EEVblog #168 – How To Set Up An Electronics Lab

hi welcome to the EEV blog and electronics engineering video blog of interest to anyone involved in electronics design I’m your host Dave Jones hi one of the most common questions I get asked from beginners is what do I need to buy to set up a basic electronics lamp do I need all this stuff behind me here what do I need what should I buy what tools and Teske do I need well it’s a very good question I’ve mentioned it often in a lot of my videos but I thought I’d do a complete summary video on just the basic gear you need to get started to make a decent electronics lab not just a lame-ass lab a decent electronics lab now I’ve done countless very in-depth loan videos some up to an hour on the best multimeter and the best oscilloscope to buy and all sorts of stuff so I won’t repeat that here if you want more detail I’ll link the videos down below there check them out you can watch them to your heart’s content this will just be a very quick summary video and the basic stuff you need not real rock-bottom stuff but to set up a decent lab let’s go first up we’ve got basic test gear you’re gonna need for any lab first up is the multimeter now all you have to do is spend 50 bucks on a multimeter like this one and you’re going to get a decent one don’t spend five bucks and there’s no need to spend over a hundred now I recommend that you get not one but two multimeters why because you’re gonna have to measure voltage and current at the same time and how do you know this hasn’t drifted out of spec if you only got one you don’t know if you’ve got another one you do side by side comparisons no worries get spend a hundred bucks $50 each get two multimeters don’t buy those cheapest ones stick to the name brands we’ve got X Tech here and probe BK precision even unity they’re just some basic good brand meters spend 50 bucks I highly recommend this one one way $50 shoot out the ex3 30 from X Tech it’s got all you need it’s got resistance it’s got capacitance it’s got continuity it’s got temperature it’s got current and a good electronics me that should have a micro amp make sure both of your meters have a micro amp range no just milliamps you can need my cramps trust me fifty bucks all you need don’t spend any more it can be important to measure the temperature of our heat sinks components and other stuff in electronics so your multimeter should come with one of these our temperature thermocouple probes if not get one and these little wallet type multimeters very very handy highly recommend you pick up one or two of these they can’t usually cut measure current but they’re so down handy just to throw in a tool pouch and if you’re working with mains voltages at all 110 or 240 volts you must have one of these it’ll save your life one day so voltage detection stick it lights up when it’s close to the mains this is a fluke vote alert not that expensive at all and now but if you bought the multimeter I recommended it’s already got one built-in beauty every good la Chinese labor must have an oscilloscope and two years on I still recommend the RAI Goldie is 1052 e it’s great value for money hard to beat couple others on the market but really don’t touch those USB scopes and don’t touch these little pocket nano oscilloscopes either they’re just rubbish get a decent big scope spend 400 bucks best money you ever spent and if you got the room on your bench I highly recommend picking up a secondhand old-fashioned CRT analog oscilloscope you’ll learn a hell of a lot with one of these babies trust me and 20 megahertz dual channel is all you need some people even give these away for free pick one up ask on forums ask on your local university whatever might better score on for next otherwise about 50 bucks on ebay certainly under 100 bucks can pick you up a twenty or fifty megahertz joule trace 100 megahertz even better any of the major old brands Tektronix HP Hitoshi phillips i go out and kick a soui it doesn’t matter pick one up one of the best buys you’ll ever get trust me and you got to have a way of generating signals sine square triangle basic signals like that you’re gonna need a function generator like this goodwill /in stick one they come in two types this is an analogue one as is this wavetech model 22 I’ve got there basically generate the waveform with the analog or you can get the Newark DDS type which I highly recommend which generate the signals digitally either way 150 bucks and get one of those the in stick one double O 3 at 150 bucks bargain pick one up one with an output frequency of two to five megahertz perfect some of the more advanced ones have modulation capabilities sweep and modulation I am FM stuff like that not absolutely essential but well worth paying for if

