Author Topic: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)  (Read 5747 times)

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Offline embeddedguy85

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Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« on: October 23, 2017, 06:36:55 pm »
I was under the impression that an electronics lab setup would cost around $1,000 according to the eevblog video.

But recently ive talked to someone who says he is spending $6k+ on a lab.

Question is, how much would I have to spend to setup a lab capable of doing the most common freelance jobs?

I'm just not seeing WHY someone would need to spend so much on equipment. Maybe a more sophisticated oscilloscope? But which projects require such a piece of equipment?
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2017, 07:47:23 pm »
Depends on the job. If your job is design and board bring up, then $1000 seems reasonable.

If your job is medium run assembly, then $6K may not cover it.
Alex
 

Offline embeddedguy85

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2017, 08:02:05 pm »
I was thinking not of production runs but the design and debugging, etc.
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2017, 08:07:41 pm »
For general purpose electronics, I see no reason to spend more than $1000 on electronics stuff. Microscope and other mechanical tools may not fit into this number. But $2000 will be more than enough. You can buy for the future, of course, and get more expensive equipment right away.

If you are doing RF design, then it will be way more expensive.

Special equipment, like thermal chambers, will blow $6K budged immediately.
Alex
 

Offline Pinkus

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2017, 08:09:04 pm »
No way you will go away with $1K!
For hobby usage: yes, 1K might be OK

But if you want to work as a freelancer (and you say 'marketable work') you need better and more equipment. If somebody shall be able to produce and sell what you developed you need to do much more task than a hobbyist.

What you will need is a
· reasonable 4 channel scope with misc. options
· logic analyzer
· reliable 2 channel power supply
· reliable bench meter
· good soldering station
· fume extractor

when it comes to smd:
· stereo microscope or Mantis
· soldering oven
· lots of parts and storage for them

$6K sounds pretty fair to me - even if you just want to start with the minimum, you better think about $2K. But you should know, after a few years your purchases will sum to several $10K!!

btw: don't forget the need of some mechanical stuff like a mill for prototyping housings. Also not a must but sometimes helpful (but not needed at the beginning): spectrum analyzer, electronic load, etc.

I would guess my lab did cost at least $20K (for my peace of mind I better not go and sum all purchases ... and for a lot of stuff I had great deals... if I would add SRP I easily would be at $30K). Of course I did not purchase it at once. Step by step I sold stuff and purchased better stuff when it was needed. However I better should have left out the cheapies at the beginning - but this you learn by yourself with time: good work need good tools. But investing a lot of money in tools only makes sense, if you are sure that you can assert on the market.... there are a lot of freelancers out there.

Good luck!
« Last Edit: October 23, 2017, 08:11:14 pm by Pinkus »
 
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Offline dmills

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2017, 08:10:17 pm »
It depends quite a lot on what you are doing...

RF stuff is expensive, spectrum and network analysers (And the cal kits!) can be thousands, even the inter series connector adaptors that you WILL need can add up to a few hundred bucks by the time you have a reasonable selection, then pads, bridges, filters...

Audio, again expensive if you want the gear to really measure what you have built, even an old AP system 1 is a couple of grand, something similar if you are doing very low noise or high precision analogue.

Digital of the microprocessor and hang a few peripherals off it sort is cheap and you could probably tool up for this for a grand, however as soon as you add DRAM and high speed busses you are back into the RF space again, but there is money in the simple stuff as long as you do not mind the software side.

Do not forget the software aspect, Matlab, PCB CAD of choice, Solidworks? Maybe ADS or such if that is how you roll? You can spend a scary amount on software licenses very, very, quickly.

And then we come to the reference books, that copy of "Handbook of filter synthesis" or "Knuth" can pay for itself fast, but they are still a couple of hundred bucks of outlay.

Finally, it is worth owning some mechanical tools, a lathe and smallish mill are **Useful** in this game.

You can do all of this for much less of course, but what you will find is that the guy with the right tools can work faster and with less false starts, and that translates into income.
 

Offline Pinkus

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2017, 08:12:45 pm »
The above is very true - I forgot the software  :palm:
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2017, 08:14:46 pm »
I would think you could get a nice hobby level lab for around $1000.  I seriously doubt that hobby grade stuff is going to go very far in a professional environment. 

Any professional measurement you take will need to be backed up by a calibrated instrument and the instrument will have to be accurate enough to justify the measurement.  I don't know if cheap chinese meters can be calibrated to a traceable standard.  You can't expect the cal lab to characterize the equipment so the published specs will have to be acceptable in the industry.  We see from some of the DMMs that CAT ratings are bogus, why are the accuracy specs any better?

All of this will clearly depend on the project and the customer but I would expect to spend several times $1000 to get equipment anywhere near good enough for professional use.  I guess I'm thinking that Keysight might be my new best friend.  They would surely be taking a lot of my money.

Perception is everything!  As a customer, which would you rather see on an equipment list, Rigol xxxxx or Keysight yyyyy?  Hobby versus professional.

