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My Top Ten Most Useful Breadboard Tips and Tricks

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There's 6 inches of snow on the ground, and you're cooped up in the house. You have momentarily lost your motivation to work on your GPS-guided metal-cutting laser. There haven't been any new projects on your favorite site which have piqued your interest. What to do with yourself?

Well, how bout pimping up your breadboard and turning it into a lean, mean, digital-development machine?

This is a short list of the most useful breadboard tricks that I have picked up over the years. Hopefully there's something in here that you will find useful which you haven't already thought of.

Ok, I don't really have 10 tips to share; it just makes for a catchier title. :P





 
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Step 1: Power connector

Well, the first thing that a breadboard needs is power. Many breadboards come with binding posts. This is fine if you care to use them. But you still have to plug the wires into the board. I have messed this part up on occasion, mixing up the power and ground wires. Even though rare, this has usually resulted in rather annoying and/or expensive consequences. The solution I came up with is to always use 3-pin connectors.

See the following picture. It's made from SIP header pins and protoboard. After point-to-point wiring, it is covered with sculpting epoxy.

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churchjw made it!7 months ago

Made a set of the LEDs. One set with 220 ohm for 3 volt range. Painted them purple. The other set uses 470 ohm for 5 volt range. Painted them yellow so I could tell the different ones apart easily. Each part uses 2 LEDs one on each side. Painted the negative end black and the positive end red so orientation is easy. The aluminum block was used to hold the legs while soldering. Also made some push buttons like these. Really great post and great ideas. I had never tried surface mount components before and this was a great chance to try it. Thanks.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/24370911@N08/sets/72157643186888614/

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aamonster8 months ago

Nice tips.

About LED boards: I think it's a good idea to solder two LEDs (e.g. red and green) in opposite direction (so if you put them between 2 microcontroller pins you do not need extra line to ground). I'm going to make a few of such microboards for experiments with FPGA board (it have 2-rows pin headers - so it's easy to connect such a microboards with 2-pin female header without using breadboard and wires)

I am totally envious of your soldering skills.
klee27x (author)  The Green Gentleman10 months ago

When your fingers become immune to soldering burns, you can do a lot of impossible stuff. :) It is also immensely helpful to have the right tools.

1. Lead solder

2. Use acid flux where you need to. Zinc chloride plumbers flux. It must be washed thoroughly, because it's conductive and corrosive. But when you can't get the connections you want any other way, there's nothing to lose, is there?

3. Get yourself a fiberglass scratch brush for cleaning contacts/pads.

4. Pair of locking surgical forceps for holding things

5. Tweezers

6. Good lighting!

adennen10 months ago
great ideas thanks!
iceng1 year ago
Nice Tips
yaly1 year ago
use staples as jumpers, run thin wires in the groove in the middle of the breadboard (under DIP ICs), excellent ible !
The LEDs and pullup resistors are pure genius. I don't use buttons much usually. I know how daunting is the task of connecting those ICSP wires each time, so for ICSP with AVR(greetings from AVR universe to PIC universe), I made ArrDrownHo! (I have an instructable for that). Attaching the programmer to the breadboard was also great, but then I always prefer working with my latest and shiniest breadboards :)
azharz1 year ago
Thank you. Awesome tips and tricks!
Created an account just to tell you how much I love that "pluggable" LED/ componant tip.
Brilliant!!
Other good stuff too :)
klee27x (author)  Mrmorton1031 year ago
Thanks Mrmorton. Just be warned lest you consider making an instructable. It's completely addictive. The best part is the ease of adding little text boxes to the pics, and having them accessible online from any computer or phone. Sometimes I find myself referring back to my own instructables to figure out how to fix my own stuff. :)
dmanmoka2 years ago
Thanks gread idea...but whats the password for the video? :)
klee27x (author)  dmanmoka2 years ago
I changed the link. It should play without a password, now. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.
TampaGeek3 years ago
Great stuff! But the link to your video for the LED "headers" doesn't work. :( It's asking for a password to a private Photobucket account. I'd really like to see how you did those.
tim1273 years ago
what is the difference between a pullup resistor and a regular resistor
klee27x (author)  tim1273 years ago
"Pullup" is descriptive. I just means that the resistor is used to pull a high impedance input pin (that would otherwise be floating) to the power rail. The pullup/down resistor is quite commonly used, often for input pins or for open-drain outputs.

It would be impractical to try to make a set of resistors that would work for all your analog uses. There, you using a wide range of resistances which are often specifically tailored to produce exact voltages. But for the common pullup/down, 10k will pretty much work, anywhere.
axeman9113 years ago
awesome really helpful thanx!
coleyy3 years ago
push the foam back in and tape or glue it
fritsie1235 years ago
Those little PCB's for your bread board are commonly called "BreadOut" boards. For some other examples see: http://www.startronics.nl/?page_id=39

Nice job on the InCircuit Programmer, by the way!
PKM fritsie1235 years ago
Are the ones for inputs call InBread? /terrible pun Every time I see a project like this it makes me want to get my own breadboard/IC stuff and start hacking on electronics. Maybe a trip to Maplin is in order while it's still winter...
I recommend frys.com for breadboards; they have one for $6 that is about half the size of the one in this instructable, and they can lock together to make bigger sizes. They're cheap enough that I usually just leave projects on them instead of transferring to a soldered breadboard. Here's a link to it:
http://shop3.frys.com/product/4612388;jsessionid=CVZB6s0oXjB6nv7dFdydxg**.node3?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN_RSLT_PG
klee27x (author)  dreadengineer5 years ago
Yeah, I have one project that is permanently breadboarded. It covers an entire double breadboard, and I just don't want to redo it! For anything much smaller I usually like to solder something together. And by "like" I mean I actually enjoy soldering, for what it's worth.