you wanted every lab must have a good bench power supply or more importantly a couple of bench power supplies the old adage is you can never have too many power supplies now this is one of the classic projects which you can and you should build yourself you can build them from jump box parts it’s amazing what you can do with just an lm317 and a couple of knobs and you know been going now this one’s are a kit from silicon chip it’s a powered from an external AC plug pack so you don’t have to do worry about doing mains wiring and it’s just selectable output voltages very handy it’s got plus and minus what’s called a dual tracking supply but this one’s not variable fixed output but still very handy and here’s another kit power supply as you can see it’s got a fixed up five volt output here with a load switch load switches are very handy for switching your load off and on you don’t have to disconnect it highly recommend you get them this is a dual tracking supply it’s got ground and positive and negative so as you turn up the voltage you get dual rails that’s great for powering op amps highly recommend you get a dual tracking supply and this one has a separate earth terminal as well so good a good power supply will actually be mains isolated it will have you can tell that by it it has a separate green mains earth terminal and that is essential because it allows you to not only I join your power suppliers in parallel to get extra current but join them in series as well if you don’t have a dual tracking supply you can get two single ones if you had zero on 5 volts here and you had another 0 and 5 it’s both isolated then you could just put them in series flip it around the other way and you get plus minus 5 volts so I highly recommend you build one of these yourself with a load switch and a multi turn pot very important highly recommend you get one that does that because then it allows you to adjust it very finely I don’t like the ones with just the fine and the coarse not not nearly as good and here’s another do-it-yourself kit some power supply once again from silicon chip and it’s got adjustable current limit you can actually set a constant current output very handy and I highly recommend if you’re going to build one that it has our adjustable current capability as well and once again it’s got that multi turn pot you can turn that around ten times to set the voltage output precisely and there’s tons of info out there on building your own power supplies go visit the eevblog forum plenty of info there build him yourself and you’ll get exactly what you want a hundred bucks in parts can build you a couple of really decent lab power suppliers go for it for general le trying to you she don’t need that much high a voltage or higher current I wishes specifically into power stuff things like that a 15 volt supply one amp maximum that’ll do most work that’s plenty aa plus/minus Joule tracking 15 volts that’s a usually as high as op amps will go usually don’t need to go higher than that you see a lot of these are eBay power supplies in JK one’s 30 volts 3 amps very popular you don’t need that much power usually unless you need something specific and they’ve usually only got fine and coarse single turn adjustment pots hopeless you need one of those 10 10 pots make one yourself don’t need to go that higher power if you need a higher power get a specific high power supply just for that next up we’ve got soldering and there’s a lot to solder in really first thing you need is a decent soldering station now do not please do not buy a cheap ass no-name soldering station you will regret it also don’t buy one of those ones which don’t have the base unit there just plugs straight into the mains do not get one of those they’re hopeless spend need to spend over 100 bucks for under 100 bucks you can get a hakko fx-888 small doesn’t take up much foot print on your bench it’s got a lovely stand like this it’s got a cleaning sponge it’s not only got a cleaning sponge but it’s got the other cleaning stuff as well highly recommended probably the most popular soldering station of all time the hakko 936 this is the older model 9 to 6 the 9 3 6 you can still pick up excellent iron pace metcal and Weller their Ursa they’re all decent brands don’t touch anything else whatever you do make sure you’ve got a variable temperature soldering station don’t fall into the trap of getting one of those Weller or other brand ones which are you have to change the chip tip to change the temperature no don’t let anyone tell you different you need a good variable temperature soldering station now you’ll

notice that this hakko fx-888 ly useless don’t get or use these at all make sure you get what’s called one of these chisel or sometimes called screwdriver type tips something that’s about one millimeter wide or 1.5 millimeters wide or even two millimeters something like that it allows you to get much better thermal contact with the pad and you can use these for both through-hole and SMD work as well they’re dual use now normally a hot air rework station like this 18 8 5 8 D would not be on my beginner list but they’ve come down to such a ridiculously low price you can pick one of these up for 60 bucks it’s an absolute no-brainer get one for our surface mount soldering work for heat shrink for all sorts of stuff now solder you might think this is pretty basic just buy a roller solder well don’t this is a