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Ask Slashdot: What Equipment and Furniture For an Electronics Hardware Lab?

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the 100-gross-self-sealing-stem-bolts dept.

Hardware 208

bartoku writes "Slashdot, what would you put in your dream electronics hardware lab? I am putting one together, and I'm looking for suggestions on everything from equipment to furniture. My aim is for a professional-grade setup, not just a hobby lab. The goal is to be able to test and debug modern electronic device prototypes. I would love to see money-is-no-objective suggestions alongside more economically practical solutions. Links or contacts for good distributors to acquire the equipment and furniture are also welcome. I'm also interested in commentary on renting versus buying new or used higher-end equipment to be economical and keep up with equipment that will become obsolete quickly."

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There's a great Australian with the answer (5, Informative)

RaySnake (607687) | about 2 years ago | (#41604715)

Check out David Jones' EEVblog, particularly episode 168. []

Re:There's a great Australian with the answer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605081)

I'm surprised an Australian wouldn't include a penis pump on his list. Heck, at least a fleshlight.

Re:There's a great Australian with the answer (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#41605257)

Get a chair/floor that molten solder doesn't stick to.

Also, make sure you get a few bunny suits to wear while you're working. You want to look the part, right?

Debugging prototypes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41604719)

Isn't most "debugging" done in simulation software before you make a prototype?

Re:Debugging prototypes? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 years ago | (#41605389)

Yes, in the imaginary world where simulations are perfect.

Depends what you're working on... (4, Insightful)

wisewellies (2749169) | about 2 years ago | (#41604727)

There are a number of pieces of equipment which should be in any lab setup - e.g. oscilloscope, voltmeter/ammeter, decent bench power supply, soldering iron and proper illumination. What you need after that will depend much more on the kind of electronics that you want to work on - digital, analogue, RF etc. Each needs a different set of equipment. Personally, I work in the digital domain, and find a fast logic analyser invaluable for diagnosing difficult problems. I would also include a dedicated bench computer (or two), and large, deep benches with overhead shelves. You can't have too much space. Of course the most important piece of equipment is your brain - no piece of equipment is going to replace your ability to think through a problem.

Re:Depends what you're working on... (5, Funny)

xQx (5744) | about 2 years ago | (#41604887)

You also will need the following:

1. A van der graaf generator
2. A very powerful degaussing Coil
3. A glass still

1. Because if you're spending heaps of time in an electronics lab, you're sometimes going to have visitors and it never hurts to show them something theatrical.
2. Because you never know when you need to destroy information.
3. Because if you're testing and doing R&D on electronics stuff for any length of time, you will know it doesn't always work the way it should, and for those instances a home-made stiff drink never goes astray.

Re:Depends what you're working on... (1, Informative)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | about 2 years ago | (#41605069)

1 is ok, but a Tesla coil or Jacob's Ladder would be a better bet.

Re:Depends what you're working on... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#41605269)

Also a lab coat, some burnt corks for face-blacking and plenty of hair gel.

Re:Depends what you're working on... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#41605429)

I nearly forgot.... make sure to leave at least two feet between the lightning conductor coming down from the roof and any electrostatic sensitive devices.

Re:Depends what you're working on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41604891)

Most importantly ... a Jacobs ladder for setting the mood!

Re:Depends what you're working on... (3, Informative)

ebbe11 (121118) | about 2 years ago | (#41604949)

To this have added:
  • AC Outlets with real earth ground
  • A grounded ESD conductive mat

Re:Depends what you're working on... (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 years ago | (#41605399)

A opposed to fake earth grounded mains? Houses usually have a 2 metre earthing rod shoved in to the ground...

Re:Depends what you're working on... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#41605409)

Houses usually have a 2 metre earthing rod shoved in to the ground...

Does that work in very dry places?

Re:Depends what you're working on... (0)

shiftless (410350) | about 2 years ago | (#41605655)

How would he know? Obviously he possesses little real knowledge about grounding system, and only chimed in here to be a pedant.

Re:Depends what you're working on... (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41605777)

Houses usually have a 2 metre earthing rod shoved in to the ground...

Does that work in very dry places?

UFER ground basically bond to the rebar in the concrete floor. Concrete, you see, covers a rather large area, like the size of the house, and fundamentally never really dries out (well, maybe in the deepest desert, but what idiot lives there). This has the charming feature of sometimes physically exploding when lightning hits... and the only way to really know if it'll blow up or not is to personally bond the rebar (arc welding rebar together is not going too far) and pour the slab yourself...

Also if you think a 2 meter rod gets pounded into the ground when no one's looking and you've got a way to chop it in half therefore much less than 1/2 the labor, I got a bridge to sell ya

Re:Depends what you're working on... (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 2 years ago | (#41605713)

A opposed to fake earth grounded mains? Houses usually have a 2 metre earthing rod shoved in to the ground...

There is also a method where you dig a copper ring [] around the house. But yeah, I suppose there are differences by countries and buildings of how it is done.

Re:Depends what you're working on... (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41605763)

A opposed to fake earth grounded mains?

Yes exactly. A "3-hole outlet" will work perfectly well at powering things if you don't hook up the ground. Its ungrounded, but you won't find out until something shorts to a chassis and you get electrocuted.

Another prime failure mode for older houses is relying on conduit for ground path and having j6p previous loanowner replace or remove a chunk of the conduit leading. No more ground anymore.

One funny failure mode of conduit grounds is not being able to source/sink 15 amps to blow the circuit breaker. Been there seen that. So hot wire shorts to chassis, resistance of the ground path is so immense from poor/corroded connections that it only drops 10 amps or so, until the fire starts or someone gets electrocuted anyway.

Finally IF you're doing analog or analog-ish stuff and you think grounding will cut down on noise, a "bad ground" might act as an antenna and make it even worse.

You can buy a little plug in doohickey from home depot or whatever that costs like $5 full of neon bulbs that will tell you if an outlet has power, if the outlet has hot-neutral reversed, and if theres a ground. You could build one in about 10 minutes using a little project box and a fat stack of 120 volt lamp/indicators/neons/whatever. The point being that you better not have 120VAC between neutral and ground, etc.

I would estimate from experience that given "normal lifestyle" with J6P fooling around with his own house wiring that about 5% of outlets will get mis-wired per decade, unless J6P had an electrician buddy or was smart enough to drop $5 on the little outlet tester lamp thingy.

So now that I've explained how having a 3-prong outlet doesn't mean you have a ground at all, we can move on to explaining exactly how, why, and when you need an isolation transformer on your test bench. The answer is short, if you can't explain, in detail, exactly whats going on WRT ground loops or floating gear to do HV work, you are not supposed to be using that stuff (TLDR is sometimes "grounded" test equipment needs to be "ungrounded", although its somewhat risky sometimes its the only way).

Re:Depends what you're working on... (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 2 years ago | (#41605699)

AC Outlets with real earth ground

Though you will want to have one or two adapter plugs (cheaters) [] lying around, to bypass the earth ground in certain equipment. I have run into problems where my scope's earth ground caused problems in circuits I was trying to measure. For certain things, it is fine to have equipment floating. I would not recommend that for your power supply! Better would be to have a power supply that had isolated outputs, with an additional connection available for earth ground.

