Esp8266 - how to get from breadboard to pcb?

Tags: #<Tag:0x00007f7801fd1990>

If your goal eventually is to be able to have PC boards fabbed, then learn KiCad to design your PCBs.

From there, if you want to make the boards yourself, you can use the toner transfer process and etch them. This would be the intermediate step between perfboard/breadboard and a fabbed PCB.

I use the toner transfer process often for one off or prototype PCBs.

My recommendation is “The Art of Electronics” by Horowitz & Hill. That book helped me a lot understanding how electronics work. It’s $40-$90 depending on where you find it. There are also plenty of online resources.
For making PCBs I recommend KiCAD. Free, open source and produces good results. It’s been a while since I used the auto-router but it wasn’t great. I get a lot better results manually. I made a small fan controller with KiCAD and it worked well (pic below). If you are making small boards you can usually find a discount board house that will send you ten boards for $100.
For an intermediate step perfboard isn’t pretty but works well for thru-hole parts. If you want to use surface mount, pretty much stuck with getting a board.
Get lots of practice soldering! Pull apart something made in a factory and look at the joints, yours should look similar. The fan controller is all hand-soldered.

Have fun!

I used a free PCB design tool called Design Spark PCB . Takes a bit to learn, but has lots of library parts including one that I could use for an 8266 module. There are several PCB manufacturers of course, but I went with PCBWays. Although their boards are well priced, the shipping cost from China will probably be more than the boards themselves.

I second the vote for perfboard.

I bought a multipack of different sizes a while back from Amazon and I’m still using those for my NodeMCU projects.

Also get an assortment of pin headers - male and female.

They make soldering easier and then you can still use them to plug things in if necessary. I especially use those for connecting the NodeMCU to the perfboard since it allows me to pull the NodeMCU off the board for programming/debugging/etc.

1 Like

For small quantities and protoyping try one of these: I’ve used them successfully. They also have some larger ones. I’ve also done custom PCBs for the D1 mini e.g.

Good luck and keep asking questions :slight_smile:


No YOU are very ignorant because you have no idea what it actually looks like or how it is mounted or how it functions. There is nothing loose in the box. NOTHING. No moving parts and good solid connections.

Also… I’m 60 so no hope of me maturing any further… there may still be hope for you though.


Thanks for all the great responses!

Perfboards, that’s what I was looking for. I’d like to design a custom PCBs some day, but I am way to inexperienced at this point. Need a way to get before a soldering iron and get something done.

The proto-permaboard from adafruit also sound like a great idea.

@Hellis81 what is a heat shrink and what do you use it for?

heat shrink is plasticy rubbery stuff usually just a little bigger than your wire. You can slip it over a join and the then heat it. It shrinks and protects from other wires, water etc.

Better still , google it. Youtube search it, it kinda need to be seen :slight_smile:

I’ll give you a hint.
Those clips that the breadboard is based on stretch when they are constantly “loaded”.
So it may be true that there is nothing loose and everything has good connections when you built it, but over time the grip is not what it used to be.

Add to this that there is generally no datasheet to breadboards with max ratings of voltage or current.
Some people guess/say 1 amp, others 500 mA.
Either way it’s not much. And compare that to what a ESP chip consumes.

You can find some posts on internet saying that they used a breadboard for years, just like you can find people say they have not used seatbelts for years.
Does that mean it’s safe?

Keep in mind there will be people coming here and reading your post just to bias their own thoughts.
That it’s ok to build on breadboards not caring anything more than that and hooking up circuits of several amps.

All I’m asking is that you at least add a small disclaimer to your post.
If you don’t want to rethink your practice then that is up to you.

I found a nice online cad called easyeda
Lot of component and libraries and they develop for cheap price 2 layer pcb. I like because everything is done from the beginning to the end in the same site and i got 20 of my prototyping boards for 8 dollars :slight_smile:

1 Like


You seem determined to be a rude person despite having been here about 2 months. @DavidFW1960 is a long term and respected member of this community.

That doesn’t mean he is right. But at least back up your claims if you choose to be so damned sure of yourself, and rude with it.


+1 for EasyEDA. I have used this for several boards, most recently an ESP12F board. You can find projects, upload to your workspace and change as needed (probably the same as other services). Mine was built from scratch and I am sure could be improved upon.
It does take time to learn, but is not difficult. Boards are very inexpensive.

I’d definitely recommend checking out something like the velleman kits if you are a beginner (
They are pretty cheap and have loads of kits from super simple to the more complex.
Everything is included with then, just need a soldering iron and follow the instructions.
They will really help you get to grips with soldering different components and start to understand their function.

Feel free to explain how I was rude.
I only explain what the problems with breadboards are.
But sure, I can back it up even more if you want.

Definition of breadboard

Everywhere you read about breadboards they are explained as “temporary”, “experiment”, and “prototype”.
I have read on Wikipedia and a few manufacturers explanations, and none of them use any other wording.
None of them use “long time use”, “permanent” or anything like that, but if you manage to find any wording like that, please post a link I genuinely want to see it.
I have seen Adafruits perma-proto, but that is in my opinion more like a perfboard than breadboard.

The parts that make a breadboard

The breadboard is built up of three main parts. The plastic case, the clips inside the case, and the backplate.
The backplate is supposed to be attached to the adhesive on the back of the breadboard.
Sure, you can use the adhesive to stick the board in a case, but that is not the purpose of the adhesive.