huge big trap for young players and they wonder why this soldering is crap it’s because you don’t have the right diameter and the right type of solder I highly recommend standard not lead free stuff standard 6040 or other stuff which I may have a little bit of a silver load as well you’ve got to have a multi-core rosin flux in there as well this is a multi core flux one now one of the keys is that it’s really really thin this is the number one tip I can give you for good solder use incredibly thin solder this is not 0.46 millimeters 26 swg or under anything under noir point five millimeters or not point O two inch is essential don’t use the point eight millimeter or the one millimeter stuff your soldering will be crap you just feed too much on there you can’t control the amount of solder huge tip and one of these solder spool stands I highly recommend I wouldn’t say they’re essential but a really nice touch allows you to work really easy another essential item that you’re going to need a lot of is what’s called solder wick now this is a multi-core brand I highly recommend it and it’s two point two millimeters are with they coming different width type so you may want to stock a couple I like arm this is a good general purpose one you can get a fine and you can get bigger for bigger work but it doesn’t last very long so you’re going to need multiple spools of this and make sure that’s quality brand don’t buy a crap brand this one’s actually a flux coated one which and ensures that it will work crap brands do not work and you wonder why solder wick is a load of garbage get a good brand and you’ll be a winner if a through my work you’re really going to need one of these solder suckers highly recommend it pick one up they’re only about five bucks no-brainer another essential item if you’re into our SMD work is one of these flux pins this is an electrode Lube brand it doesn’t really matter what brand you get but it basically is like a felt-tip marker and allows you just to wipe flux directly onto the board before you put chips down highly recommend you get one and absolutely essential for SMD work is a pair of good quality fine straight tweezers like this very large opening wide opening like that very sharp point straight it’s important to get a nanny magnetic and stainless and these anti-acid and all sorts of things they don’t cost much at all and you can get them in that sets like this and these curved ones are kind of handy in different types but really you can do most work with just a basic set of tweezers like that now soldering can be dangerous in a couple of ways one is solder slash make sure you’ve got a decent pair of goggles like this the next is the solder fumes and the and the flux fumes as well not only from this but also from the earth the soldering iron but from the solder braid as well and the boards and other stuff now there’s no need to get a proper paste fume extractor like this one with the charcoal filter or a high Cobra and one they’re reasonably expensive just a simple art 12 volt DC fan sitting on the side of your bench that just blows air across your bench and blows those fumes away as long as your room is open then you’ll be just fine but pay attention to safety and because the surface mount components these days are so darn small it’s important to have vision equipment now you don’t need a nice big Olympus stereo microscope like this that I’ll set you back at least a couple of hundred no need for that or even not one of these professional mantis eyepieces which I’ve got here just a reading though just inspecting that solder joints after you’re done and reading component markings on ICS and stuff like that one of these times 10 Jewelers loops just fine or a lot of people just use these are simple $25.00 head mount um magnifying glasses that’s all you need really and those bench mount a magnifying lamps like the Maggie

brand lamps they’re pretty good too but I highly recommend you get a 5 diopter one the three diopter ones I don’t think I cut it and the built-in art lights are quite handy as well but really there’s no need to go for that expense if you don’t want to as a general rule for inspecting SMD work you’re going to need at least at times 4 preferably x 6 or x 8 for doing really fine surface mount soldering work and in electronics you’ll be dealing with a whole bunch of different cables and interconnects so these kind of are little adapt is here quite handy you’ve got standard banana plug the BNC and vice versa 50mm terminators for coax a BNC to RCA and all sorts of stuff like that t pieces just very handy perform screwdrivers the most essential hand tool on the electronics bench is a pair of side cutters now you don’t have to spend a hundred bucks to get a pair of these um Swiss Lindstrom brand colors okay these you know a ten dollars for a good pair of made in USA EXA light ones brilliant or even cheap J Calvin’s not a problem get a couple of them these ones with a nice spongy handle look quite nice the most essential thing with the pair of side cutters is to make sure that this backside here is