Re:Depends what you're working on... (3, Informative)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about 2 years ago | (#41605863)

A real ground is nice, but if you are working with an ESD strap, please make sure to have all the bench outlets on GFCI!!

Don't do anything really really stupid like driving a ground rod just for your lab and tying your ground pin to that; make sure it is bonded to the main ground.

Good luck (2)

solidraven (1633185) | about 2 years ago | (#41604745)

Well, obviously you might want to avoid metal. You can get these great plates for lab table surfaces made from some sort of ceramic. It's heat resistant and pretty tough, which is really necessary if a SMPS decides to hit the self destruct button. For soldering, just get a wooden board to protect the surface from direct impact with a soldering iron.
Miniature drawer cabinets are important and actually rather expensive, especially those that can be stacked.
Good soldering irons (more than one!) are a must obviously. Get both an analog and digital scope with at least 2 channels each. More is better. Personally I like putting a computer near my electronics workbench to view schematics, considered investing in a large TV for that but I'm a bit short on cash for that.
You want several supplies, current limited and not. Isolation transformers, a good variac, signal/function generators.
Good to have as well are an impedance meter/Q meter, network analyser, spectrum analyser and logic analyser. Especially the latter is worth considering, you can get pretty cheap versions these days that you hook up to a computer. For the other devices I advice stand alone versions cause it's really a lot easier while measuring if you can play with the knobs to home in on what you actually need. If you have more than enough money also get one of those microcontroller programmers with several sockets, that thing has saved my life more often than not.
Anyway, good luck!

Overhead Shelves w/gap for cable, power points (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605145)

Second the overhead shelves *but* make sure you leave a gap or cutout for the power cords... great for CRO, Logic Analyser, signal generator etc
Also, on the power front, at least four power points per bench - about mid way between the bench and the overhead, probably ethernet etc too. If you have a side rack for a PC or something, you need a couple there too; oh, don't forget the cutout from the side shelf to the bench for cables.
On the bench surface, you can get this goo that sets slightly squishy that is non-slip and mildly conductive (ie: not a dead short, but dissipates ESD) - you make a flat bench with a lip on the front (stops stuff rolling off) and then poor the goo in to a depth of about 5mm.
Nice lighting (maybe under the overhead shelf) and ventilation - hard to retrofit.
Someone suggested a shielded room - that's easy enough to do if you expect to do RF stuff.

Re:Overhead Shelves w/gap for cable, power points (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41605841)

Someone suggested a shielded room - that's easy enough to do if you expect to do RF stuff.

For gods sake man no CFLs. I had a huge battle about installing LEDs in my workroom instead of slightly cheaper CFLs. CFLs suck if you're doing low level RF work or analog work. (I suppose 1500 watt power amp wouldn't care)

I'm told that at least some florescents / CFLs put out so much noise that some microcontroller inputs will latch unless terminated. Being apocryphal this might only apply to 8031's made in 1983 but in general, I'd still say incandescent or LED, nothing else will do.

Re:Good luck (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41605807)

For soldering, just get a wooden board

Easily replaceable wooden board. The problem is not so much using the iron as a woodburning tool as holding down two wires by laying a hammer on then, soldering the wires, then having a permanent pool of flux in/on the wood.

If it all possible make life easy on yourself.... you can get a sheet of 1/4 particle board and drop that right on the desk without even cutting. Avoid glare, do not paint, or use floor tiles, or use an old kitchen granite countertop or whatever.

In my dad's, well, grandpa's vacuum tube era a sheet of glass was a good idea other than shattering. Too much static to safely do anything post 1970 and too much glare.

Knife switches, Nixie tubes, Jacob's ladders (2)

fotoguzzi (230256) | about 2 years ago | (#41604755)

Then lightly sprinkle with integrated circuits.

Re:Knife switches, Nixie tubes, Jacob's ladders (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 2 years ago | (#41604807)

It's.... ALIVE!!!!


Re:Knife switches, Nixie tubes, Jacob's ladders (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 2 years ago | (#41605745)

Don't forget a room for all of your relays! And if you could somehow figure out how to water jacket the vacuum tubes, you could have radiant heat!

What's it for? (4, Insightful)

backwardMechanic (959818) | about 2 years ago | (#41604761)

It's all nice and dandy that you want a bunch of high-end professional equipment, but what do you actually want to do with your lab? Analogue? Digital? RF? Do you want some mechanical capabilities (drilling boxes, etching/machining PCBs, CNC, 3D printing, etc)? Do you need a microscope for really small stuff?
Rather than getting all excited about the shiny new toys, start with what you want to do. Then figure out what you need/want to help you do this. That's a question we can help with.

Re:What's it for? (3, Informative)

Dahamma (304068) | about 2 years ago | (#41605071)

Exactly. This question seems just like a poseur question "what tools do I need to build an F1 car in my garage" or "what tools do I need to build lots of great furniture".

As for "furniture" - get a decent bench and some shelves. What do you want, padded 60's lounge chairs to feel like a mad scientist? And then once you have said shelves and bench, once you actually find the need to DO something and don't have the tool to do it: then buy it. Stocking a home lab full of shit you'll never use is complete rich nerd masturbation exercise.

Re:What's it for? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605119)

It doesnt matter what its for... Well it does, but a high bench and stools rather than desks and chairs will be highly beneficial. It is far more comfortable to work for long periods when you don't have to bend down all day. I always preferred a single flat island surface (no joins) in the middle of the lab with plenty of power. Bigger is better.

Plenty of racking or shelving for storing equipment and drawers or similar for smaller things.

Oh, and a shitload of light. When you think you have enough light, double it. You can always remove half the globes/tubes, but if you don't have enluh fixtures you will be constantly working in your own shadow and that sucks.

And every lab needs a machine that goes ping. Why it goes ping is, of course, dependent on the use of your lab.

Re:What's it for? (4, Informative)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 2 years ago | (#41605153)

I cannot stress lighting enough.

Almost everyone gets it wrong, and it's the most annoying to fix after the fact. You want whatever room you're in bright - very bright, and illuminated uniformly. If you're putting in shelves or anything that occludes light, plan to have lights attached to it. You'll find yourself *much* happier later.

Re:What's it for? (2)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41605905)

very bright, and illuminated uniformly

Absolute minimum of two "desk lamps on long arms". In the 80s I had a rather expensive one with a florescent ring element wrapped around a 4 or so inch magnifying glass, kind of handy when you're doing SMD work by hand. Boy was that thing heavy and RF noisy but it was perfect for soldering. Of course back then I don't think we had 0402 components. Anyway the point is if you can see a shadow, you're doin it wrong.

So you're troubleshooting the 3000 volt 2 amp power supply for an old tube amplifier while its powered up, and suddenly the lights go out while the supply is live. Not cool at all. Ideally you have lighting of some sort in the room on two separate power ckts. Extension cords are not safe, but they're a lot safer than trapped in the dark with a live power supply.

Finally everyone leaves their soldering iron plugged in and running, even the christmas tree digital ones, until they set up some kind of master power switch arrangement. You've got three power strips on my desk side (3 circuits BTW), desk lighting, test equipment, and device under test and all three strips have a $2 store bought nightlight plugged in. So if a nightlight is on, the desk is powered up. Make sure you can see the nightlights, obviously, when leaving the room and never leave the room without glancing at the nightlights as a habit.

