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What is a Jumper in a Circuit Board?

What is a Jumper in a Circuit Board?
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A jumper in a circuit board is a versatile electronic component used to establish or modify electrical connections within a printed circuit board (PCB). This short and professional article provides an overview of the purpose and functionality of PCB jumpers, highlighting their importance in creating flexible and adaptable electrical pathways on circuit boards.

What is a Jumper Wire?

Jumper Wire

A jumper wire (also called dupont wire) is a type of wire, or a group of wires, with a connector or pin at each end (sometimes without them – just “tinned”), Typically used to interconnect between components on a breadboard or other prototype or test circuit, or to interconnect internally with other devices or components without soldering.

Jumpers usually come with “tip connectors” that plug into slots on a breadboard, header connector on a circuit board, or test equipment. There are different types of tip connectors, such as:
• Solid Tip: For connecting to breadboard or female connectors.
• Alligator clips: used to temporarily connect sensors, buttons and other components in the prototype.
• Banana Connector: Typically used for DC and low frequency AC signals on test equipment.
• RJnn connector: Commonly used in telephones (RJ11) and computer networks (RJ45).
• RCA Connectors: Typically used for audio, low-resolution composite video signals, or other low-frequency applications that require shielded cables.
• RF Connectors: Used to transmit radio frequency signals between circuits, test equipment, and antennas.

Jumper wire - Dupont wire
Jumper wire - Dupont wire

Jumper wires come in a variety of colors but don’t really have a specific meaning. The colors are just to help keep track of what is connected. For example, red can be used as power and black can be used as ground. Jumpers are also divided into three connection types:
(1) Male-to-male
(2) Male-to-female
(3) Female-to-female

It has two shapes of head – square and round head. These jumper wires make changing circuits as easy as possible and are an essential component in DIY electronics projects. Jumpers are also commonly used in prototyping tools such as Arduino. The current (I) and voltage (V) a jumper can withstand depends on the copper or aluminum content in the wire. For Arduino applications, typically no more than 2A and 250V.

Jumper and Shunt

Jumper and shunt are both components used to create electrical connections in circuits, but they have different designs and applications.

1. Jumper:
A jumper, as mentioned before, is a short length of wire used to establish a direct electrical connection between two points on a circuit board or electronic device. It is typically a solid-core wire with insulation.

Jumper wires are often used for temporary or permanent modifications to a circuit, to create interconnections between components or to bridge gaps in circuit traces. They are versatile and can be easily inserted or removed as needed. Jumper wires are commonly used in prototyping, circuit testing, breadboarding, and troubleshooting scenarios.

2. Shunt:
A shunt, also called a jumper shunt or simply a “shunt,” is a small device designed specifically for creating a connection or completing a circuit. It is typically a small metal or conductive plastic component with two or more terminals.

PCB shunt
PCB Shunt
PCB Mount Shunts - Terminal Block
PCB Mount Shunts - Terminal Block

Shunts are commonly used in applications where a connection needs to be made or broken selectively. They are often used in settings requiring manual or automated switching between different circuit configurations. Shunts are commonly found in switches, relays, and selector modules. They can be easily inserted or removed, allowing for convenient reconfiguration of circuit paths.

The main difference between jumpers and shunts lies in their design and specific applications. While both serve the purpose of creating electrical connections, jumpers are typically short wires used for general-purpose interconnections or modifications, while shunts are compact components designed for selective circuit switching or configuration.

It’s important to note that the terms “jumper” and “shunt” can sometimes be used interchangeably depending on the context and specific industry or application. Therefore, it’s always helpful to consider the specific context in which these terms are used to ensure accurate understanding.

What is a PCB Jumper?

A PCB jumper is a small wire or conductive trace. It can be used to connect two or more locations on the board. It is employed to create a short circuit between different circuit components or to bypass a portion of the circuitry.

PCB jumpers are used to adjust or change a circuit board to fit a specific purpose or to fix issues with the circuitry. They can also be utilized to connect many PCB modules or parts. There are two different kinds of PCB jumpers. The first one is surface mount jumpers, which are placed on the board’s surface. The second one is through-hole jumpers which are inserted via holes on the board. PCB jumpers can be relocated or removed as needed.

