What is a breadboard? How it can be used to construct hobby circuits? Can I construct circuits while reusing costly components? Is it reliable in terms of electrical connections? What about the long life working of the circuit?
A breadboard is a simple base on which we can construct temporary circuits without soldering the components. Actually in English language it is known as a plank of wood used for cutting the bread on it… hence, the name BREADBOARD!
In early days of electronics development, before around the year 1910, components were connected with each other, using wires, on some support like a wooden board. It was of course, before the invention of ICs or even transistors. Naturally, the constructed size of the circuit built on such a wooden board is now beyond our imagination, so far as today’s nanotechnology is concerned. Even basic projects in early days, were large by today’s standards. People would take a bread board (that is the plant of cutting bread or toast)
and use it as a platform to support the tubes, transformers, capacitors and other large components. Bread boards came to be associated with electronics experimenters because they were inexpensive, sturdy and readily available, and it’s easy to move components around on them.
Constructing a circuit on a wooden board – early type of a breadboard
Nowadays, the term “breadboard” can apply to lots of different things. One type of experimenter’s board is solder less breadboard, also called plug board. You just plug components into the holes and they’re connected by copper strips underneath.
Solder-less breadboard: also known as plug board
The other major type of modern experimenter’s board is perfboard – a perforated board. It has holes punched on it at a regular interval, usually at a short distance of 0.1 inch as shown in the following picture. If you see the term “perfboard” alone, it often refers to just plain perforated circuit boards. You stick the leads of components through the holes and solder the leads to the leads of other components. It’s primitive, but it works. More often, perfboard has a copper pattern printed on its surface, to which you can solder components. The simplest type is pad-per-hole, which simply has a ring of copper around each hole. The advantage of this over plain perfboard is that each component is soldered to the board rather than to each other, so it’s easier to work with and the project is more stable.
Perforated board – the perfboard
You can also find perfboard types with various copper patterns that connect multiple holes. In the image below, the white markings on the top of the board tell you where copper is on the bottom side. This particular type has a complicated pattern: there are two bus strips down the center of the board, 2-hole pads on the edges of the board, and 3-hole pads and pad-per-holes between the two.
Some predefined connections type of perfboard
What are the other types of such boards used in hobby electronics?
Vectorbord, Veroboard — These are the most common brands of perfboard. Branded perfboard is usually the higher-quality stuff, made more for experimentation than assembling known-working circuits. Cheap perfboard is usually unbranded or it’s some kind of “house” brand.
Strip board — This is perfboard with rows of copper strips on it. You cut the strips to form shorter rows of connected holes. This offers a balance between the ultimate flexibility of pad-per-hole board with the convenience of a patterned perfboard.
Protoboard — This term is nearly as vague as “breadboard”. Most often it refers to copper-patterned perfboard.
Which is the best type of such board for constructing the circuit?
Well, it depends on your needs. Solder less breadboard is convenient for many applications, but it’s expensive and it’s only good for temporary experiments.
There is one more problem with the circuits constructed on breadboard. The wires get jumbled with bunches or buses and due to this internal capacitances and inductances and proximity effects are produced among them.
If you are working with high frequency oscillator circuits, then it is NOT AT ALL RECOMMENDED TO USE A BREADBOARD.
Our teacher, Prof. Kholkute used to call it as “white slabs of trouble” because they decrease the chances of success so much, particularly with high frequency circuits and analog circuits.
Plain perfboard is cheap and simple for small projects, but due to the lack of copper patterns the wiring on them often becomes a rat’s nest of interconnected wires. Pad-per-hole perfboard is a little more mechanically sound, but not much better in terms of neatness. Patterned perfboard can give the neatest layouts if you can find the right pattern and you plan your layout carefully around it, but it’s the most expensive type.
Beware also that there are varying grades of perfboard. The cheapest type has unclad copper pads and the pads are easy to rip off the board if you stress them. This type is okay for soldering down a known-working circuit, but not very good for experimenting. More expensive perfboard types have stronger pads, the pads are often clad with tin so they accept solder more readily, and the board itself is more rugged. You can spend anywhere from a few dollars for a board of several square inches up to about twenty bucks for the same size board, depending on quality. The expensive stuff is only useful if you expect to be modifying the circuit or you need the greatest possible durability.