Start from the ground up (4, Informative)

fragMasterFlash (989911) | about 2 years ago | (#41604763)

Conductive flooring paired with electrostatic discharge heelstraps (or better yet static dissipative shoes [] ) will go a long way toward mitigating ESD risks in your lab. While wrist straps are effective they are inconvenient and therefore more likely not to be used consistently. Most lab furniture is conductive, but you often pay a bit extra for chairs with conductive castors. The need for lab coats depends on the apparel your lab staff typically wear (wool and synthetics should be covered with a dissipative lab coat, cottons are not typically an ESD risk).

Re:Start from the ground up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41604963)

Conductive flooring paired with electrostatic discharge heelstraps (or better yet static dissipative shoes [] ) will go a long way toward mitigating ESD risks in your lab. While wrist straps are effective they are inconvenient and therefore more likely not to be used consistently. Most lab furniture is conductive, but you often pay a bit extra for chairs with conductive castors. The need for lab coats depends on the apparel your lab staff typically wear (wool and synthetics should be covered with a dissipative lab coat, cottons are not typically an ESD risk).

Mod parent up. This one description (the floor, chair, bench etc being ESD-dissipating) was the item #1 or so I read from the first-time lab user guide from a college electronics lab. Especially in cold weather winters where heaters extracted the last bit of moisture from air and wool clothing are not uncommon.

Re:Start from the ground up (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 2 years ago | (#41605715)

but you often pay a bit extra for chairs with conductive castors

Or you could dangle a bit of chain from the underside of the chair to the floor.

erm... (5, Interesting)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#41604781)

money-is-no-objective suggestions

- BlueGene/Q supercomputer
- video wall
- space shuttle (just in case you need some low-grav testing done)

economically practical solutions

- why the hell are you seeking advice from slashdot as to what to put in an "electronics hardware lab"? if you are serious about building a "professional-grade setup", a fair assumption would be that you are a professional electronics engineer and would have no difficulty rattling off the necessary equipment (such as oscilloscopes, soldering irons, power supplies, plenty of storage, etc).
if you're merely after decorating ideas, i would suggest things that don't attract a lot of static electricity (so shag pile is out)

Re:erm... (1)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | about 2 years ago | (#41605985)

if you're merely after decorating ideas, i would suggest things that don't attract a lot of static electricity (so shag pile is out)

If you're making a professional lab then conductive flooring, yes.

For a hobby lab linoleum is best. You can get good quality stuff that doesn't generate static.

Tiles are OK at a pinch (if you already have them) and carpet of any sort is out. It's painful to wheel a chair around on tiles or carpet and if you drop little components there's lots of places for them to disappear.

Most important: Competent people (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 years ago | (#41604783)

These will then tell you what kind of equipment they would like and you better get it for them.

Without people that know what they are doing, no amount or quality of equipment is going to make any difference, so forget about deciding without them.

Flashing lights (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 2 years ago | (#41604785)

Every mad scientist has banks of "computers" with flashing lights in the back somewhere. Maybe get a tape reel as well.

Re:Flashing lights (2)

moderators_are_w*nke (571920) | about 2 years ago | (#41604881)

Indeed relaxen und watchen das blinkenlichten


good! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41604803)

i like my quesion. thoi trang cong so

on the tables (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41604805)

you might want to consider glass inlays, e.g. for soldering of placing PCBs directly. It cleans nicely, and looks good also after years of abuse. Just don't hammer on it.
Everything else should be easily cleanable, and I love to have racks behind the table, to have the table free, but still all measurement equipment, osci, power supply, soldering station and such directly usable on the table.

Also, i would buy a small cnc machine, for milling PCBs. Its rapid prototyping only, but it saves you the latency of days for having custom single sided pcbs. Double is also possible, but more involved.

I would go for racks for part drawer-based containers, and a rollable sidecupoard for the tools.

Re:on the tables (2)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41605929)

you might want to consider glass inlays

Static issues, although that's tediously fixable with a spray. Also horrific glare if your work is properly illuminated unless you get frosted glass, in which case this is getting kinda complicated. Finally you're gonna drop stuff and a SMD component will skip across glass like a rock skipping on water, but on wood it'll still bounce but not as far. I've been doing this stuff over 30 years... you can do a lot worse than glass, so its not an awful idea, but disposable particle board wood is better.

Also if inlayed you need precision size, whereas just "drop a sheet of wood on the desk" requires no work, so when its inevitably utterly trashed (once a decade?) the replacement process is easier.

My dream of electronic hardware? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 2 years ago | (#41604823)

(shudders)... that's not a dream, that's a nightmare.

Faraday cage. (2)

Shag (3737) | about 2 years ago | (#41604837)

Got to have one of those. To keep the neighbors from spying on your RF emissions... or whatever.

Essential Electronics Laboratory Equipment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41604843)

Get some overall ideas and suggestions from:

Essential Electronics Laboratory Equipment

if you're in the USA, some suppliers are: , ,

If this is a one-person lab, most of the equipment is going to sit unused most of the time. I'd suggest renting the more expensive stuff when you have a need for it.


Easy choice (0)

tumutbound (549414) | about 2 years ago | (#41604851)

Step 1: Get the Agilent catalogue
Step 2: Buy (at least) one of everything

Bench and Irons (1)

Mister Transistor (259842) | about 2 years ago | (#41604857)

My first suggestion would be to get a really good quality commercial grade bench with drawers and equipment shelves. Good ones will set you back 1000-2000 per workstation/seat. Also get a comfortable high chair the right height for the bench and you.

As for soldering irons, Metcal is the shit... They are owned by OK now, but you can pick up a nice used MX500 setup for about $200-300 or so. They are absolutely wonderful - you can solder a penny to a doorknob with a TINY pencil iron! The design is RF pumped and you practically can't swamp it - it will do ceramic substrates which no normal iron can touch, and stuff you would normally need a torch to do, yet the same tiny tip won't wreck a SOT-23 SMT transistor... Super deluxe.

If you have the luxury, shop air is also very handy to have (basement remote compressor or the like) for desoldering and cleaning up stuff it is REALLY nice and you can buy air-powered tools like screwdrivers and cutoff saws instead of electric cordless screwdrivers or Dremel tools, etc.

I have all this but shop air on my bench at home and I LOVE working there!

Re:Bench and Irons (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#41605223)

As for soldering irons, Metcal is the shit...

Also, get one of those tip cleaners made from what looks like a brass scourer. So much better than the wretched wet sponge.

Oh, and a cheap toaster oven will do single sided reflow astonishingly well.

Re:Bench and Irons (2)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41605975)

As for soldering irons, Metcal is the shit...

Also, get one of those tip cleaners made from what looks like a brass scourer. So much better than the wretched wet sponge.

Hakko sells a great brass turnings soldering iron cleaner. Coincidentally they sell great soldering gear, better than Metcal at about the same price. Metcal is good, don't get me wrong, in fact its very good, its just that Hakko is better. This is the soldering equivalent of the eternal vi vs emacs battle, and just like that your best bet is to try as many brands as you can and THEN select your winner (as opposed to "the" winner). Or use what your buddies use, so you can trade/share stuff. At the higher end a lot of the parts of soldering gear are swappable to different sizes sometimes different wattages.

