Breadboard Vs PCB: What are the Differences

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Sat, May 08, 2021

Breadboards and printed circuit boards (PCBs) are both widely used in electronics development. What are the differences between a breadboard and a PCB?

breadboard vs PCB

In this post, we are going to discuss the differences between breadboards and PCBs. Each board has its specific pros and cons.

Part 1: What is a PCB

PCB

PCB, also called PWB or circuit card, is a hardware electrical board providing circuit connection and support. Electronic components are soldered on circuit boards permanently. PCBs are usually custom made and here illustrates PCB structure and types.

Part 2: What is a Breadboard

breadboard

Breadboards, also known as protoboards, are single-sided or double-sided solderless boards with holes for putting the terminals of components and wires. You can later change them if needed. Breadboards are not project-specific and readily available.

It is called breadboard because back in the early days, people drove nails or screws onto a wood piece to connect the circuits, and the wood piece was often the one that they cut bread on.

Part 3: Breadboard vs PCB

Breadboards and PCBs are used for different purposes and they are highly different from each other. Below are some differences between the two boards we conclude.

Difference 1: Breadboard can change components and PCB can't because its connections are permanent.

The great difference between the breadboard and PCB is that the breadboard doesn't have to be soldered because its components can be either changed or removed. Is this mean breadboard is better than PCB in this regard? No way. You can't say which is better because they meet different demands.

One point where the breadboard wins is that it has designed slots, which let you plug components that can be changed later. However, the PCB parts are surface mounted and/or through-hole mounted on a circuit board, which is a permanent project.

Note
If you want to change the PCB's component, you have to use soldering, but this can affect the board's performance. So before you have your PCBs manufactured, remember to check your design carefully.

One point where the PCB wins is obvious. Try shaking the breadboard upside down? You will wish its connections were permanent.

Difference 2: breadboards are used in the development phase, and printed circuit boards are used for the end products.

Breadboards are used to test circuits because they are cheaper and you can change their components and test different scenarios. You can buy breadboards easily.

However, PCBs used for end products are customized. Before you have them manufactured, you need to generate Gerber files from schematics, and schematics come from your design. Once PCBs are designed, for a better effect, let a reliable one-stop PCB company manufacture and assemble them. When you get the PCB assemblies, you actually get end products.

Difference 3: PCBs have better carrying capacity than breadboards.

A printed circuit board has a significantly better current carrying capacity compared to a breadboard because its traces can be much wider for more current to run through. Breadboards provide the minimum current capacity to the circuits because the components are connected by wires. Besides, terminals can be added to your PCB to add external connections but can’t to breadboards.

Difference 4: PCBs are much more complex than breadboards.

Compared to PCBs, breadboards have a simple structure. The breadboard consists of distribution buses and groups of holes. A specific channel runs between the two rows, which creates an environment for the chip with pins you can place in there. You can place one or two power distribution buses on the side of the breadboard for grounding and running power.

While different PCBs have different structures, and even the simplest single-layer PCB has a more complex structure than breadboards. The most basic PCB structure contains four layers - PCB substrate, a copper layer, solder mask, and silkscreen. The connection is wireless because the copper traces are placed on the board.

There are other differences between breadboards and PCBs:
  • Difference 5: PCBs can be rigid, flexible, or rigid-flex, and breadboards are rigid.
  • Difference 6: Breadboards serve only to support components mechanically, and PCBs supports and connect the circuitry mechanically and electrically.
  • Difference 7: Different PCBs servers different functions, such as transferring high-frequency radio signals (high-frequency PCB), heat dissipation ( aluminum PCB), etc. Breadboards have no electrical function.
  • Difference 8: PCBs look better than breadboards. PCBs can be in any color, depending on the silkscreen color, such as green, red, blue, black, yellow, etc. Breadboards look almost all the same - a white plastic board with holes.
  • Difference 9: No one wants to buy your electronic design on a breadboard, instead, a well-assembled PCB, which in fact is a product.

Part 4: PCB Or Breadboard, Which is Better

It is hard to determine which board is best because it all depends on your designing phase and needs. Breadboards are cheaper and reusable, so it is your good tool in the early developing stage for circuit test. PCBs definitely come in handy when it comes down to making your electronic device permanent.

Part 5: How to Turn Breadboards into PCBs

Breadboards are the first step before you develop the project to PCBs. When you have an idea and want it to be end products, you would have to create schematics and establish the wiring correctly. Breadboards serve this phase for testing your schematics. After adjusting the breadboard to the desired level of design, you generate the schematics into Gerber files for PCB manufacturing. Then you send Gerber files to a reliable PCB manufacturer to fabricate and assembles your PCBs. In this way, you can convert breadboards into printed circuit boards.

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