I have known since before that it is hard to find specs but now I really went out to try and find some.
It is hard. I found one manufacturer that listed the max current. All the others I found had no listings at all.
And I looked at resellers, the manufacturers page and the datasheets (if found). Nothing.
However on Wikipedia (I know it’s not a reliable source, especially since there is very little datasheets with information) it says: “Typically the spring clips are rated for 1 ampere at 5 volts and 0.333 amperes at 15 volts (5 watts).”
I believe that most (me included) have bought their breadboard as a no name and have no clue what the rating is.

The clips

The clips inside a breadboard can also be of different quality. Some are better but most of us that has used a breadboard for some time has noticed how the clips sometimes not work as they should.
Sometimes there is no tension at all and sometimes you need to force the pin in there.
These clips work like any other clips, they are forced to a position so that when you insert something you put strain on the clip and the clip grips on.
This also means it works like anything else of similarity, such as springs, paperclips and rubber bands to mention some. All these products will at some point “set” a new default position if under constant load.
Wrap a rubber band around something and leave it overnight and tomorrow it will be slightly larger, same with paperclips and springs.

Because these clips are made of metal there is one thing that can speed up the process of “expanding” them, that is heat.
If you heat up metal at the same time as you put load on it then it will quicker and easier set to this position than without heat.
In this case the heat can come from the current.

If we believe that 1 ampere is the truth, then pretty much any motor plus an ESP chip will be on the limit or above the limit of the breadboard.
Even the smallest servo motors can peak at 7-900 mAh when under load.

The current will create heat that can/could help to set a new position of the clips which means it will not be as tight as it used to be.
This will not happen in one day or perhaps not even a week or month. Who know? But it will happen.

If you are sloppy (I admit I belong here) when pushing in the Dupont wires in an angle, then that could mean it opens the clip more than the width of the pin. If the clip sets in this position, then it will be very loose.

There are dangers in using breadboards for “finished” projects as mentioned above. I am not saying it will all burn but there is a downside to the “easy” way.
Also keep in mind that using them as finished products means you are using them outside the manufacturers/general scope, i.e. they are meant for prototyping/experiments/temporary usage.

To be honest, I believe that if you do not touch the breadboard then nothing bad will happen. If the clips set a new default position and the wires are slightly loose then no harm in that if it is not touched.
But the irony of it all is that enclosing it in a case, which should be the safe way, means you do not see if the cables/parts fall out when/if you move the case.

If you do not agree with this and swear by breadboards can live forever then I will not argue with that, I’m just saying that is outside the scope of the product and there can be dangers with it.
Just like driving without a seat belt. You can be fine all your life doing that (no pun intended), but it can also be deadly on the first drive.

You really have to ask? This:

I do agree with @Hellis81 that mounting breadboards should not be the way to do it. I’m not gonna take a corner about the way he said it.

1 Like

Sure if we take this comment completely out of it’s context then yes, it’s rude.
But if we read the context then it’s in my opinion a fair and honest comment.

Go back further and reread what has been written.

David essentially explains a non recommended way to build with electronics and how shrink tubing makes it look hideous.
That is an indirect comment to my first comment.
Not only is this a method that is not posted anywhere else on the internet (what could that mean? Try and google “breadboard permanent”) but also David completely forgets to write anything about how he did it.
The way it’s posted makes you think of a breadboard with resistors and Dupont cables of excessive length crossing each other, like a typical breadboard looks like.
But also talks down on a common safety accessory, the electrical tape/heat shrink.

This is a bad comment, it can give someone a the idea that this is a good idea with any breadboard design.
Maybe David has glued each trimmed component in the breadboard (?). Great. But that is not delivered to the next person reading it.

My next post is “red flag! You are doing something that might be dangerous” both to David and any other reading here.

What do I get as the response?

Nick… Do you really think this is appropriate when someone tells you that what you are doing is (or could be) unsafe?
“5 volt hasn’t killed me yet”? Really?
Let’s go back in time a few years and read the newspapers.

“Phone on charge exploded”
“House burnt down due to hoverboard”
“2 year old died in the fire from charging a hoverboard”
“Family is now homeless”

And then there is the Samsung phones that was banned from flights on all major airlines.

These products are all 5 volt or lower. Phones that was built by the largest (or second largest) phone manufacturer got banned.
As a hobbyist myself, that humbled me. “if they can mess up that badly…”
And the parts used in a phone/hoverboard is not that different from what people here build.
A motor, display, battery and so on.

But if being a long term and respected member of this community is higher valued than adding a disclaimer that “this is what I have done, not sure if it’s actually safe”, then sure… Whatever…
I’ll just leave it at this point and you guys can do what you want.
But I generally speak up when I hear crazy things. Maybe it’s due to my skydiving instructor background.
You hear someone tell their plans and you just have to drop everything you have at hand and sit down with this person and talk to them until they understand what they are doing.

Nice talking to you two.

1 Like

You can make your point without using the word “ignorant” or telling someone to grow up.

I didn’t dispute your point (I simply don’t know), just the way of making it.

Let’s keep it nice then :slight_smile:

You ignore my questions.
Is it fair to answer someone as David did when you raise a concern about safety?
As I see it, that was a rude comment.
A short comment like that with a… uneducated statement is in my book the same as “eef ju, I know better”.

A better, more polite response from David there would be, “no it’s not unsafe, I have done … to make it safe”.
When you dismiss everything in a few words like that it’s not because you want to be polite.
Alright I could have been the better person and not say ignorant but per definition it’s true:
lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated.

Maybe it’s a language thing. I’m not native English.
But when someone needs a reality check then that is what they will get. You may disagree if you want.

Then understand that what you said was offensive, apologise and move on,

1 Like