Surface Mount Jumper

An SMT jumper is a type of electronic component used to create electrical connections on a printed circuit board (PCB) using surface mount technology.

Unlike through-hole jumpers that are inserted into pre-drilled holes on the PCB, SMT jumpers are designed to be mounted directly onto the surface of the board. They are typically small in size and have surface mount contacts or terminals that allow for soldering onto the PCB’s pads or traces.

PCB Surface Mount Jumpers
PCB Surface Mount Jumpers

SMT jumpers are commonly used in situations where a temporary or permanent electrical connection needs to be established or modified on a PCB. They provide a convenient and space-saving solution for creating connections between components, test points, or traces on the board.

SMT jumpers offer advantages such as space efficiency, ease of placement, and compatibility with automated assembly processes. They are commonly used in a range of electronic applications, including PCB prototyping, production, and repair, where the need for flexible circuit configurations or temporary connections arises.

Through Hole Jumper

A Through-hole jumper is a component that is inserted into pre-drilled holes in a PCB and soldered on both sides to establish connections between different points on the board.

Through-hole jumpers typically consist of a metal pin or wire with insulation covering most of its length, leaving exposed ends for soldering. They are designed to be inserted into plated through-holes on the PCB, which are holes with metal plating lining the walls to provide electrical conductivity.

PCB Through Hole Jumper
PCB Through Hole Jumper

Through-hole jumpers are often used in situations where a temporary or permanent electrical connection needs to be made between two points on a PCB, and the use of surface mount technology (SMT) components or techniques is not feasible or preferred.

The process of using through-hole jumpers involves inserting the jumper component into the appropriate through-hole on the PCB, aligning it with the desired connection points, and soldering the exposed ends of the jumper on both sides of the board. This creates a secure and conductive connection between the designated points.

Through-hole jumpers offer advantages such as robustness and ease of installation, making them suitable for applications that require mechanical stability or the ability to withstand mechanical stress. However, they do require additional drilling and soldering steps during PCB assembly compared to surface mount jumpers.

Why Do We Use Jumpers in PCBs?

Jumpers are used in PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) for several reasons, including:

  • Circuit Modifications: Jumpers allow for the modification or customization of circuit paths on a PCB.
  • Trace Repair: In cases where a trace on the PCB is damaged or broken, jumpers can be used to restore the electrical connection. By bridging the gap with a jumper wire or component, continuity can be reestablished, allowing the circuit to function properly.
  • Programming Headers: Customized boards may use dual-row male connectors as programming interfaces. It enables temporary connections with external electronic modules or wires to upgrade firmware. It also changes settings using serial data lines bridged with female-to-female jumper wires.
  • Prototype Iterations: During the prototyping phase of PCB development, jumpers provide flexibility for experimenting with different circuit layouts and configurations.
  • Circuit Testing and Debugging: Jumpers are valuable tools for circuit testing and debugging.
  • Design Flexibility: Jumpers offer design flexibility by allowing for last-minute changes or adaptations in PCB layouts.
  • Manufacturing and Assembly: Jumpers can simplify the manufacturing and assembly processes of PCBs.

The use of jumpers in PCBs provides a practical and efficient way to modify circuits, repair traces, test functionality, and enhance design flexibility. They are valuable components in prototyping, troubleshooting, and adapting PCB designs to meet specific requirements or address unforeseen challenges.

Types of PCB Jumpers

There are several types of PCB jumpers available, each with its own design and application. Here are some common types of PCB jumpers:

Jumper Wires: Jumper wires are simple, insulated wires used to create direct connections between two points on a PCB. They are typically solid-core wires with stripped ends that can be inserted into through-holes or soldered directly onto surface mount pads or traces.

Zero-Ohm Resistors: Zero-ohm resistors, also known as “0-ohm links” or “link resistors,” are resistor-like components with a resistance value of zero. They are typically small axial or surface mount resistors that can be used as jumpers to bridge connections or bypass specific circuit elements.

SMT Jumper Pads: SMT jumper pads are dedicated pads on a PCB designed for the placement of surface mount jumpers. These pads have solderable contacts or terminals that allow for the installation of SMT jumpers, creating electrical connections between different points on the board.