completely flat or flush that the blades close completely flush and that allows you to cut things off flush with the board or allows you to it’s better when you’re stripping wires and all sorts of things that’s a key make sure you get a pair like that and of course you need some pliers as well a big standard pair a big standard pair of needlenose but it’s also important to get a pair of very fine needle nose pliers like that very handy for electronics work and a smaller a blunt nosed pair and there’s another pair of needlenose very important to get a range of those now there’s various types of wire strippers on the market from these old-fashioned standards are t-rex ones they’re not bad at all our Tyrannosaurus Rex two more sort of our most of the professional ones that have fixed size wires on there are these really cheap and nasty combination wire stripper and crimp it but most of the time I find I just use the pair of side cutters and you’re going to want a nice little set of ours spanners like this for doing up our plots and things on front panels allen key of course and just a whole bunch of that general purpose tools that you’ll find it you’re like well we’re store for next to NYX in electronics you simply cannot live without a hot glue or a hot melt or sometimes called a hot snot gun it just has so many million and one uses in electronics projects to stick things together stick boards down do whatever get one a couple of other items you’re going to want just a basic cart set of various size shape files and for doing front panels I highly recommend you get one of these nibblers it allows you to you drill a hole in the front panel and this will then allows you to needle out shapes in your front panel square cutouts things like that great no lab is complete without an exacto knife which is a brand name this is actually a EXA light one but ones with the replace or scalpel as they’re called ones with the replaceable blade a nice good quality one different types of blades absolutely essential for our cutting traces in that PCBs and rework and things like that god I have one you’re always having to measure stuff in electronics so it’s important to get a proper engineering ruler not one of those cheap ass plastic ones from the stationery store this is a proper engineering ruler which is standard at a certain temperature it’s got our Imperial on one side and metric on the other half a millimeter graduations various other graduations on here as well in the Imperial scale you can get that nice at 6-inch rule like this and get a set of that vernet digital vernier calipers like this are only about 20 bucks and of course you have to take stuff apart and screw things up so it comes to screwdrivers you need tons of screwdrivers standard set of jaws screwdrivers of course you need your basic art Phillips and flathead ones and you need these are combination slash our security sets with all the different types of bits you’ve got you know you’ve got stalks you’ve got security talks with the hole in the center you’ve got tri wings you’ve got hex nuts security hex nuts all sorts of things don’t skimp on screwdrivers and it can be handy to magnetize and demagnetize your screwdrivers for picking up screws and if you always adjust in trim pots and things like that and our trimmer capacitors sometimes that you can’t use a metal one it’ll upset it so you need these plastic ones and don’t forget Dave CAD available instead

and widescreen version he tricks important too you can get various sizes in mix packs like this and to do borrow and get yourself a set of our crimp terminal connectors as well you’re going to need leads and lots of them all types alligator clip – Spade terminal you’re going to need a B and C – alligator clip you’re going to need B and C – banana plug and female BNC – alligator clip banana plug – banana plug you go want these alligator clip attachments for your multimeter real handy you’re going to want these alligator clip – alligator clip leads like these you’re going to want BNC to be in c legs like that various ones of those and these i’ve got heaps of which i find really useful I just start simple banana plug – alligator clip leads I’ve got heaps you can plug them into your multimeters and their power suppliers whatever don’t forget various types of tapes electrical tape duct tape masking tape double-sided tape vinyl teeth whatever you’re going to need wire and lots of it standard art small you know 8 strands by point 1 millimeter stranded stuff larger thicker stuff solid core stranded you’re going to add some of this rainbow ribbon the cable very handy you can break it up use it for all sorts of stuff very handy stuff wire wrapping wires and very small stuff I’ve got some 30 AWG comes in various colors great for modding circuits and things like that that’s a solid core and really small stuff you can get into individual legs on ICS and modify stuff and we’ve got the tin copper wire as well it looks like solder but it’s not it’s actually solid core tinned copper without a doubt you don’t have an electronics lab unless you