Author Topic: Is wire wrapping still a thing?  (Read 1433 times)

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Offline MarkSTopic starter

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Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« on: September 20, 2023, 06:24:39 pm »
Lately I've been thinking about trying it for prototyping. Is it still a viable option? Are there any good resources that cover it in detail?
 

Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2023, 06:46:49 pm »
All of the tools, wires, sockets and pins are still available, at least for DIPs and simple components.  If you want to use modern parts you will be stuck with socket adapters which may or may not be available.

Issues to think about.  When wire wrapping was in its prime 10 MHz clocks were considered pretty high speed.  I don't know how well the technology will survive with modern switching speeds.  Wire wrapping was always a pain to debug and sometimes repair also.  Undoing three or more layers of wraps to get to the signal you want is not fun, and it often involves replacing all of those unwrapped wires.  Which have another end where the fun continues.

It is a fairly fast way to prototype smaller circuits, and the process meshes well with some folks mindset (the same kind who like to create circuits with conductive ink)

I can't recommend any learning sources, all of my contact was learned by osmosis, often from others who had learned the same way.  The professionals who did it at work often learned in proprietary company classes.  You might try searching through online versions of the old electronics magazines.  They periodically had articles on construction techniques, including wire wrap.
 
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Offline artag

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2023, 07:15:20 pm »
When a lot of breakout boards and functional blocks are available on small, cheap PCBs with square pin connectors, I find it a very convenient way to prototype. It's much more durable than berg/dupont connectors and produces a neater, more compact result than soldered wires.
 

Online joeqsmith

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2023, 08:12:16 pm »
I used to have a slit wrap gun that helped to speed up the build.   You could program the number of wraps and then daisy chain connections.  I've also using the manual hand tools.   I don't know why anyone would use this today.   The last time I used WW was when I designed the transient generator that I use to benchmark meters.  I used all DIP parts and a vintage micro, just to remind myself how bad things were in the 70's / 80's for hobbyist.  It was a fairly small board (5X6" or so) and not a lot going on.  4MHz clock.  Very labor intensive but the system has been used for several tests and the WW has not been a problem.   I had a friend who did some WWing for space flight, so it can be reliable.   The last actual board I designed and constructed using WW was this thing:

https://youtu.be/C8txvmXUIJQ?t=498

Unless you just want to try it for fun, PCBs are a lot cheaper today. 

Online TimFox

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2023, 08:25:49 pm »
I gave up on WW long ago, due to my poor workmanship.
Even with a good tool and proper materials, the probability of getting both ends of the wire to wrap properly was too low for practical use.
On the other hand, a skilled technician would achieve good results with good tools.
 

Online joeqsmith

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2023, 08:51:42 pm »
My first computer used a WW backplane.  This was a production system built in the early 70's.  I took a tour of Bell Labs / Western Electric in the 80s and saw some of their automated WW machines used to build their large test equipment.   And with it going into space,  no doubt it can be reliable.   

I think the first time I used it was to build a keyer for my ham radio that used a diode matrix to basically construct a ROM to ID the station.   Maybe from 73 or QST from the 70s.  Sadly, I lost it over the years or we could try and fire it up.  I think the oldest thing I still have that I designed and built using WW was this power supply from the early 80s,  which I still use today:

https://www.eevblog.com/forum/testgear/blow-oscilloscope-measuring-coil-back-emf/msg5028739/#msg5028739


Offline Stray Electron

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2023, 09:17:42 pm »
  I did a LOT of WW back in the day and I still have all of the tools and the wire, etc but I don't recommend it today. Today it's much cheaper, faster and easier to design a custom PCB and have a small bunch of them made in China or other low cost country.

   Among other problems, I've seen a LOT of WW simply fails to make contact to the WW pins of the sockets.  The wire is wrapped on the post but simply doesn't make an electrical connection. I can't tell you have many hundreds of these kinds of faults that I've had to trouble shoot.  Another draw back to WW is that you will need to use WW sockets; and they're expensive! Believe it or not, poor connections between IC leads and IC sockets are also a very high failure rate, especially if the leads and the sockets are made of different materials and/or are stored in an area that isn't perfectly dry, because of electrolytic corrosion.  Sockets were a good idea when ICs were very expensive and had a high failure rate and had to be frequently replaced, but that's not true today. 

  My advice, design a circuit board and have a few built, and solder your parts directly to the board and forget WW.
 

Online nctnico

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2023, 09:47:14 pm »
  I did a LOT of WW back in the day and I still have all of the tools and the wire, etc but I don't recommend it today. Today it's much cheaper, faster and easier to design a custom PCB and have a small bunch of them made in China or other low cost country.
Or use enamel wire for prototypes. I've build quite a few prototypes using enamel wire (which is available in different colors so you can give power and ground seperate colors for example).
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Online langwadt

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2023, 09:49:45 pm »
  I did a LOT of WW back in the day and I still have all of the tools and the wire, etc but I don't recommend it today. Today it's much cheaper, faster and easier to design a custom PCB and have a small bunch of them made in China or other low cost country.
Or use enamel wire for prototypes. I've build quite a few prototypes using enamel wire (which is available in different colors so you can give power and ground seperate colors for example).

yeh, the enameled wire you can strip by dipping the cut end in a solder blob on the iron is the easiest for bodge wires and protos
 

Offline thermistor-guy

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2023, 04:36:23 am »
Lately I've been thinking about trying it for prototyping. Is it still a viable option? Are there any good resources that cover it in detail?