You can struggle around making certain measurements with less than the required equipment but if a measurement requires a 4 channel scope, a 2 channel won't produce the image required by the customer.

It used to be that if you wanted to see something you bought Tektronix, if you wanted to measure it, you bought Fluke.  The industry has probably changed a little but not a whole lot.  We can certainly include Keysight for either function.
 

Offline blueskull

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2017, 08:17:35 pm »
I think you've mentioned before you want to do embedded? Then you don't need a fancy scope.
Just an Analog Discovery, a programmable power supply, a soldering station, a smoke absorber, one or two good ($100+) DMMs and a hot air station should cover your equipment usage.
Then you also need solder wire, solder flux, solder paste, solder wick, 2 pairs of good ($20+) tweezers, a good workbench with good lighting and a good chair.
You will also need a fast computer to compile Linux from scratch if you do the embedded Linux thing, prepare at least 32GB RAM if you run Linux in a VM, and 24GB if you run Linux as a physical machine.
You will find yourself in needing of a printer, at least two monitors and a good set of keyboard/mouse.
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2017, 08:17:51 pm »
Any professional measurement you take will need to be backed up by a calibrated instrument and the instrument will have to be accurate enough to justify the measurement.
That is some very idealized scenario. I've seen so many contractors that have no idea what they are doing, and they have no problems winning the bids.

Equipment matters way less than your brains.

Perception is everything!  As a customer, which would you rather see on an equipment list, Rigol xxxxx or Keysight yyyyy?  Hobby versus professional.
With attitude like this, you will always overpay for stuff. Good on KS marketing though.
Alex
 
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Offline TimNJ

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2017, 08:21:20 pm »
What do you consider "common freelance jobs"? There's no one-size-fits-all electronics lab. Most labs are highly tailored to a certain type of project. As you start to work on more advanced projects, you will quickly realize that in order to validate your design, you may need some fairly pricey equipment. If you are designing small microcontroller based widgets, then chances are a $1k lab setup will do the trick (at least for a while).

For "high-performance" designs (that is, high speed, low noise, high precision, etc.), you need your test equipment to be "better" than the circuit you are trying to design. For instance, my next big project is a programmable voltage reference which can output any voltage between 0 and 20V in 0.00001V increments. I can only confirm that the linearity and accuracy of my device with a high precision meter with high level of measurement certainty. Such a meter might cost $3000, by itself.

In industry, working on high speed communications (4G/5G, for example) requires some pretty insanely spec'd test equipment.

But I would start off small, being working on some projects, and eventually when you realize "Hmm, I'd sure like to make 'x' but I can't test it", then look for something that can make that measurement.
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2017, 08:23:57 pm »
But the growth is kind of embedded in the question. There is no way you will get a job doing something way more complicated that what you did before.

Even if you just spend $100 000 and buy the best equipment ever, you will not get jobs to use that equipment without some track record.
Alex
 

Offline blueskull

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2017, 08:24:58 pm »
Digital of the microprocessor and hang a few peripherals off it sort is cheap and you could probably tool up for this for a grand, however as soon as you add DRAM and high speed busses you are back into the RF space again, but there is money in the simple stuff as long as you do not mind the software side.

A good scope and 2 sets of active probes are all what is needed to do this.

Do not forget the software aspect, Matlab, PCB CAD of choice, Solidworks? Maybe ADS or such if that is how you roll? You can spend a scary amount on software licenses very, very, quickly.

I don't use Matlab, nor SW. ADS is only for serious RF guys.
I use Octave to do Matlab's job, and when I need a specific tool box that's not there, I write one in C from scratch.
I use TinkerCAD to do rough modeling, and OpenSCAD to do fine modeling. I then use FreeCAD to export the files. I also use SpaceClaim (included in Ansys AIM) if I want to do Ansys AIM simulation ($14k, 1/10 the cost of a full Ansys Workbench and thermal, mechanical and electromagnetic solvers).
 

Offline katzohki

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2017, 08:36:25 pm »
It absolutely depends on what you're going to do, what capabilities you need to have and so on. What can you do for a client right now? Add to that what you think you need.
 

Offline Mr. Scram

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2017, 08:45:15 pm »
Not all customers are prepared to deal with any issues that can and sometimes do arise when you use an alternative CAD package. There is a reason companies pay stupid amounts of money for Solidworks licences and that is because it's the industry standard. Not being able to deliver 100% compatible files will hurt you a lot in some areas.

I'm less familiar with other software packages, but I imagine it's often the same there.
 

Offline Mjolinor

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #15 on: October 23, 2017, 08:50:10 pm »

I set my lab up between 1991 and 1998. I spent a total of £148,000 doing it.

The total worth of all that equipment today is probably in the order of £5000 I would guess.

:)

It depends what you are doing.
 

Offline cdev

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #16 on: October 23, 2017, 08:56:15 pm »
Electronics is like art. Which is to say its also a bit like being stricken with a disease. Or rather an addiction.

