Electronics Tutorials

How to Use a Breadboard – What is a Breadboard

How to Use a Breadboard

When you buy a new breadboard, the first question you will ask is; How to use a breadboard.

In this this electronic circuit design tutorial, I will teach you what is a breadboard and how to use a breadboard.

A breadboard is an electronic circuit design tool that is used for making the prototype (a test version) of a circuit design, to test its workability and correctness, before making a permanent design on a printed circuit board (PCB) or a Veroboard (perforated board or stripboard).

A printed circuit board (PCB) is what is mostly referred to as.The copper board you see containing gamut of electronic components in television and radio sets, computers, phones, etc, are PCBs. Vero boards are the handy soldering boards that come either in strips or dots for permanent circuit construction.

Strip and perforated copper boards (Veroboard)
Figure 1: Strip and perforated copper boards (Veroboard)
Figure 2: Printed Circuit Boards (PCB)
Figure 2: Printed Circuit Boards (PCB)

So in this tutorial, we shall learn:

What a breadboard is.

Why is it called a Breadboard

How to use a breadboard

Classes of Solderless Breadboards

Parts of a Breadboard

Breadboard cascade

For a beginner in electronic circuit design, you need to know how to use a breadboard, because, most of the designs you will be carrying out will be done using breadboards.

What is a Breadboard?

A breadboard or technically a solderless breadboard is a cuboid shaped plastic board that contains holes for fixing and connecting the leads and pins of electronic components while designing circuits. Using the breadboard is very easy and convenient. With a breadboard, you do not need to worry about not re-using a component. When you are done prototyping with a breadboard, you can easily remove the components and re-use them later.

A breadboard is always used with jumper wires or banana wires. It is not advisable to put stranded wires into the holes of a breadboard, because the wires may snap while being forced into the holes, which could render the breadboard useless.

A Typical Electronic Prototyping Breadboard.png
Figure 3: A Typical Electronic Prototyping Breadboard.

The above figure is a typical breadboard used for electronic circuit design, the arrow points to a burnt area on the board. This is to let you know that breadboards can get burnt if subjected to a very hot condition.

Figure 2: A few Jumper Wires
Figure 4: A few Jumper Wires

Why is it called a Breadboard

It is called a breadboard because back in the days, people used the board the used in cutting breads to construct electronic circuits using pins, thumbtacks, screws, etc.

Figure 3: A Wooden Breadboard
Figure 4: A Wooden Breadboard
Figure 4: Bread on A Wooden Breadboard.jpg
Figure 5: Bread on A Wooden Breadboard
Figure: A Wooden Breadboard used for Electronic Circuit.jpg
Figure 6: A Wooden Breadboard used for Electronic Circuit

Classes of Solderless Breadboards

Breadboards come in different sizes, shapes and configurations. I personally classified them based on the following criteria:

  • Size and shape
  • Binding post
  • Split  and non split rails
  • Single and dual rails

It should be noted that any breadboard can belong to more than one class. For example, we can have split-dual rails breadboard. i.e., its rails are two and are split.

Classification based on Size and Shape

Different sizes and shapes of breadboards
Figure 2: Different sizes and shapes of breadboards

The image above shows different breadboard sizes and shapes. Breadboards come in different sizes and shapes. You make your choice based on what design you are making. The also come in different colors, as you can see in the image above.

Classification based on Binding Post

Figure 2: A breadboard with binding posts
Figure 8: a breadboard with binding post (courtesy of Tweaking4all.com)

A binding post on breadboard is a wire connection point on a breadboard, that makes easy to connect a power source like a battery or a power supply unit. Some breadboards come with binding posts, while some do not.

Classification based on split and non-split rails

how to use a breadboard
Figure 9: Split rails and non-split rails

The breadboard depicted in figure 9 above shows two breadboards; one with a split and the other without split.

The split causes a discontinuity along the rail. To bridge this discontinuity, you can use jumper wires to connect the two separated rails as shown in the figure below.

Figure 11: The separated rails of a breadboard joined with a jumper wires
Figure 10: The separated rails of a breadboard joined with a jumper wires

Classification based on single or dual rails

A single rail breadboard
Figure 11 A single rail breadboard
Figure 4: Dual rail breadboard
Figure 12: Dual rail breadboard

The rails or buses serve as power supply lines to the breadboard. Some breadboards have just one single power rail on one side of the board, while some have two as shown in the images above.

Parts of a Breadboard

Having taking time to classify the breadboards, let’s now explore the various parts of a breadboard.

Breadboard: How to Use a Breadboard
Figure 13: 3D view of a breadboard showing the two sides
  • The tab fits into the notch when cascading many boards
  • The Rails or Busses are usually where the power supply leads are connected, hence, they are called “Power rails or power Busses”
  • Components’ connection lines are the holes in which electronic components are connected
  • Ravine or Crevasse is the connection discontinuity separation line between the two sides of the board; It helps in affixing integrated circuits(IC) as shown in the figure above to avoid shorting the legs of the integrated circuits..
  • The split separates the rails on the two sides.

Breadboard cascade- How to use a breadboard

With the help of the tabs and notches on the breadboard, we can cascade breadboards to any number we want. The figure below shows three breadboards that have been cascaded into one unit.

Figure 15: Three cascaded breadboards
Figure 14: Three cascaded breadboards

Breadboard Connection – How to use a breadboard

Breadboard Connection
Figure 15: Breadboard Connection

Using a dual split breadboard (figure 15 above) as an example, we can give a brief and easy to understand explanation on the connection of a breadboard.

  • From point 1 to point 2 of the two rails shown above, there is continuity of connection, i.e. all holes from point 1 to point 2 are connected together.
  • Between point 2 and point 3 there is a gap and disconnection or discontinuity.
  • From point 3 to point 4, there is also continuity of connection, i.e. all holes from point 3 to point 4 are connected together.
  • The component connection lines constitute a matrix of holes, here is the clue: looking at figure 15, the holes are continues along the columns and discontinuous across the rows

To give a better pictorial view of the inner connections of the breadboard, the back cover or backing layer of a breadboard was stripped to expose the connections.

Inner view of the breadboard with the backing layer removed
Figure 16: Inner view of the breadboard with the backing layer removed
The backing layer of the breadboard partly removed to show the metallic strip used to design the board
Figure 17: The backing layer of the breadboard partly removed to show the metallic strip used to design the board
The backing layer of the breadboard partly removed to show the metallic strip used to design the board
Figure 18 The backing layer of the breadboard partly removed to show the metallic strip used to design the board

Having gone through this tutorial from beginning to end, I believe you have learnt what a breadboard is, breadboard cascade, how to use a breadboard and more. Leave any question you have in the comment section below.

Suggested reading:

What is a resistor and how to use a resistor
What is a capacitor and uses of capacitors
What is a transistor and how to use a transistor

Image credit: Tweaking4all.com

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