If you go through a lot of these, you might wanna try these guys:
http://www.mpja.com/prodinfo.asp?number=4443+TE.

I just love this company. The customer service is excellent.
Just out of curiosity, what is your residential solderless-breadboard project?
klee27x (author)  klee27x5 years ago
um, for some reason the link doesn't work. Enter "breadboard" into the search engine and you'll find it. Same thing for $4.95, as of 2/8/09. $3.95 per for 10 or more.
mummywan4 years ago
Hahaha.. Nice one! i've learned a lot! THANKS very much .
Green stuff FTW!
Arduino Guy5 years ago
i dont think that tape alone will hold the small clips in the breadboard. shouldn't there  be more stuff to hold the clips? because there will be a drop because the foam is taken away and it probably it will be hard to insert wires.
klee27x (author)  Arduino Guy5 years ago
I dunno. I have used this type of breadboard without any backing at all, and have never inadvertently pushed out a clip.

I've intentionally removed clips, before. So I can tell you they are wedged in there pretty tight. You CAN push them out from the front, using a needle vice. But I bet you can't pop one out with a jumper wire (or a needle) using just your bare hands - meaning no pliers or thimble!

(If you ever really want to remove one, it's a lot easier to pry them out from the back using a small jeweler's screwdriver. :))
geeklord5 years ago
sheesh, i wihs my soldering was that nice...
klee27x (author)  geeklord5 years ago
Actually, anyone should be able to solder this well. My equipment is cheap and my technique is lazy. I use a crutch. I use zinc chloride flux wherever I can get away with it. This is regular old plumber's flux... acid-core stuff that's traditionally a no-no for electrical work. It produces weak hydrochloric acid when heated. This means it is corrosive to ferrous metals, but it's fine for copper and solder.

Using this strong flux, I can get away with bad soldering techniques, like picking up a blob of solder and transferring it to the fluxed joint. And things that would normally take 4 hands can be done with just 3.

The main thing to watch out for is that it's conductive when wet. If you use too much and leave excess residue on your circuit, it will cause problems if it gets wet (and it's somewhat hygroscopic to make matters worse). Luckily, it's water soluble, so it's usually pretty easy to wash off when you overdo it. But you have to take care not to get too much of it underneath smd parts, or it might be impossible to get to.

I use a small syringe or the tip of a broken Q tip to apply it sparingly. When working on ferrous metals, I wipe them with a damp cloth immediately afterwards.
ok, i don't even use flux. Does it help that much?
I use solder with an flux core, I am quite surprised that is it unsuitable for electronic work!
klee27x (author)  Plasmana5 years ago
There are different kinds of flux. Rosin flux is the most common one for electronics work. It leaves a sticky residue which is noncorrosive and nonconductive. But the active acid is abeitic acid, which is very weak. It works only on copper that's pretty clean to begin with and doesn't work at all on many other metals. There is a spectrum of available soldering fluxes for electrical work which have a combination of fluxes. The more aggressive ones have more "activated flux" vs rosin flux. Zinc chloride happens to be an one of the activated fluxes that is used in some electrical solder. They just don't add very much and combine it with other fluxes. So I guess that's what I'm doing. I use rosin-core flux and add a dot of zinc chloride where I know it'll help... which is practically everywhere.
klee27x (author)  klee27x5 years ago
The other thing is that fluxes are quickly dried out when touched by your soldering iron. So by placing flux on the joint, not inside the solder itself, you gain the ability to bring a blob of solder to the joint with the tip of the iron. The dried out solder is instantly revitalized by the flux at the joint.
Wow, it sounds like strong flux makes job easier... With the strong flux, is it possible to solder onto aluminum and/or iron? Also, where can I find strong flux?
klee27x (author)  Plasmana5 years ago
No to aluminum. Iron and steel are a yes. You can easily solder to battery cases, nails, screws, etc. You can also do weak structural soldering with a torch, although it is very weak compared to brazing. And remember to wash your joints promptly when using acid-core flux on ferrous metals. You can buy zinc chloride flux in a white hocky-puck looking container at home improvement stores next to the propane torches. If it dries out, add some water and stir it with a wooden stick. A supply of tooth picks or wooden Q tips is the best applicator. You do not want to smear it across an entire row of connections like other electrical fluxes. You want to just dot each pad/trace. A small plastic syringe is also handy - one with large tip so you can stick component leads right or small wires right into the end.
Okay, thank you for telling me all of this useful information! I will try find the flux for a easier life on soldering! :-)

Also, why solder don't stick to aluminum? Is it because of its strong oxide layer?
klee27x (author)  Plasmana5 years ago
No, it's because solder doesn't stick to aluminum, oxidized or not. You're welcome. Just don't complain to me if you use it to solder a bunch of 0603 1Mohm smd resistors and it screws up your circuit. Use some common sense where you apply it. DIP stuff and low impedance smd stuff, only. :P
przemek klee27x5 years ago
> No, it's because solder doesn't stick to aluminum, oxidized or not. Well, me and Mother Nature disagree :) Drop by my pad and I'll show you my aluminum solder joints, done by the under-oil technique. For instance I soldered a light switch to a bendable aluminum low voltage lighting track, so that the switch is integrated with the fixture.
ste5442 klee27x5 years ago
Yes, I've used conductive flux by accident in the past - you end up with a 1Mohm/sq inch conductive blanket over everything!
Nothing a bit of IPA can't remove though ;-)

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