I use it for DC and low-frequency test jigs, that connect test equipment to components and modules under test.

On the jigs, the connectors are mounted directly to steel sheet, with custom cut-outs, wire-wrap underneath. Jig connectors are typically a mix of
wire-wrap DIN41612 and though-hole D-subminiature. When terminating the D-subs, I'll do a short wrap around the pin, then solder the wrap.

I have about 10 colors available, so I use color-coding for twisted pairs and quads, supply rail wiring, and so on. One trick is to do the long wraps
first, and the shortest wraps last. That way, the short wraps "tie down" all the longer ones, keeping them close to the steel panel (ground plane).

Like any technique, it has its uses, and it can be done well or badly. I've used wire-wrap prototyping all my career, so I'm biased towards it.

NASA's workmanship standard: https://workmanship.nasa.gov/lib/insp/2%20books/links/sections/files/301.pdf
I use at least two turns of insulated wire on each post - NASA settles for one.
 

Offline RogerThat

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2023, 08:53:35 pm »
It's a very reliable, easy and long lasting wire termination technique. Due to this it is(or maybe was?) common in fixed telephone systems.

I have the hand tool and some awg32 wire. I've mainly used it to make wire harnesses for prototypes. Solder pins to DB15 connector and then wire wrap to those. It makes it easy/fast to connect and disconnect wires to your db15 connector..... and the whole thing is reasonably reliable for a prototype which is moved around.
 

Online SiliconWizard

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2023, 09:14:18 pm »
Wire wrapping was surprisingly reliable when done right and was used in many areas where reliability was key.

These days I don't think it makes much sense either as others have said. It's now usually cheaper to have custom PCBs made than to spend hours manually wiring stuff, unless you don't count your time.

And if you still occasionally have to manually wire things, having a few proto boards of various sizes, enamelled copper wire and pre-tinned wire pieces of various lengths and gauge will do.
 

Offline MathWizard

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2023, 05:53:18 am »
When a lot of breakout boards and functional blocks are available on small, cheap PCBs with square pin connectors, I find it a very convenient way to prototype. It's much more durable than berg/dupont connectors and produces a neater, more compact result than soldered wires.
Yeah I need to get a big box of connectors/headers for hooking my proto-boards together. I always say, it's quick and easy to desolder wires, but it's still a pain, and easy to splash solder everywhere unsoldering 2 wires in the air.
 

Offline RoGeorge

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2023, 09:26:51 am »
Some wire wrap have silicon isolation that doesn't melt, but some have isolation that melts.  Those can be used for direct soldering, without wrapping the wire at all, without cutting the wire, and without removing the isolation.  No sockets needed.  Solder "through the wirewrap isolation", like this:



Either wrapped wire or soldered wire, it will take a long time to manually wire point to point.  Might be faster and easier to improvise a mechanically scratched PCB, to use a PCB house, or to pick some other prototyping way.  w2aew have a 20 minutes video showing most of the techniques:

#122: Electronic Circuit Construction Techniques: review of some prototype circuit building methods
https://youtu.be/kH110yjYZ2g
« Last Edit: September 22, 2023, 09:31:51 am by RoGeorge »
 

Online Kjelt

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2023, 09:56:47 am »
The "real" wirewrapping where you use multiple turns as standalone around pins I have never seen a real use for. You need special roughed square pins, round pins are too smooth and don't always connect correctly.

What I did use for the last 38 years was the teflon 0.25mm wirewrap wire for prototyping.
Strip, Turn once around the pin to make a mechanical connection, then solder it.
Works great if you keep the following in mind:
The wirestripper should match exactly the wire thickness.
It takes some practice to strip the wire and not to knick the wire, don't push too hard.
Not all teflon wirewrap wire strips easily, some is just horrific, perhaps age or incorrect manufacturing, get rid of it buy decent one.

Also very good to use for botching wires on existing pcbs or replacing lost pcb traces.
 
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Offline peter-h

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #15 on: September 22, 2023, 10:45:55 am »
I used it extensively for prototyping up to about 20 years ago. It worked very well. Nowadays one goes straight to a PCB, prototypes from china for peanuts, and then if the thing works, which it usually does, more or less, you are one step closer to the finished product.
Z80 Z180 Z280 Z8 S8 8031 8051 H8/300 H8/500 80x86 90S1200 32F417
 

Online Kjelt

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Re: Is wire wrapping still a thing?
« Reply #16 on: September 22, 2023, 11:41:17 am »
For difficult designs or difficult smt footprints you can't go without pcb.
I still use the generic smt pcb boards with many different footprints to 0.1" breakout boards often though. Too many and complex multilayer designs yes pcb definitely.
But for easy things quick weekend stuff I still use proto pcb boards, I don't want to wait two weeks for a package from China  ;)
« Last Edit: September 22, 2023, 11:43:12 am by Kjelt »
 
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