A "Silly Scope"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41604867)

Perhaps a high-pot tester area or table for basic electrical testing? Don't forget a rack to hang your coat and a wall mounted medical kit? I dunno.

in the money-is-no-objective category... (1)

ffflala (793437) | about 2 years ago | (#41604885)

Salt-resistant desks, tables, wall-hangings, chairs, and couches.

Because your lab is in an abandoned, forgotten salt mine.

Re:in the money-is-no-objective category... (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#41604979)

it would be too hard to pick a name for a place like that... "Area 51" or "Deep Space 9"... how to choose?

Yeah but... (1)

shiftless (410350) | about 2 years ago | (#41605727)

Why stoop to the level of working in a salt mine, when you can carry out your mad electronic experiments from the safety and comfort of your very own abandoned missile silo [] ? (Note: some PCB or asbestos cleanup may be required....on-site groundwater may be unsafe for consumption....etc. (In Soviet Russia, groundwater consumes you.) But hey...sure beats a damn salt mine any day of the week! Woe betide the scientist who accidently leaves the Tesla coil cooling pump on overnight, when a rubber hose bursts and floods the cavern. Imagine waking up to that! Evil fortress FAIL)

If you dont know what you want (5, Insightful)

citizenr (871508) | about 2 years ago | (#41604893)

then you dont need it.

Consumer Culture (1)

Dr. Evil (3501) | about 2 years ago | (#41605809)

Every activity starts with a shopping trip.

Re:If you dont know what you want (2)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41606011)

Assuming you know it exists.

Did ya know, when you're reworking an old board and solder isn't sticking, rather than suffering or lifting the traces off the board, you can buy a little $3 pen flux applicator and suddenly its easy?

Did ya know, when washing flux off a completed board, the chemists figured out "plastic wash bottle technology" decades ago? You don't have to dump denatured alcohol on a rag, or dump most of it down the drain, or have an open bottle of solvent on your desk anymore.

Instead of icky old premade alligator clip jumpers, you can buy those fancy micro sized clamping test probe tips in bulk, and a roll of silicone superflex wire, and make your own test jumpers that are superior to crappy premade alligator clip jumpers for less money? Or at least you used to be able to do this (they last forever, more or less)

Shrink tubes! (2)

LifeIs0x2A (2615925) | about 2 years ago | (#41604899)

Lots of them. In all sizes!

No, but it pretty much depends on what your are going to be working on. I would have this pretty basic list of things:
1. Nice four-channel color Textronics oscilloscope
2. SMD soldering station (Maker: Gote)
3. Fluke Multimeter
4. Desoldering equipment
5. Various probes
6. Various pliers
7. Some holder for your PCBs
8. Magnifying glass (with light)
9. Wires in various diameters and colors + super thin copper wire
10. Various connectors and the equipnent to crimp them

The rest I would get but while you are working. You will figure out what else you going to need soon enough.

1. Large (!) table in the middle of the room
2. Cubboards with shelves
3. Boxes and subboxes to put on these shelves with parts etc.

Don't put too much furniture in. Space to move is important.

If you want to do more complex stuff it might be good to get a logic analyser. But you also need to have someone who knows how to use it.

pro tips (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41604935)

Tables - can be used to place stuff upon or to hide underneath.

Tesla Coil - If not for the cool visual effects, at least you could use it so your hair doesn't obstruct your field of view!

Farrady Cage - not only for it's obvoius purpose, but also lock up people that forgot to lock their workstation while playing with the Tesla Coil

Laser pointers, programmable Remote Controls both in IR and Ultrasound spectrum - their obvious use is for team-building. These tools are easy to conceal and can really fuck up the tests the poor outsider is running

Bras - to be used both for Ceremonial and for head protection.

Furniture! (1)

moxsam (917470) | about 2 years ago | (#41604939)

Don't forget that you will need a good workbench and a good chair. And lots of shelves! Heating (in case it's not inside your house or apartment) and a sink in the actual lab is nice, too.

There's a few things. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41604947)

Long Arm Field Microscope - For pulling splinters
Oscilloscope - For seeing what electrical noise your finger generates
Soldering Iron with solder sucker - For cauterising splinter wounds
Fume Extractor - For getting rid of the fart gas
Induction lighting - Invented by Nicola Tesla; nuff said?
Decent Amp and Speakers - For setting the mood.

Sounds like homework assignment (2)

robi5 (1261542) | about 2 years ago | (#41604967)

It's almost as if someone asked what equipment he needs for performing bypass surgery. First requirement would be a bookshelf (to be filled with books for one's study), and second is a cabinet for keeping degrees, diplomas and continuing education. I'd love to know what motivated the question to begin with, it sounds almost eerie, esp. the professional part. Maybe a PHB who wants to monitor his engineers' purchase requests or a lottery winner with his dreams.

Re:Sounds like homework assignment (1)

shiftless (410350) | about 2 years ago | (#41605787)

Well the answers given are useful to people, so how about not being a judgmental smartass?

if you want a lab full of professional gear... (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#41604973)'re definitely going to need a job to pay for it all (or just steal it I suppose)

disclaimer: if you steal things you're bad, mkay

I built mine as follows: (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41604975)

$800 OWON DS8102 2 channels with VERY deep sample memory
$3600 Agilent DSO-X-3014A 4 channels 80 mHz can be upgraded to 200 MHZ with logic analyzer

$113 Fluke 113
$1350 Agilent 34410A

Signal generator / arbitrary waveform generator
$380 Rigol DG1022 2 arbitrary channels per generator I got 2
Agilent Technologies 33250A- I didn't buy this but its the high end equivalent.

Power supply
$200 GPS3030D I have 2

Soldering iron
$50 Weller WLC100
$610 MetCal MX-500S-11 I don't own this. Soldering is the weakest item for me at present.

For a table I went big and cheap.
4 Saw horses from loses
1 4 foot by 8 foot by 1 inch piece of plywood
4 4 foot by 2 foot conductive mats from 3m 98-0798-1202-4 $75 each

If you are going all out having floor mats is a good idea too.

Good luck

Re:I built mine as follows: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605187)

Add a cheap old analog oscilloscope to the mix.

troolkorE (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41604991)

to get some eye Mire of de3ay, The channel to sign save Linux from a fun to be again. Had become$ like

The basics (2)

wrmrxxx (696969) | about 2 years ago | (#41605037)

Without knowing much about your application, I can only reasonably make suggestions about the basics.

1) Bench space, with good lighting and plenty of power points.
2) Flooring that won't build up static.
3) Good ventilation, because soldering fumes are not good for you.
4) A sink. You will probably need to be able to clean PCBs, and you will need to use wet chemicals if you make your own boards.
5) Component storage. Unless you want to spend hours digging through piles of parts, a good way of organizing components is very useful. Raaco make some nice steel cabinets for drawers, but they're not cheap.
6) A stereoscopic assembly microscope. I would be lost without mine - it is amazing how much easier it is to position small parts (e.g. 0201 size passives) when you can see what you are doing.
7) Multiple decent lab power supplies.
8) A good bench multimeter: one with a computer interface for logging would be good.
9) Digital storage oscilloscope, again with a computer interface of some sort (many have USB now) so you can store captured waveforms for later analysis and comparison.

