Definitive Guide to Breadboarding Circuits

Welcome to DigiKey’s comprehensive guide to breadboarding. This page has something for everyone including the beginner constructing their first circuit all the way to the seasoned veteran looking to expand their prototyping skills.

We welcome and encourage your participation on this forum. Please share your ideas as you may inspire others to expand their technical skills.

Getting Started

Let’s start at the beginning with a few videos to explore the possibilities:

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There are many different types of breadboards to choose from. Since this can be a confusing topic, we have assembled this product selection guide to help you understand breadboard options. In addition to the breadboard, you may need some of the tools identified in this selection guide. Finally, it may be beneficial to purchase one or more of the kits that DigiKey has assembled to facilitate your prototyping experience.

General Tips

This section contains a variety of tips that you may find useful as you construct your prototype circuits.

Tips for Increase Breadboard Longevity

Once you start prototyping your circuits there are a number of precautions you should take to avoid damaging your breadboard. From experience, we can tell you that there is nothing is more frustrating than troubleshooting a circuit due to a broken or degraded breadboard. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your breadboard investment:

  • Use pre-cut wires such as the ones described in this product selection guide.

  • Use properly sized wire: 22 AWG solid core is preferred. Large diameter wire can distort the breadboard finger spring. It also takes more force to insert the large wire increasing the likelihood of crushing the spring.

  • Be very careful with hand tools such as needle nose pliers as excessive force and crush the breadboard’s delicate fingers rendering that section of board inoperative

  • Aspire to construct breadboards with the finesse and style of folks like Ben Eater.

  • Limit breadboard current to approximately 1 A to prevent breadboard damage (melting) as describe in the article. While 1 A is considered the maximum for dependable long-term operation, precision measurements may be corrupted as shown in this article featuring hybrid Lithium-ion Capacitors. It such situation it is useful to use alternatives such as industrial terminal blocks.

  • Twist the legs of TO-220 devices by 90° so that they may be inserted into the breadboard with less force.

  • Use heatsinks for power devices. This will cool the circuit reducing the chance of breadboard discoloration or even melting. One quick and easy solution is to use a paperclip for your TO-220 devices.

  • When your breadboard is damaged, use a red permanent marker to identify the damaged section(s). This will save you troubleshooting time searching for the broken or weak connections. Too many of us have spent hours troubleshooting what ultimately turns out to be crushed or damaged breadboard finger springs.

Advanced Tips:

  • Expand your prototyping options using surface mount components. Adaptors are readily available as described in this video as well as the product selection guide and this TechForum post.

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  • Use best available techniques for grounding and capacitor bypassing to ensure circuit stability for high frequency analog circuits and digital circuit with a high clock speed. At the same time, realize that the breadboard has a natural upper frequency limit. This article suggest parasitic capacitance limits the breadboard’s working frequency to somewhere between 100 kHz to 1 MHz.

  • Use wire wrap techniques to connect to devices that feature 0.1 inch headers that do not readily insert into a breadboard.

  • Use breadboard friendly prototyping tools. This would include microcontrollers that mount directly on the PCB.

  • Be familiar with breadboard alternatives and when to apply these prototyping alternatives. This includes dead bug construction such as the work by amateur radio operator PA1ED featured in this video. Other alternatives include soldered perforated prototype boards such as described in this product guide.

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  • DigiKey has a variety of evaluation and demo boards that may be beneficial as you transition from prototype to a full PCB. A wide variety of products are available ranging from amplifier to power supplies. These can be beneficial as you reverse engineer a product to translate the ideas into your PCB.

  • Finally, it may be time to construct your own circuit board with low-cost fast turnaround services such as DigiKey Red.

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Thank you for visiting. This is a living document that you can improve by leaving your comments and suggestions below. Additional tips or best practices are especially welcomed.

Best Wishes,

APDahlen

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