Shunts: Shunts are small, removable components used as jumpers in PCBs. They typically consist of a plastic housing with metal contacts or pins. Shunts can be inserted into dedicated headers or sockets on the PCB to create or break connections selectively.

Solder Bridges: Solder bridges are created by applying solder directly between two points on a PCB, effectively creating a short circuit or connection. They are often used as temporary jumpers during prototyping or testing stages and can be easily removed by desoldering the bridge.

Jumper Blocks: Jumper blocks, also called “jumper headers” or “jumper caps,” are used to configure connections or select different circuit options on a PCB. They consist of a plastic housing with multiple pins or sockets that can be bridged with shorting jumpers or shunts to establish connections.

How to DIY a Simple LED Circuit with Jumpers?

Jumper wires are often used in electrical circuits to establish temporary connections, especially during prototyping or testing phases. Here’s a simple example of how jumper wires can be used in a circuit:

Imagine you have a basic circuit on a breadboard that includes a power source, an LED, and a resistor. The goal is to light up the LED. Here’s how you could use jumper wires in this setup:
Step 1: Connect one end of a jumper wire to the positive terminal of the power source.
Step 2: Connect the other end of that jumper wire to one side of the resistor.
Step 3: Take another jumper wire and connect one end to the other side of the resistor.
Step 4: Connect the other end of this second jumper wire to the positive (longer) leg of the LED.
Step 5: Now, take a third jumper wire and connect one end to the negative terminal of the power source.
Step 6: Connect the other end of this third jumper wire to the negative (shorter) leg of the LED.

This simple connection completes the circuit, allowing current to flow from the power source, through the resistor (which limits current to protect the LED), through the LED (lighting it up), and back to the power source.

Jumper wires make it easy to adjust this setup. For example, if you want to test different resistors to see how they affect the brightness of the LED, you can quickly swap them out using jumper wires without any soldering. This flexibility is why jumper wires are so valuable in prototyping and educational settings. They allow for quick changes and experimentation without permanent alterations to the circuit.

a Simple LED Circuit with Jumpers
a Simple LED Circuit with Jumpers
How to DIY a Simple LED Circuit with Jumpers
A Practice of a Simple LED Circuit

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A PCB jumper is a versatile component used in electronic circuits to establish or modify electrical connections on a printed circuit board. Whether it’s for circuit modifications, trace repair, prototyping iterations, testing and debugging, design flexibility, or manufacturing efficiency, PCB jumpers provide a practical and efficient solution. With their ability to simplify circuit adjustments and enhance functionality, PCB jumpers play a crucial role in the development, testing, and customization of electronic circuits.

FAQs about PCB Jumpers

Q1: What is the purpose of a PCB jumper?

A PCB jumper is used to create or modify electrical connections on a printed circuit board. It allows engineers and technicians to establish or change circuit paths, bypass sections, repair broken traces, test functionality, and customize circuit configurations.

Q2: How do I select the right type of jumper for my PCB?

The selection of a jumper depends on factors such as the specific application, space constraints, manufacturing requirements, and the desired functionality. Consider the available space, whether surface mount or through-hole options are preferred, and the specific requirements of the circuit design to choose the appropriate jumper type.

Q3: Are there any standard guidelines for jumper placement and spacing on a PCB?

IPC (Institute for Printed Circuits) provides general guidelines for PCB design and fabrication that may indirectly impact jumper-related considerations.

The IPC-2221 series of standards, specifically IPC-2221A, “Generic Standard on Printed Board Design,” provides guidelines for the design of PCBs, including considerations for routing, spacing, and clearances.

IPC-A-600, “Acceptability of Printed Boards,” and IPC-A-610, “Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies,” provide guidelines for the inspection and acceptance criteria of PCBs and assembled electronic products. These standards may include criteria for the acceptability of soldered jumpers or jumper-related connections.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lee
I'm Jeffrey, an experienced electronics engineer. As a seasoned content creator, I bring a deep passion for PCB-related topics, allowing me to communicate complex concepts with clarity and precision, making them accessible to a wide audience.
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