The objective of this series of posts is to list some electronic components and devices useful for makers and hobbyists that can be bought by very low prices at eBay. Many times, we can find those devices at a much lower price than in many specialized stores, making them affordable to more people.
In this particular post, we will list 3 basic components of electronics prototyping kits: breadboards, power supplies and wires. Although they can be found at many places, eBay offers a wide range of cheap alternatives with decent quality for a basic kit.
At eBay, there are lots of breadboard types available. One of my favorites is shown in figure 1 and it can be bought by less than 2 euros. This breadboard has 830 tie points and 4 power rails (the 2 pairs of rows in the sides are divided in the middle).
Although the breadboard mentioned above is a very good option for generic electronics kits, there are also many other options with different sizes. On good example is the breadboard with 170 tie points, shown in figure 2, which can be bought by less than 1 euro. This breadboard is ideal for more compact designs.
Jumpers and cables
One of the objectives of using a breadboard is to avoid the need for soldering when creating electronic prototypes. So, it makes sense to have cables that are easy to use with those breadboards.
At eBay, we can find a wide range of cheap cables that are designed to be easily attached and removed from breadboards. Figure 3 shows an example of male jumpers with metallic tips that fit the holes of breadboards. Since those metallic tips are harder than the regular copper wires, we can easily insert and remove them without damaging the breadboard.
A kit of 65 of those wires can be bought by less than 1.5 euros and it typically includes different wire sizes and colors.
Of course that female jumpers are also available and cost approximately the same.
One solution that I don’t recommend is to buy the male-to-female or male wires that are composed by female wires with a metallic tip attached, as shown in figure 4. In the samples that I used, those metallic tips were not soldered to the female wires, resulting in poor electrical contacts.
It’s important to take in consideration that the quality of the cables described is not the best. Many times, the connectors tend to get damaged by normal use and sometimes the plastic headers detach from the wires. So, although this is a very cheap and good solution for most simple projects, we need to consider the use of more expensive and robust wires when testing more sensible designs.
In order to supply power to our electronic designs, eBay offers a wide range of cheap solutions, from generic to breadboard adapted power supplies.
One of the cheapest and more reliable models that I’ve been working with is the mb102, which can be bought by less than 1 euro. It can supply 3.3 and 5V levels and its dimensions are compatible with the breadboard shown in figure 1. Check here for more details about the mb102.
There are also many adjustable power supplies. One good example is the LM2596 based power supply, shown in figure 5, which can be manually adjusted to output different voltage levels. As before, this power supply can be bought by under 1 euro.