Is breadboarding dead?

M SimonM. Simon,

I don't breadboard much any more. I do PCB a LOT. Why? Parts are getting too small to be able to kluge something together that will have similar characteristics to the final design. This is especially true of small switching supplies clocking in at over 1 MHz. Unless they are completely self contained. For high precision RF circuits it gets tougher.

A couple of things have driven this trend. Very fast production of circuit boards by the manufacturers and low cost or no cost software for schematic capture and PCB design. And if speed is paramount and it is worth the capital there are machines that will turn out PCBs in hours.

And another helper is SPICE. Can you trust it for final answers? Nope - reality is always different and your model may have overlooked something important to you. But none the less such tools can help steer you in the right direction. So No. I don't breadboard much any more.

Keith CurtisKeith Curtis, Microchip Technology,

It will never happen. The main reasons that breadboarding will never die are really quite simple:

1. As Bob Pease has stated repeatedly, you can’t trust simulation exclusively. You have to verify on the bench.
2. Laying out a board to test out every idea is still too expensive, even in this day of $50 board houses.
3. Board turnaround times are still longer than it takes to push parts into a breadboard.
4. PCB layout packages are very complex, to support complex designs. That means the setup time for new designs is often longer than a quick breadboard.
5. New chips are flexible, and documentation can’t cover every use. So, we still need to try out out-of-the-box ideas before going to layout.
6. Tweaking component values, in a surface-mount design, is both frustrating and destructive to the board.

In the end, having a simple breadboard to try out and tweak a new idea is still a very fast/efficient method for simple to mid-complexity designs; especially mixed-signal designs. It doesn’t replace doing prototype boards, but it is still the easiest method for experimenting with low to mid-complexity design ideas.