August 24, 2018
No matter the type of electronic device you have, chances are it will need a board to control the majority of its functions. When it comes to building the board, it’s critical that the designer knows what type of board is most suitable for the electronic project.
There are two main types of boards to build: a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) or a Breadboard. One is suited for more general projects, while the other is best used for custom and specific projects. Each have their benefits and downfalls over the other, making it difficult to decide which is most suitable for you.
Let’s take a look at valuable information to determine which board you need.
What is a Prototype Circuit Board?
A prototype is what you develop to test out a design before creating the permanent circuit board. The prototype allows you to see what changes need to be made without having to rebuild an entire PCB over again. Once you have completed a prototype, you will use that to build the PCB.
A PCB is the small green board covered in grooves and connections found in almost any electronic device available. A PCB manufacturer takes your design and turns it into a functioning board to run electronics. The PCB will be your finished product.
What is a Breadboard?
A breadboard is a type of prototyping that requires no soldering connections. This will make them less permanent compared to a PCB. Breadboards have sockets that you push the components into, allowing you to remove and change them if needed. A breadboard will be more for designing, experimenting and testing circuit connections before making it permanent.
Why Do They Call it a Breadboard?
The term breadboard goes back many years, to the start of circuit boards themselves. Manufacturers would mount sockets to a piece of wood – quite often the same type of wood you would cut bread on. The story behind the name says that the engineer could only find the breadboard for his prototype.
How Does a Breadboard Work?
Since you can remove and change components on a breadboard, you would make a breadboard before developing the permanent PCB. You would draw out the schematics and connect the wires accordingly.
The centre of the board is the prototyping area that consists of two rows of five holes. A channel runs between the two rows in which you would place a chip with pins on either side to stop them from connecting together. You’ll also find power busses (either one or two) on the side of the breadboard for running power and grounding.
Breadboards are designed for integrated circuits (ICs). You would place an IC chip over the channel, which will allow you access to the pins on either side of the existing chip. Then, you connect a resistor to the power bus into the channel, while taking an LED from the channel to the ground bus to establish the complete circuit.
Breadboard vs PCB
A breadboard is commonly used as the first step before developing a PCB. With a breadboard, you can change and move circuits that are otherwise permanent on a PCB.
- Are easier and quicker to assemble since there are no permanent solder connections.
- You can change the connections to test out different scenarios.
- You can also change different components like the capacitor or resistor value.
- They are limited by its current carrying capacity due to the connections.
- Can reuse to make different circuits.
Printed Circuit Board
- The board is permanent to run an electronic device.
- Better current carrying capacity compared to a breadboard. Traces can be wider for more current to run through.
- Terminals can be added to your PCB for external connections.
- You can make a PCB rigid.
- A PCB has a cleaner look than a breadboard (when manufactured correctly).
- More commonly found in electronic devices.
Should You Use a PCB vs a Breadboard?
There is a time when you would use a breadboard over a PCB, and the other way around. Depending on what you are making and the stage you are at, that will help you decide when to use either a breadboard or a PCB.
When to Use a Breadboard?
You would use a breadboard mostly for experimenting with connections and circuits. Because the board is not permanent, it allows you to move circuits around without damaging the board. However, because it is not a permanent board, the current capacity is minimal and is best used as a pre-step before developing the actual PCB.
When to Use a PCB?
You would use a PCB for the actual electronic device. After you test out the breadboard and find the design best suited for your project, you would then develop that into a PCB. The PCB is a permanent device in electronics because of the soldering required. You would use a PCB to run your electronic project.