These are the first things that come to mind, but undoubtably I have forgotten some essentials.

There's a wide range of things that may also be important, but it depends what you're doing so I can only speculate. For digital work you'll want a logic analyser / protocol analyser. If there are modern CPUs involved you will probably want a JTAG interface. If you are doing RF work there is a whole set of specialised equipment. If you are doing loads of SMD you might want a pick and place machine and a reflow oven. If you are making your own PCBs you might want a UV exposing unit and chemical trays, or alternatively a PCB milling machine (it takes a high end machine to do the very fine pitch work).

Money no object Harware Lab? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605047)

I would invent an allspark and a 3d-printer to manufacture mimetic polyalloy.

Anthro Elevate Series Furniture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605085)

Anthro Corporation, a spin-off of Tektronix, has a line of desks and work tables. They are all very high quality. The 'Elevate' series have motor driven height adjustments. Their factory showroom is not far from me, it's a real candyland! When I'm rich I will buy a wrap around elevate desk for myself. See

Some Suggestions (2)

Ganty (1223066) | about 2 years ago | (#41605101)

1) Lots of natural light, ideally a corner room with lots of windows. You'll also need at least one of those magnifying lamps.

2) Deep benches, at least forty inches, this is because your test equipment will take up at least a foot of space at the rear.

3) Lots and lots of mains sockets, you'll never have enough. Wire the power through a residual current circuit breaker and a big red emergency stop switch. Make sure your family and other people around know where that emergency switch is.

4) Four channel scope, signal generator, lab power supply (0-40V 5A) with a couple of channels, a second fixed power supply with 12V, 5V and 3.3V outputs and a bench multimeter. DON'T buy cheap, it's better to get a good second hand unit than a piece of cheap Far-East test gear. I like Hameg but I know that opinions will differ here.

5) Anti-static mat and wrist strap.

6) Lots and lots of storage for parts, as with mains sockets you'll never have enough storage.

7) Decent tools, as with the test equipment don't buy cheap. I'm still using some tools that I bought twenty years ago.

8) A set of drawers underneath your workbench for storing your tools. The plastic inserts that go inside kitchen drawers will help keep things in order.

9) A burglar alarm and a lock on your workshop door. All this lot is expensive and you don't want it to vanish and reappear on Ebay.

10) Air conditioning and/or heating depending on your location. Equipment calibration will drift in temperature extremes and the standard of your work will suffer.


Re:Some Suggestions (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#41605231)

3) Lots and lots of mains sockets, you'll never have enough. Wire the power through a residual current circuit breaker and a big red emergency stop switch. Make sure your family and other people around know where that emergency switch is.

A really good powersupply too.

Since you're wiring it in, it is nice to have a DC bus wired in as well, with lots of connection posts. Really handy, and moves some fo the bulky equipment (e.g. the PSU) elsewhere on the bench.

Not just tools.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605103)

Drawer for tools:

My Electronics Workshop - as an example (3, Informative)

Spectrumanalyzer (2733849) | about 2 years ago | (#41605113)

By no means is my workshop the coolest in the world, but its a combination of years of experience, building and designing, and this is how it is:

1) Raaco shelves, these are absolutely essential, youd hate to run out of components in the middle of a project, so you need these, fill the walls! []

2) You need HEAPS of components. Now, youre probably not a millionaire, if you wouldnt ask us geeks, youd just purchase whatever, so here is how I get my stash. I go to ham-fests, the radio amateurs usually have thousands if not millions of surplus components theyve grabbed from a run-down electronics shop or factory closedowns. Make a HUGE list of your essentials, and go collecting. Itll take a few years, but youll get there. I have MILLIONS and MILLIONS of NOS (new old stock) components from all over the world by now. Ebay is your friend, but beware of FAKE components, expensive components sold for peanuts...could be fakes, but its still relatively rare imho. Go hunting for closedowns of electronics labs, stores and much more, 70% of my components comes from there, and usually for pocket-change. Hang out...befriend the managers...listen and pay attention. Before you know it, youre the "buddy" who gets everything for nothing.

3) Get SMD reels too. Have a copy of your DIL/DIP discretes as SMD equivalents, this is when youre finished prototyping with the discretes. You need the full size discretes in order to experiment properly. Far too many wannabe designers design everything in CAD and scratch their heads endlessly over their designs, lacking on-hands experience with the easy to handle components. This is understated today. A lab like this is essential for quick and good development.

4) You need ROCK SOLID tables rather than fancy glass tables, so purchase some old super-solid office equipment rather than shop IKEA. Sometimes youll throw a 50-100 kgs of instrumentation on your table, and bye bye IKEA. And itll get dirty, and itll drown in solder waste (which you will eventually get everywhere). So it must be a surface solid and easy to clean.

5) You wall should also have a tool-rack, here you need the rough tools such as screwdrivers, mini drills, bits, cutters, pliers and whatnot. Youll also need some hangers for your endless numerous test-cables. Hang the test cables within easy reach so you can keep your shop tidy and neat. This will become more important than you may think.

6) Speaking of which, numerous of testcables you need (Yoda talk)... banana plugs, soft-silicone cables for power connections, extendable banana plug cables are essential, dont skimp on quality here. In fact, you may nearly skimp on everything except this. Test cables are notorious for going bust, and killing that spirit when you finally discover that you bought cheap crap...and spent hours just to find out your test cable is leaky, crappy and such. You need 100mhz range probes, probably higher...and more expensive, but start out with common 100-250mhz scope probes.

7) As for test instruments, you need these basic things: 2 Benchtop multimeters, 1 portable multimeter, 1 frequency counter (min 2.6 ghz), 2 Benchtop oscilloscopes, preferably one analog and one digital...Ive got 4 of them for various can never get enough scopes and multimeters. Function generator is essential for repair and design, a 10mhz will do, preferably with TTL level output as well as variable analog. Get a Signal generator too, 1 ghz minimum...the 1+ghz something...needs to be very stable if you operate above these frequencies. Benchtop lab PSUs... get some with both analog and digital readouts, the older generation analog psus tend to be less noisy and better at delivering at high peaks. Switchmode PSUs are needed for those higher power needs, but have at least one of each.

Re:My Electronics Workshop - as an example (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605215)

What he says, also a cheap second hand stereo microscope for the SMD soldering, it makes rework actually possible, especially when you pass 35/40 years old.

Re:My Electronics Workshop - as an example (2)

Spectrumanalyzer (2733849) | about 2 years ago | (#41606027)

LOL, spot on!

Also, to continue where I left off last time (one of our clients came in the office, so I had to make the list short, work first, fun second!).

7) continues... A nice spectrum analyzer is good to have around, especially for spotting those parasitic stray oscillations that you won't be able to escape when the time comes to commercialize your projects, the FAA are fairly strict, and your inventions need to be approved first, so better have a Spectrum analyzer handy, and make sure those stray oscillations doesnt emit from your construction. Its also an excellent instrument for designing filters.