have one of these traditional bread boards for building up your prototype circuits on a standard double sized one like this will do just great maybe get it maybe get two of them or something like that and make sure you pick up some of these are pre-cut are pre shaped jumper wire kits as well they’re real handy they can save you a lot of time but you can buy the us the right size solid core wire in reels and strip your own if you like and the other traditional way to build up prototype circuits is without very bored or sometimes called strip board and it’s basically just that single sided board with copper strips going all the way down you can get sort of fancy ones with little cutouts for various components and stuff but just a standard variable like this get tons of it and if you’re really into very bored prototyping get one of these are very board cutters as well allows you to just get in there and go to just twist it and it order and instantly cuts out one of the strips two essential items in any electronics lab some electronic cleaning solvent like this and an air duster and here’s a little tip for you if you turn your air duster spray upside down like this it becomes a freezer spray so you don’t have to buy freezer spray it allows you to freeze down components on your board to aid in troubleshooting and if you can afford it get yourself a dremel there’s nothing like having 30,000 rpm to do some serious damage every good lab needs a range of components now these component kits that some of them might be a little bit expensive but they’re well worth getting this is an inductor kit or surface mount inductors this is a bunch of surface mount capacitor kit you can get these cheap on eBay and a bunch of surface mount resistors as well and of course you’ve got to have a component collection of through-hole resistors and through-hole capacitors these through-hole resistors I sort mine into e 12 series so 10 12 15 18 and all the various values go into there so 33 will have 33 ohms 330 ohms you know 3k 333 k 330k all that sort of stuff so divide them up like that into your component cabinets and you’re going to want a basic selection of other parts as well we didn’t get grab bags from various suppliers or you can buy them in 10 over 100 of quantity quite cheaply you can get mixed bags on eBay and you get capacitors of all sorts a ceramic electrolytic tantalum monolithic a various types of LEDs you kind of want a whole bunch of voltage regulator 7805 lm317 s you’re going to want two standard transistors NPN PNP type some general-purpose ones power and signal types MOSFETs you’re going to watch our header connectors you want these live type and single inline header connectors you want various I say is 4000 series logic 74 series logic basic op-amps and things like that triple five timers you just collect all these things over time and to protect your bench and minimize our ESD as well you might want one of these a mistake work them out so they come with these studs and the attachment wire to go off to main serves just to dissipate that static I get a little a basic anti-static wrist strap

like this and really they are quite nice but they do come in several types the cheap ones can actually burn quite easily with the soldering iron where as this up blue mat is quite one I’ve got in here with a conductive rubber back in on it is very expensive stuff which you can’t burn with the soldering iron but it’s well worth it to protect your bench and do ESD now I’ve also got one of these earth bonding points on here as well as which I attached to my bench and that goes off to mains earth it just allows me to plug the anti-static wrist strap into there and I can just come and go as I please to more essential items you’re going to need a bin for throwing in all your failed projects because that’s how you learn electronics you build stuff you fail you toss them out and you try again and don’t forget if fire extinguisher so there you have it that’s just a quick look at a basic setup for a good solid electronics lab sure you can get by on a lot less than that everyone starts off with just a multimeter a pair of side cutters in a Dickey soldering iron but if you get all that stuff in there then you’ve got a really good solid electronics general-purpose electronics workshop you can use for pretty much anything and you’ll acquire more specialized tools as you go along you might find needle logic analyzer and I respect your man eliezer microcontroller development tools all sorts of stuff and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a whole bunch of other stuff and if you think I have hop on over to the EEV blog forum at AEV form comm and discuss it I’m sure it’ll be red-hot arguing over what should be in a good Tektronix lab but there’s some basics Adelaide around and I thought I’d show you I hope that helps you out I’ll catch you next time have fun with electronics and don’t forget to subscribe to my youtube channel if you want to get the email alerts as soon as new video comes out it’s a subscribe button up there somewhere do it so yeah you