When it comes to creating electronic circuits, which is better: a breadboard or a PCB? As a beginner or even a seasoned maker, it can be difficult to decide which option is best suited for your project needs.
Breadboards and PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) are two of the most popular options for PCB prototype and building electronic circuits. While both have their advantages and disadvantages, knowing which one to choose can make a significant difference in the success of your project.
In this article, we will explore the differences between breadboards and PCBs, including their advantages, limitations, and recommended applications. Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional electronic engineer, understanding these distinctions will help you make a more informed decision and ultimately create better more reliable circuits.
Let’s start with learning more about the more advanced electronic component – PCB, also named printed circuit board. It is simply a laminated “sandwich” that comprises multiple specialized layers. Without further ado, let’s review all of them listed in the order:
Prepreg is the basis of any PCB. It is a strong, rigid enough material, characteristics of which will define most properties of the finished component. Usually, more than one layer of prepreg is used to build the board. Insulation or other layers may be put between preppers, so the fabricated material has enhanced characteristics.
Related Post: What is Lamination Process in PCB Fabrication?
Types of solder masks are top and bottom-side, epoxy liquid. liquid photoimageable (LPI) ink, and dry film photoimageable ones. They differ in the ways of their application. As such, the first two are applied using solder mask inkjet printing (a relatively new method) or silkscreen printing. The third is applied directly onto the surface, UV-light cured, and its leftovers are washed off. The last is also applied directly and UV-light cured.
Soldermask protects the copper layer from oxidation – rusting. It also may enhance a PCB with additional properties such as chemical or humidity resistance, better mechanical strength, and others.
Related Post: What is Solder Mask Layer in PCB Manufacturing?
This layer is non-functional, as it does not enhance the characteristics of PCBs. But, it provides absolutely vital pieces of information to technicians. Without such data, testing or assembling electronics is impossible.
Some types of finishes are immersion silver, immersion tin, and electroless nickel immersion gold. It is easy to see that final finishes are mostly exposing PCBs to a solution with dissolved elements. They may enhance a PCB’s appearance, prevent solder bridges, and make electronics long-lasting.
As you may understand, a PCB is basically a laminated structure that is fully prepared for having electronic components deposited on it. Types of such components are the following:
The above-mentioned copper traces that allow transmission of electric signals are bridges that connect the listed components.
Technically, there are multiple other details incorporated in a fully-fledged PCB. Here are a few examples:
In simple words, PCB works in accordance with the programmed design by transmitting electrical signals in an intended manner. The ways the current can be controlled are various. They are designed with the help of all the details and components listed above. It ensures the operating of a PCB in accordance with the programmed actions that an electronic device is expected to perform.
Breadboard that is also known as protoboard is simply a construction base for modeling new electronics – prototyping. It is a solderless terminal array board that has points – holes with an electrical connection.
So, why do we need breadboards? They are perfect models that can be reused multiple times. In contrast to PCBs, breadboards are not soldered, and components onto them can be easily mounted and dismounted at any time. This benefit made breadboards popular amount technicians designing new electronics and engineering students.
A typical modern breadboard is a perforated plastic block that has tin-plated or phosphor bronze spring clips under each drilled hole – tie or contact point. Spacing between points is typically 2.54 mm. which equals 0.1 inches. Monolithic integrated circuits and dual in-line packages can be inserted into a breadboard as well. Also, leads of discrete components and interconnecting wires (fulfilling the same function as copper traces do) are used to complement the design.
Each such point is a ready-to-use equivalent of a PCB’s pads from a certain perspective. A user can connect a component to it, like a transistor, and use it to turn an electric signal on and off. Let’s review a few of the many potentials details to integrate into breadboard circuits to complement the insight into this electronics’ functioning:
In simple words, breadboards work very similarly to PCBs. But instead of being specifically drilled and prepared to mount components holes, breadboards have perforated holes with contact points integrated. Removable wires play the role of copper traces. Other electronics also have their alternatives in both types of boards, but they still share the same main working principle.
Breadboards can hardly be compared to PCBs. These boards are just intended for slightly different uses, and the latter literally emerged from breadboards. Still, let’s review the ways these electronic parts are different from each other.
|Description||Perforated plastic block with alloy spring clips under evenly spaced holes.||A laminated multi-layer structure comprising the core, copper foil, solder mask, white legend, and final finish layers.|
|Use||For modeling new electronics designs and practicing assembly skills.||For fabricating any electronics intended for everyday use.|
|Users||Technicians and students.||Technicians and manufacturers.|
|Strengths||Can be reused multiple times because it does not have a solder mask layer. Components can be manually and easily mounted and dismounted.||It is an integral component of any electronics. Durable and wear-resistant.|
|Limitations||It is not used as a part of conventional electronics and deteriorates quickly.||It is not reusable, and its components cannot be mounted and dismounted easily.|
As mentioned previously, PCBs emerged from breadboards. It means that less advanced components can be finalized. So, let’s take a look at the step-by-step process for turning a breadboard’s design into a PCB’s layout.
It is essential that you try your PCB design before actually getting down to fabricating circuit boards. Breadboards are what can save your time and give an opportunity to try a layout in a safe way. If your design is successful, you may fabricate a PCB with the same layout and place it inside your electronic device.
No, Arduino is not a breadboard. A breadboard is a device used to build electronic circuits by connecting wires and components without the need for soldering. Arduino, on the other hand, is an open-source electronic platform that consists of a programmable circuit board and a software development environment.
Arduino boards can be connected to a breadboard to allow the building and testing of electronic circuits, but it is not a breadboard itself. Arduino boards have multiple digital and analog pins that can be used to control and sense various devices such as motors, sensors, and lights, making it a powerful tool for prototyping and experimenting with electronics.
Yes, a breadboard needs power in order to function. A breadboard is a tool used in electronics and circuitry to connect and test different components. In order for the components to work and communicate with each other, power needs to be supplied to the breadboard. This can come from a battery, a wall outlet, or any other power source that is compatible with the circuit being built.
Without power, the components on the breadboard will not function properly or at all, making it impossible to test or complete the circuit.
The two basic types of breadboards are the solderless breadboard and the solderable breadboard. A solderless breadboard is a board with a series of holes where components can be inserted and connected without the use of solder. This type of breadboard is great for prototyping as it allows for easy experimentation and modification of circuits without the need for a permanent connection.
The solderable breadboard is a board that can be used to create permanent connections between components. It is designed for more advanced projects where a stable and permanent connection is required, and where the soldering process can be utilized to create a more robust circuit. The main advantage of the solderable breadboard is that it provides a more secure and reliable connection, which is important for more complex and long-term projects.
A breadboard is neither analog nor digital in and of itself. It is simply a tool used to prototype circuits for either analog or digital applications. The circuits that are built on the breadboard can be either analog or digital, depending on the components used and the intended function of the circuit.
Breadboards are the ancestors of modern PCBs. These components serve the purpose of modeling circuits before actually fabricating such boards. The good thing about breadboards is that they can be reused multiple times.
In contrast to breadboards, PCBs are intended to serve as a part of electronics. They are more advanced, durable, and long-lasting editions of the obsolete breadboards. Still, both components are in use. The first serves students who practice their assembly and circuit design skills, and the second is for the actual manufacture.
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