Generally, you'll glue or clamp your circuit components together, then solder their leads together. In many cases, you'll use some piece of structure (solar cells are great for this, for very small 'bots) as a "substrate," and glue your components directly to it.


Freeforming is a useful technique for a number of purposes:

  • Minimizing 'bot weight -- this can be a very critical thing for very small bots with small, none-too-strong, motors

  • Minimizing 'bot cost -- there are no PCBs to build or buy

  • Minimizing 'bot size

  • Aesthetics -- freeforming often allows you to make very attractive 'bots, using circuit pieces as artistic elements


Like anything, 'though, it has its drawbacks:

  • Irreversability -- it's very nearly impossible to change your circuit once its all glued and soldered together

  • Maintenance -- if any circuit component burns out, it's very difficult to replace (most times, you'll just throw the whole circuit away)

  • Construction difficulty -- freeformed circuits have a thicket of connections in a very tight space, so your hand-eye coordination, and soldering skills will be put to the test

For more information...

Ian Bernstein's excellent BEAM-Online site has a tutorial on free-forming a bicore here, and a tutorial (written by Brian Hendrickson) on how to free-form an H-bridge motor driver here.

Sebastiaan van Vliet has his own H-bridge free-form tutorial here.

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Page author: Eric Seale
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