8) Soldering equipment. Something you dont want to skimp on is a good soldering station, preferably multiple stations as one of them WILL break down one day, usually when youre in the middle of an awesome project. Not to mention the different jobs you need done, a bigger station for those DIP/DIL discretes and cables, a smaller tip/solder for those SMD oddjobs (you may want a SMD hot air rework station as well), and a desoldering station instead of just a pump. Pump works fine, but they are a big mess, solder waste goes everywhere. Hakko and Weller are two brands professionally used, Pace too...but Id reccommend the first two as I have long term experience with these.

9) As our long time friend and foe mr Anonymous Coward explains, a good Microscope for SMD rework - is a good thing to have around, dont need one myself yet, but I have one...just to read the darn numbers and characters on the smallest SMDs :)

10) ESD equipment is nice to have, and some claim even mandatory. Well...Unless you work at Intel/Amd or handle million dollar test gear on component level, all you need to have are some good ESD habits. A) Always get rid of any built up charge in your body when handling sensitive components, I always touch my metal-rack before handling anything sensitive. My metal rack is big, and works well as a discharger. Also dont touch pins of switching diodes, sensitive transistors (especially HF transistors), or chips...most of the wont need to...its all down to habit. Once youve worked this into your system, itll become second nature rather than an annoyance. In my MANY *MANY* years of handling components, I cant even remember destroying anyone due to static electricity, but then again...were all different, I have plenty of knowledgeable friends whos nearly infamous for zapping circuits.

11) A logic analyzer is also nice to have if you work a lot with MCUs or/and logic based constructions. Get one thats at least 100mhz, or you wont hang with the times.

12) Always treat your tech-friends nicely. And build yourself a solid network of regular engineer guys and hobbyist...dont be stingy, share the wealth. Because you never know that day when you desperately need that missing component that even Mouser cant help you find, and then your network saves the day. I know theyve saved my butt numerous times.

Good luck

FAA?! (1)

Spectrumanalyzer (2733849) | about 2 years ago | (#41606059)

I meant

Background? (1, Interesting)

Captain_Chaos (103843) | about 2 years ago | (#41605123)

I don't have any suggestions, but I am very curious about the background of this question. Could you elaborate a little? Why and for whom are you building this lab? Are you putting your own money into it, and if so, why is it worth so much money to you and why do you need such a high-tech lab? Just curious.

All I can tell you is what I have (4, Informative)

mpoulton (689851) | about 2 years ago | (#41605201)

The flippant answer to your question is that you should get whatever equipment you think will be useful for whatever projects you're doing. If you don't know what you want, then you won't be putting it to use anyway. "Electronics" is not one discipline. It's a collection of related but different fields, like different specialties in medicine. What equipment does an operating room need? Aside from a few basics, the answer depends entirely on what kind of surgery is being performed. Having a network analyzer or a service monitor in your electronics lab is great for some types of work, but if you don't already think you'll be needing those then they're just going to collect dust anyway.

I do a variety of different kinds of electronics work, but most of it is RF (ham radio), high voltage (Tesla coils, fun plasma experiments), or high power (switching power supplies), or all three (induction heating, BIG lasers, serious radio transmitters, kick-ass solid state Tesla coils, etc.). This requires an array of tools and equipment that ranges from common and universal to highly specialized. Here are my key assets:

- Fluke Scopemeter 199C, 200MHz portable digital oscilloscope. If I could keep only one test instrument, this is it. Totally worth the $4k. I literally could not do much of what I do without this tool or something similar. I love my Scopemeter. It's just the right combination of portability, durability, and signal analysis capability. The electrical isolation of the fully-insulated battery-operated unit is a huge benefit sometimes too.

- Fluke 287 digital multimeter. A very high-functioning DMM for general purpose use. RMS readings on funky waveforms over a wide frequency range. Accurate measurement of component values.

- Klein CL2000 clamp-on AC/DC ammeter and multimeter. A really great tool for general DMM use, as well as non-contact RMS measurement of high currents, both AC and DC. This bad boy can accurately measure how much current your car draws while cranking the starter, or the true RMS current of an arc welder.

- RigExpert AA-520 antenna analyzer. A rudimentary but powerful digital antenna analyzer for HF through UHF frequencies. Great for its basic purpose, but also capable of doing lots of neat tricks like tuning duplexers if you get creative with it.

- Cheap pocket DMM's. They're like $20 and it's great to have several sitting around to use as monitors for various parameters on a system during testing. You can blow them up or fry them with an RF field and not feel too bad, saving your precious Fluke gear.

- Solomon temp-controlled soldering station. Needs no explanation. I feel that there's no need to go crazy on soldering equipment. A sub-$100 station will do the job just fine, even for fine SMD work as long as it's of decent quality. PID temperature control, low mass, and a hefty heater are all requirements.

- Granite work surface. Of all the surfaces I've worked on, I have found granite to be the best. Preferably pure black so things show up on it. It is heatproof, electrically insulating enough for any purpose, anti-static, strong, hard, and pretty affordable compared to a digital oscilloscope. A couple hundred bucks will get you a very good slab section to work on.

- Automated external defibrillator. I often work on circuits that can kill me with one false move. Having an AED nearby and showing friends and family how to use it could save my life some day. Very rapid defibrillation (within 5 minutes, preferably 2) is the ONLY effective life-saving treatment for electrocution. With very fast intervention, the chance of survival is excellent. By the time an ambulance arrives it is far too late. It's $800 well spent if it even gives me a 1% chance of not dying. Skip this if your work doesn't involve much line-voltage or higher.

Stuff that has not been mentioned: (1)

Captain Sensible (141639) | about 2 years ago | (#41605267)

Lots of old books. Gruenberg on telemetry, the Radiotron Designers Manual, the ITT Radio Engineers manual, Skolnik on radar, the GE transistor manual and anything that shows actual circuits. You can always get modern books on theory but 1960s to 1990s books will give you circuits you can actually build.

Lots of components. You can buy in bulk from Chinese distributers using eBay and there is very little risk of counterfeits.

Good strong lighting. Loupe magnifiers. Fume extractors. Those devices that hold PCBs and components in place while soldering. Solid but comfortable chairs. Solid laboratory benches able to hold your test instruments and heavy equipment under test. At least 45 x 60 cm space on the bench.

right way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605291)

Lots of wire
Nonstick fryingpan and hotplate
Ceramic tiles
Clear plastic boxes
Chemical sink
Vice and clips
Piles of leds resistors and common stuff
Magnets, many kinds
Avr programmer w 5 avrs on boards and lots of loose avr chips
Microchip microcontroller programmer and lots of chips
Lots of batteries, lipos, some big lead acid
Etch and solder and blank boards
Coping saw
Handheld pc with lpt port
Tons of transistors
Desktop pc with internet for getting pdfs specs of parts and ordering
Wireless transmitters
Some lasers
Some lcds and other displays
Lots of weird motors with different voltages for quick checks of circuits
Radioshack science kits WITH the manual
Laser goggles and other goggles
Lighter, bunson burner
Fresnel big one
Breathing masks
Vaccuum cleaners
Signal generator
Oscilliscope with data cable
Serial and lpt port cables for chopping
Did I say wireless transmitters already?
needle nose
Scisors, good ones


Chemistry glassware

More, but phone has no bat

How much room have you got? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605295)

As well as telling us what the lab is for, it would be REALLY USEFUL (tm) if you could tell us:

1 - what size of space you are thinking of using?
2 - what sort of support services are around it (eg, is it a shed at the end of the garden with no power, a basement room with mains power, a barn......) ?
3 - what sort of budget do you have to spend?

