Author Topic: Useful Homemade lab gear  (Read 9859 times)

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Offline Mint.Topic starter

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Useful Homemade lab gear
« on: November 02, 2011, 12:46:57 am »
Hey fellas, I'm starting my own electronics lab in a few weeks and I just need some ideas on the must have or extremely helpful gear that you can make yourself for your lab (such as power supplies, resistor boxes, etc.), and if you wouldn't mind please add a schematic diagram too if possible. Hopefully if this goes will it won't be useful to myself but to other people on the forum too.
-Thanks  :)
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Offline johnboxall

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Offline RCMR

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2011, 02:56:20 am »
Building your own gear for the workshop (be it electronic or mechanical) is (IMHO) one of the most rewarding things you can do.

The great thing about having enough tools and enough knowledge is that you can then extend that basic tool/knowledge-set almost without limit by building on what you have.

My engineering workshop has many cool tools that I've built myself, including a metal-spinning lathe, pipe-bender, spot-welder and a myriad of other 'special purpose" additions that I've built because I needed them and they made a great project that taught me new skills while also saving me money.

The same goes in the lab.

I remember when I was an impoverished small business owner working on RF gear (mainly CB radios) back in the 1970s and all I could afford was a 5MHz scope.  I simply built a beat-oscillator and mixer to effectively extend the useful bandwidth of that scope to the 27MHz I needed to get a picture of the modulation envelope of those CB radios.

I've also built countless bits of test-gear over the years and each one was a fun project.

Just make sure you get some good basic equipment to start with (scope, DMM, etc) from which you can start your building process and against which you can calibrate your new creations.

As for what you ought to be building -- that entirely depends on what you plan to do in your lab.  The needs of an RF engineer/experimenter tend to be different to those of a digital engineer/experimenter so different tools have different values to each.
 

Offline hacklordsniper

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2011, 06:25:30 am »
There are great kits on the net and eBay. This will prove much more worthy than following somebodies else shematics and will probably work from first try.
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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2011, 01:23:04 pm »
Kits more worthy? Easier and more likely to succeed, sure, but also much less instructive. Starting with a schematic and having to choose parts requires some understanding of the circuit, as opposed to the paint by the numbers approach of most kits.
 

Offline hacklordsniper

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2011, 01:58:28 pm »
Kits more worthy? Easier and more likely to succeed, sure, but also much less instructive. Starting with a schematic and having to choose parts requires some understanding of the circuit, as opposed to the paint by the numbers approach of most kits.

Not more worthy but it can be easier to acquire components and PCB. You will have a circuit and schematics surely known to work and then you can adopt it to your needs, modify it and so on. Most of all teached from kits, i always think that it is a good way
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Offline McMonster

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2011, 02:03:44 pm »
I think starting from a schematic is a more rewarding approach, but it has a big flaw, it can take you days, weeks or even months to build anything but the simplest circuits. Electronics is a lot to learn for someone starting from nothing. Testing it myself all the time, but I had some very basic background with digital circuits and using multimeters and oscilloscopes as a CS student.
 

Offline david77

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2011, 02:09:34 pm »
I'd also support the fully DIY approach without using kits. I've always found kits are a bit like cheating, all you have to do is put the parts in the correct way round and maybe make a case for it. Boring!

Most things a newbie would want to build can be done with veroboard, no need to etch a PCB for something like a logic probe (first example that came to my mind, maybe not so usefull today).

 

Offline westfw

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2011, 02:57:19 pm »
Here are some little things that can be handy to have around:

Bounceless pushbuttons.
Accurate 1s timebase (other frequencies too?  10Hz?)
Generic 555 clock circuits.
LEDs with resistors and leads.
Speakers with resistors (drivable by microcontroller pins.)
 

Offline hacklordsniper

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2011, 03:05:06 pm »
Affcourse you learn much more by taking a IC, its datasheet and make something out of it (like a adjustable power supply) then add current limiting, then add CC and CV...

But it depends on the level of the beginner. One good site i would reccomend is talking electronics, just look howmuch commercial and hobyst schematics and products this guy reviewed and pointed why it does not work. I cant know on what type of level is autor of this thread so im suggesting what i think could help. There is alot of kits which will teach you many things and they come with full operational description. I know more than one beginner that has taken a suspicious schematics from google, built it and disapointed itself because he did nto know it cant work even in dreams the way its drawn and his knowledge is not enough to find it.

I have a small electronics site and get alot of inquries from beginners so really i can say i have some experience from them. People even fail to replicate my triple checked schematics.

And last tell me honestly why is connecting a circuit by schematics not cheating and kit is ?

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Offline McMonster

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2011, 04:04:51 pm »
And last tell me honestly why is connecting a circuit by schematics not cheating and kit is ?

It's harder to make an error on ready-made, labeled PCB and making errors is essential in learning electronics. And by working with schematics you'll need to be more aware about functions of pins, at least to identify them on the package.
 

Offline Mint.Topic starter

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2011, 08:25:24 pm »
I agree to making it by yourself, because you will learn more if you make it all yourself, instead of using a boring Kit and just soldering everything together having no idea how it works.
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Offline hacklordsniper

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2011, 05:29:27 am »
I agree to making it by yourself, because you will learn more if you make it all yourself, instead of using a boring Kit and just soldering everything together having no idea how it works.

If you think you will be better that way then i agree
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Offline david77

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2011, 01:48:42 pm »
I agree that you don't necessarily learn a lot from building something from a circuit diagram and there's a lot of bad circuits around on the net. At the same time you can not expect an absolute beginner to take a datasheet and develop his own circuit around the information given in there.

I would argue that as a beginner you do indeed learn a lot from building something from scratch - even when using a existing circuit. At the very least he'll learn a bit about placing components on a PCB , planning ahead, mechanical skills.

When building up some kit all you need is a bit of reading skills to read the manufacturers advices. And from experience I can tell you that even that is too much for some people. I don't know how many kits I've finished/trouble-shooted in the past ten years for other people. I can pretty much guarantee you that these people have learnt absolutely nothing.
 

Offline hacklordsniper

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2011, 07:15:16 am »
David77, exactly my point!
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Offline Mint.Topic starter

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #15 on: November 04, 2011, 08:48:28 am »
I think that this has gone a little bit off topic, perhaps we should go back to building a list of the homemade lab gear.
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Offline david77

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2011, 01:42:01 pm »
 ::) Sorry.

- various power supplies
- logic probe (possibly with 8 or more channels)
- small clock oscillator (NE555, TTL square wave)
- resistance/capacity boxes
- programming tools for various micros

It always depends on what you're into. Some people might find a small FM transmitter very useful, some might not know what to do with it.


 

Offline w2aew

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Re: Useful Homemade lab gear
« Reply #17 on: November 04, 2011, 11:16:49 pm »
One useful piece of lab gear that I built is an ESR meter which I use to help identify dried out electrolytic capacitors in equipment that I am repairing on the bench.  Details of this circuit and its operation can be found in this video...

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