Prototype done... but now a mess of wires! Any tips?

Any pro tips for wire dressing and otherwise handling a bunch of connections as I move from prototype to final project?

I've successfully prototyped my GPS clock project on the bench (thanks to all the wisdom on the forum!). I plan to migrate it to a wooden display box that I build myself.

I have 4 components all wired together:

  1. Nano
  2. Max 7219 8-digit display module (via SPI)
  3. Neo 6M (clone) GPS module (via Serial, plus PPS connection)
  4. DS3231 RTC Module (via I2C, plus SQW connection)
    ...oh, and also a 3-pin TSOP-style IR receiver.

Power supply is 5v coming off an Apple OEM USB phone charger, going to the Nano's 5V pin and the Vcc on all the component modules. All grounds tied together.

As you can see from the photo, I have ended up with a rat's nest of Dupont wires. I'm not sure how to dress this all to lay it out in a small display box. The Dupont wires are fairly stiff, and I feel like bending them in a small radius curve puts a lot of tension on the headers, but maybe that's not a big deal?

Each component has wires that split in different directions, and cross over inconsistently. For example, a module has 1 set of wires to the Nano, and then another set off to the power rail/ground. Plus a lot of "spidering" onto the header pins of the Nano.

Would love to see some examples of how people handled this in final projects (pictures, pro tips, links, etc). I googled around but wasn't having much luck with inspiration.

Thanks!

IMG_9397.jpg
Photo notes: breadboard is currently used for the + and Ground rails, plus the IR receiver. Nano is in the bottom left.

IMG_9397.jpg

1.) Bending the wires should NOT be a problem... its the outer case that is provide the 'stiffness'
2.) Probably should NOT use a breadboard in your final project.. but maybe some perfboard, or a custom designed PCB.

3.) You can make your own CUSTOM wires/headers.. with specific colors and order so your 'split-off' wires make more sense perhaps..

Get rid of all pins and plug-ins. Solder wires. Ribbon cable is great. Keep power and signal wires away from each other.

Paul

That's not a rat's nest.

This is a rat's nest:

Typically a screw terminal strip is used.
terminal strip

For male Dupont pins you can use a ferrule terminal strip

@raschemmel - ha, yes I feel a little better now!

@xl97 - yes, definitely not going to have a breadboard in the final project.

@Paul - yes I’m feeling the pain of fixed-length Dupont wires. Unfortunately my Nano’s came with headers all presoldered. (Not that they can’t be desoldered of course...)

Why don't you get some connectors and a crimper and make connecting
cables , or just use a terminal strip.

Terminal strip in what place?

Terminal strip in what place?

To replace the breadboard.

For the 5v and ground rails? Yes. In fact, if you look at the photo, I’ve got a barrier strip that I drop the USB 5v and ground onto. So I can definitely land all the wires there. I was thinking about pulling off the connectors of one end of the wires, stripping back the insulation and connecting.

You could lace the wires, or use cable ties, or small size SpiraWrap

If have male and female dupont wires can lug them together and heatshrink them.
If you use the right size heatshrink they won't come apart.

steve20016:
@raschemmel - ha, yes I feel a little better now!

@xl97 - yes, definitely not going to have a breadboard in the final project.

@Paul - yes I’m feeling the pain of fixed-length Dupont wires. Unfortunately my Nano’s came with headers all presoldered. (Not that they can’t be desoldered of course...)

You have only one NANO? What would do if you dropped it and walked on it?

Hint. Don't take a working project apart. Duplicate it in place in your final product. Mistakes will happen and will be difficult to find if you don't have a reference.

Paul

I'm feeling the pain of fixed-length Dupont wires.

Buy some hookup wire and butt splices (unless you have a soldering iron and heatshrink)

Build it on Vero (strip) board and provide header socket for the peripherals. You can use Dupont SIL headers or DIL headers as you wish. Make up some interconnects from ribbon and plugs to match the headers. As someone else suggested, use the one you have as a comparison and build a new one.

I was going to post some example pictures but this tablet will not allow me to quote, nor get into the attachment menu etc.

I was going to post some example pictures

At some point if you could that would be great. I’m intrigued by this idea but have trouble picturing it in my head.

Yes I will do. I have one in particular that is a good example.

This is a work in progress…

Very nice!

For connections to the Nano do you have wires running as vias on the other side of the perf board?

What are some good sources for ribbon cable like that? (I’m in US)

Do you crimp your own connectors onto the ribbon cable?

This is a work in progress...

Paul_KD7HB:
You have only one NANO? What would do if you dropped it and walked on it?

Hint. Don't take a working project apart. Duplicate it in place in your final product. Mistakes will happen and will be difficult to find if you don't have a reference.

Paul

^^ This! I cannot over emphasize the importance of the above statement.

Do yourself a huge favour and leave the breaboard and all attached stuff intact. Go and buy all the stuff you needed in your project again, double or even triple it. Every once in a while you are going to break stuff, blow stuff up or it will simply fail on you.

As you're shopping now anyway, buy prototype board(s), wires, solder, soldering iron, some headers and other nice gimmicks.

Download and install Fritzing or Eagle or Diptrace and start digitizing your creation based on your nice little rats nest that's still untouched on your table. Use the correct wire colours, create it as you see fit. Make sure to save your file!

When all your stuff comes in, sit down, relax, open the bages and, without soldering, start making a layout on your proto-board(s). When you're happy, heat up that iron and solder it all in place.

You have your breadboard prototype in front of you so working out which wire goes were is easy! Not happy with the programming or want to add another whatever? First expand your existing prototype, test it, integrate it in digital form and than start to integrate it into your project.