Special cables (2)

dohzer (867770) | about 2 years ago | (#41605377)

Cables that explode into lava if anyone tries to take them out of the room.
Stop stealing my test leads!

Here's what I have. (2)

NixieBunny (859050) | about 2 years ago | (#41605381)

I've been doing electronics work in my home workshop for about 35 years. My workshop is equipped with the following;

I have 20 units of 36-drawer Akro-Mills parts cabinets, the kind with the clear plastic drawers. These have SMD components, through-hole components, nuts, bolts, connectors, switches, etc. I occasionally devote a parts cabinet to the parts for a particular project that I build a few hundred of.

Hand tools: I have a red plastic screwdriver caddy that's full of screwdrivers. About 80 different tools to open anything I may encounter. There is a very expensive pair of diagonal cutters and a nice pair of long-nose pliers on the bench, and some tweezers and an X-acto knife.

I have a Hakko soldering station and a Bauch & Lomb stereo microscope to see what I'm doing.

On the bench, I have a 3 digit digital voltmeter and a couple HP bench power supplies to activate my current project.

Next to the bench, I have a 6 foot tall rack with a Tektronix R7704 oscilloscope with appropirate plugins, a vintage Fluke 6-digit Nixie tube voltmeter, an HP 5245L Nixie tube frequency counter, a signal generator, an old HP spectrum analyzer and tracking generator, and a Nixie tube atomic clock.

Wire bonding machine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605439)

If money is no concern, and you want to do high frequency work, soldering is not enough. Good high frequency components work better without a package, so you need some equipment to perform wire bonding. Forget ball bonding, high frequency really needs wedge bonding to minimize stray inductance. A second hand bonding machine will set you back 7 to 8 grand. Then you have to buy the tools (Gaiser for example), some wire (look at bondingsource) and probably some silver loaded epoxy (biggest problem being the limited shelf life, which can be increased by keeping it in a freezer).

That's 10 grand for a start. Now how much have you left for the rest of the lab?


Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605469)

If you've ever watched Mythbusters, that's the ideal general purpose lab. It's big, has tons of storage and plenty of workspace. Also, there are no carpeted floors in the work areas, just in their offices. Carpeting is the natural enemy of electronics.

Separation and planning are key. Equipment comes and goes as needed, so planning around specific equipment is the wrong approach. One big lab is also a disaster waiting to happen, unless only one person will ever be doing work.

Basically, it all ends up being a bunch of compromises around the following problems:

Problem #1, storage space
Nothing is more frustrating than having to shuffle around previous work to make room for the latest project. Furthermore, throwing away old parts is blasphemy; most engineers are pack rats, because it does eventually come in handy if it isn't fried.

Have excess storage space, realistic throw-away policies, and try to avoid storage bloat. Bloat happens every time somebody reinvents the wheel (or buys it). Instead, store stuff where it can be found for reuse and keep some kind of inventory. Don't buy things you don't need for any project, and avoid storing regular junk (like old gears and belts). Having the ability to fabricate mechanical parts is ideal (having a 3D printer at least), because then it's less important to keep junk like enclosures, gears, and pulleys - you could make a lot of them as needed instead of hoarding them.

Problem #2, work space
A bench or two quickly becomes inadequate, especially if there are multiple projects being worked on over time. Sometimes things get postponed, and taking them apart and putting them into storage is like handing out a death sentence (people hate it).

Having special storage for delayed projects is a good idea; just a big shelf in a lab that's out of the way or underneath a bench. My personal favorite is turning book shelves into benches (it's cheap). Not every surface needs to be a bench - eight foot long desks are nice because they're cheaper and can have two (or more) levels. Island workbenches are also a must, because being in the center of a room gives the best access for big projects.

Problem #3, people space
When the lab is so crammed with everything else, making room for people can sometimes be neglected. There are often basic tools everybody needs at some point, sharing isn't always possible.

Parts and projects lying around looks complex and impressive (briefly), but an actual space for guests is advisable. Enough space between free-standing benches for two people to walk past is a must. Plan where the desks/workbenches are depending on how you want to improve or reduce foot traffic nearby. Reducing traffic through labs is usually better, people are less likely to bump into things. Put the soldering irons and sensitive equipment away from the paths people have to take when they walk through.

Problem #4, air space
I've seen some places that should be condemned, used as labs. Water leaks, mold, filthy microwave ovens nearby, mini fridges, perpetually dirty carpeting, and crummy ventilation. Noise, smells, and lighting, can prevent people from doing the best work they're capable of.

Creating separate rooms and environments helps people concentrate, and prevents minor annoyances from adding up. Don't put the microwaves and fridge near anyone; if you have an out of the way corner or exterior door put it by that, not where somebody might be forced to work. On that note, cubicles waste space and offer a poor substitute for a real office. If you must have cubicles, put them all together in a separate room not merged into the labs (i.e. no lab workspace in the cubicles, just a desk, computer, filing cabinets and books). Labs have a natural tendency to become like offices, but an actual office prevents people from being as territorial about which lab they work in.

Problem #5, free space
The unexpected can happen. A new project might need an engine hoist, or who knows what. If the building catches on fire, how does everyone evacuate safely? How far does a person in each lab have to walk, to flip the circuit breaker back on? Are the circuits divided up amongst the labs so that two people wont share and overload each other? Can a lab be shared between somebody using power tools and RF equipment?

Set some space aside for future expansion. Group things, but don't cram everything together into a dense puzzle. The stricter the rules are, the more likely exceptions are to crop up and cause actual problems (forgotten hidden food - food poisoning - bugs, lights being turned off in places people must walk through, needing to keep something powered on 24/7, etc).

Re: (1)

andrew2325 (2647845) | about 2 years ago | (#41605523)

I like to use recliners and things in front of my desk.

