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I've read that solderless breadboards cannot handle more than 1 A of current or so. What kinds of alternatives exist to a solderless breadboard? Would a soldered board make a difference if I want to handle something like 5 A of current? What other options are there?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You could use point to point construction (use wiring to connect components to each other directly). \$\endgroup\$ – helloworld922 Aug 29 '12 at 4:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that at 5A many of your components will need heatsinks, or expect to be soldered to the ground plane of a PCB to dissipate heat. \$\endgroup\$ – pjc50 Aug 29 '12 at 8:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the entire project high current? Or only a few paths? \$\endgroup\$ – alx9r Aug 29 '12 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, does it have to be pretty? Is there a size constraint? \$\endgroup\$ – alx9r Aug 29 '12 at 15:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Only one component needs to be operated with that high of a current. I'm using a relay to turn that power source on and off. Maybe I can just take the relay off the breadboard (and use point to point for that), and keep the rest of the components there? \$\endgroup\$ – Mason Aug 29 '12 at 19:14
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If you just need to work fast, I recommend a peice of 1/4" plywood as a project surface. Get a variety of lengths and sizes of wood screw and screw a breadboard, some screw terminal strips, heat sinks, electrical boxes, power supplies, etc (hereinafter Resources) to it. Don't overthink the layout, just make sure it's big enough and has enough Resources. You can fit a lot of stuff into 18"x18". What you're trying to do is create a work area where you're not plagued by bad connections, congestion, and missing Resources.

You should be concerned with fire when working with high currents. Just make sure you can easily disconnect power and keep a working fire extinguisher nearby.

Plywood is flammable. You could use metal but metal is worse in almost every way for this purpose other than flammability. There's usually lots of stuff that can catch fire on a workbench, so you need to heat sink the hot chips properly anyway.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Plywood isn't ESD safe. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Carlton Aug 29 '12 at 16:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BrianCarlton Plywood is no more or less "ESD Safe" than a breadboard or a plastic project enclosure. \$\endgroup\$ – alx9r Aug 29 '12 at 16:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Only particular components need to be operating at 5A. As long as those components don't interact with the breadboard, keeping the rest on the breadboard should be okay, right? (I turn the 5 A current on and off using a relay, which I could take off the breadboard) \$\endgroup\$ – Mason Aug 29 '12 at 19:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mason The general rule you need to follow is that all conductors carrying a current shall be capable of carrying the current. You'll need to do some minimal level of circuit analysis to determine where the high currents could flow. \$\endgroup\$ – alx9r Aug 29 '12 at 19:35
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If the high current path is a relatively short or simple one, you can connect the leads of the components in the high current path with a heavier gauge air wire, shorting the path through the breadboard. This lets you keep the breadboard in place as an anchor for those components and still gives you the option of low current circuit pathing for those leads which carry lower current.

Just make sure that the entire high-current path is covered with the heavier wire. This includes the supply and ground leads -- don't make the mistake of relying on the +/- power strips on the side of the board.

This technique is obviously most helpful when dealing with e.g. DIP, TO-220 package transistors which have a 2.54mm pitch.

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