My 0.02 USD (1)

cormandy (513901) | about 2 years ago | (#41605571)

In addition to the OPs, my recommendations (please excuse overlap) speaking from experience:
- A fast computer with a good widescreen monitor. Why? Much electronics work is done the computer, from circuit design, PCB design and microcontroller emulation
- If expense is no object, get a high-end electronics design package like Altium (only one that comes to mind, sorry). I use Proteus from Labcenter as it does the most excellent circuit and microcontoller emulation and is much better value for money
- Software for developing micrcontoller code
- CAD software like Solidworks or Autodesk Inventor for enclosure design
- 3D printer for printing enclosures
- microcontroller programming/debugging devices (e.g. MPLAB Real ICE) and headers
- a high-end mixed-signal oscilloscope (e.g. Tektronix MSO5000)
- a shitstorm of various voltage and current probes
- a good benchtop multimeter, e.g. Agillent 34411A
- a good digital soldering station (e.g. Weller) with multiple soldering irons of various power/sizes
- a good hot air rework station (e.g. Weller WPA3000)
- a hotplate
- *** IMPORTANT *** Fume extraction Don't solder without it
- a good desoldering station
- *** IMPORTANT *** a good stereomicroscope for surface-mount assembly (e.g. Nikon SMZ series)
- good digial benchtop power supplies (analog units can be bumped sending voltages flying; been there, done that)
- a good LCR meter (e.g. Fluke, Hameg)
- If you a doing power supply design, an "electronic load" (TTi)
- Again, if doing power supply design or mains voltage stuff, an AC power source/analyzer (e.g. Agilent); supplies worldwide voltages at various frequencies
- a good signal generator (any)
- an "electronics safe" vacuum for cleaning your bench, £M make one for printer repair which works well
- As I "hate" working from a bench, I recommend a strong and long desk (e.g. 1.8 -2m in length); Check out Herman Miller Abak
- A good chair, e.g. Herman Miller Aeron
- breadboards
- component "engineering kits" (e.g. assortments of resistors, caps, etc... both surface mount and radial/axial in a nice binder) so you always hav ethe exact component on hand
- tools: good screwdrivers, wire cutters, wire strippers, etc... heck, could go on regarding tools, but will stop...
Good luck...

SMD tools. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#41605575)

Hot air rework station. IR rework station. at least TWO sets of decent hot tweezers. That is an absolute minimum. I got all of mine at Dayton Hamfest 2 years ago for next to nothing. Lastly install a bathroom vent fan above your electronics bench and pipe it outside. turn it ON when you are soldering / desoldering.

As for workspace. you need 2 of them. 1 for electronics work, 1 for disassembly/reassembly. NEVER do both on the same bench.

If your skills are like mine (3, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 2 years ago | (#41605585)

I'd suggest you start with a fume extractor and fire extinguisher

After that just buy stuff as you need it. You don't appear to know what your needs will be, so there's little point in trying to second-guess what you'll be doing. Therefore find a few good, punctual, well-stocked suppliers and keep their catalogs handy.

Component Cabinets (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 2 years ago | (#41605603)

Fill one wall with component cabinets, and organise them well. You need enough so that every resistor value, capacitor value, transistor, diode, IC and every possible component variation has its own partition. This costs a small fortune but is well worth it for the hours it saves looking for the parts you need.

Desks (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | about 2 years ago | (#41605659)

If you can afford it, something like this: []

I't does not have to be the fully integrated version as in the top image, but a top with multiple sockets and some rack space will be great for putting the measurement equipment.

Ground (1)

spectrokid (660550) | about 2 years ago | (#41605661)

_ONE_, very good ground. Make sure *ALL* the outlets are connected to the same ground, with nice thick juicy cables. I have seen a lab where you could pull sparks between the grounds of 2 outlets.

Seriously, what's your budget? (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 2 years ago | (#41605775)

There is no point in even attempting to answer this question without knowing what your real budget is, and what your specific needs are.

If money is no object (1)

NichardRixon (869899) | about 2 years ago | (#41605783)

Buy all of your equipment from major manufacturers and you can hardly go wrong. Get your RF equipment from Rohde & Schwarz, especially high frequency signal generators and spectrum analyzers. Get your scope, meters and logic analyzer from Tektronix. Get most of the rest from Agilent. You will really have to better define the type of work you plan to do, however. For example, if you plan to work with cellular telephone equipment you will need a lot of specialized instruments just for that, but if not most of it would be useless. The cost of specialized equipment is higher than that of more mundane machines.

For planning purposes you might want to make a list of parameters associated with equipment you expect to be working with. For each record the frequencies, bandwidth and other functional parameters required. How many lines on your logic analyzer are you likely to require, and what depth memory? Do you want to have diagnostic and repair equipment or will your lab be devoted exclusively to R&D? Don't answer too quickly, because you may on occasion encounter a malfunctioning reference assembly, for example, and if you can fix it yourself it could save several days compared with sending it out for repair, or starting over with a replacement. When you complete the list it should be fairly easy to see what additional equipment you will need.

If you're unsure what you will need for some or all of it, contact sales people for the companies you plan to buy equipment from. The major companies generally give solid advice, because they would like you to buy from them again in the future. They will come to your location and arrange to demonstrate equipment for you. Of course you will still have to do your homework to evaluate their proposals.

For workbenches you will probably want to get standard height with a shelf running the full width of each and cabinets underneath. Chairs with armrests will be needed, and they should be adjustable height to suit your workbenches. Plan on lots of 48" florescent lights, good metal cabinets for storage and file cabinets for documents and drawings. A computer on each bench is not too many. You might want to look at a decent sized UPS system if it will be important that you keep some or all of the equipment running without interruption.

I think you will find that the sky's the limit when it comes to buying test and measuring equipment. You could easily order so much that you wouldn't have a place to put it all, then never use most of it. IMO there is no substitute for analyzing the work you plan to do, then match it up with the available instrumentation.

My overall advice is to buy what you know you will need before you begin working in your lab. Then you can easily add additional pieces as the need arises.

Good Luck! --NR

modern (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605795)

Think modern. Pretty much everything is surface mount these days. As such, everything is also small, so lots of those stackable sets of drawers. Also, you may want a photo-etching kit to make your own PCB's for breakout & prototyping many of those SMT parts.

You will also need a microscope, full rework station (not just a quality soldering iron, but hot air gun too), and a reflow oven.

Too open ended. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605823)

This sounds like: "Slashdot, do my job for me because I have no clue what I'm doing."

It lacks specificity in application, and doesn't really lay out any requirements.

If money is no object I suggest purchasing every you see in the Newark catalog, and your lab will be very well stocked.

Some advice from an old timer... (1)

pointyhat (2649443) | about 2 years ago | (#41605871)

Most of these can be obtained for very little cash and I couldn't do without them:

A good old fashioned Tek 100-250MHz analogue scope. No DSO. No fancy stuff - just an analogue scope. This is the one bit of kit that has saved my butt a million times over. DSOs and new digital scopes are crap at picking up transients due to their crappy slew rate. The analogue scope will get you out of many a mess.

A couple of (you need at least 2) decent Fluke multimeters. These will save your life. It will fail safe in short/overvoltage conditions. I lost one of my beloved Fluke 76 to a 4Kv overvoltage situation. It went pop but I didn't. If it was any other multimeter, I wouldn't be here writing this.

A decent *linear dual rail* supply. Don't get two and stick them together - this is a pain in the arse and you'll get earthing problems from hell, especially when in the US as the mains there is funny. I've used old HP (circa late 1970s) and more recently Thurlby Thandar ones. Make sure they have short and over current protection otherwise fuck ups get quite expensive.

Make sure everything you buy has a service manual.

Get some decent goggles/safety glasses for the smoke test when you power up something you've made. I've avoided bits of LED and transistor blinding me a few times because I've cocked up.

I use a Weller PS2D soldering station that I've had for 20 years. I wouldn't swap it for anything.

Apart from that, anything you can get your hands on cheap. There is little requirement to blow lots of cash on anything really with the advent of eBay.

stools and 4'x8' sheets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41605923)

you're thinking about furniture? What for?

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