If you want to do it, you'll figure out a way to do it.

But once you are asking for money from people then your time is money.

So you will likely want to have the most optimized tool set for what you do. Optimized means not spending more than you need to in any area, so you will have the money to spend where you need it. Every person's needs are different.

Its always been my observation that startup companies that spend a lot of money on impressing customers with fancy [whatever] often fail.

Personally, I think there is a sweet spot for value with everything. Including every kind of tool.
Some tools are exceptional values and they make all sorts of things easier but you learn less.

Other tools help you learn and you understand more faster.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2017, 09:09:30 pm by cdev »
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away."
 

Offline cdev

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #17 on: October 23, 2017, 09:00:27 pm »
I just got a nifty little stereo microscope for $35 new on ebay. Its like a kids microscope, but the optics are quite decent.
For general purpose electronics, I see no reason to spend more than $1000 on electronics stuff. Microscope and other mechanical tools may not fit into this number.
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away."
 

Offline AndyC_772

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #18 on: October 23, 2017, 09:00:38 pm »
Don't focus too much on the cost of the lab equipment. It'll seem like a lot if you add up the costs of everything you think you might need all at once, but that's not the right way to equip a lab.

The key thing is to buy what you need, when you need it. Always be ready to buy a new tool, but don't actually do so until you have a compelling reason to spend the money.

I started out with a simple 'hobby' lab, consisting of:

- a good, solid bench with ESD mat
- a 4 channel analogue 100 MHz scope
- a reasonable soldering station
- a very cheap '830' multimeter
- a good selection of hand tools
- a laptop PC running free schematic and PCB software

That's about it. It was enough to tinker and play with at home, but really wasn't up to the job of working professionally.

No PSU, no function generator, no spectrum analyser, no logic analyser.

First was an update to the IT equipment. Out went the free software, and in came a copy of OrCAD PCB Designer, which has been an indispensible staple of my business ever since. Also a NAS unit with a UPS, and a robust backup solution. You'll need somewhere to store customer jobs, and you can't afford to ever lose data to a drive failure.

Next, the scope had to go, replaced by a Tek TDS754D. I needed the 500 MHz bandwidth, for a specific series of customer jobs.

I bought a used, and quite old, Fluke multimeter too, for confidence and the sake of appearance in front of customers as much as anything else. It confirmed that my '830' was in fact perfectly accurate and usable.

It's very, very rare indeed that anyone actually questions the accuracy of a measurement I've taken. There's no rule that says you "must" have a calibrated meter just because you're a "professional".

That said, several years later, all my equipment has been upgraded apart from the bench.

I sold the Tek scope and now have two MSO-X3000A scopes instead; one 1GHz model because I needed the extra bandwidth for a specific job, and one 500 MHz model which I take to customer sites.

I have a few multimeters now, of course. Most often I use a 34465A, mainly because it has a permanent place on my desk so it's convenient. I like the data logging features - but more often than not, I could use a much more 'ordinary' handheld meter

I also have a Fluke 289 which I bought for a job that required logging a vehicle's battery voltage while it was in motion It's now a 'travel' meter which I always tend to have with me when I visit customers, on the basis that although it's not actually that nice a meter to use (rather slow, poor display contrast), it can do pretty much anything.

The same goes for the signal generator and impedance analyser. I don't use them much, but for the jobs that require them - and justified their purchase - they're invaluable.

For a time I did keep a few saved searches on Ebay, and picked up good quality, general purpose equipment (power supplies, microscope) when it came up for sale at a good price - but although I use my power supplies and microscope regularly, the fact that they weren't bought for a specific job makes them unusual.

Online hammy

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #19 on: October 23, 2017, 09:10:44 pm »
2000-3000€ PC and CAD graphics card + two Monitors
500€ Bench DMM with data logging
400-800€ DSO with or without LA
500€ Salease Logic Pro 8
320€ Amscope SE400-LED + some more WF eyepices
220€ Brymen BM869e Handheld DMM
90€ Desoldering Station
240€ First Power Supply
240€ Second Power Supply
160€ Soldering Station
120€ Voltage Standard
200€ Peak Atlas DCA75 + LCR45
500-4000€ ECAD Software

5270-10170€ -> 6185-11937USD

not included: soldering tips, solder, cables, coax cables, wire, cutter, pliers, esd mat, good light, second DSO, second LA, some more DMM,  development boards, some more software, NAS for data storage, components, breadboards, 3D printer, 50Ohm termination, coax T-pieces, function generator, spectrum analyzer, some good books ...


Cheers
hammy
« Last Edit: October 23, 2017, 09:18:56 pm by hammy »
 

Offline cdev

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #20 on: October 23, 2017, 09:36:34 pm »
As an embedded guy, you could in theory make almost any kind of lab or testing device with a computer, and a few additional parts. There is no use reinventing the wheel when you already own some wheels that just need an axle to work.

A recent thread on cheap ebay gadgets had a discussion of some really good value cheap gadgets like the $10 sigrok compatible logic analyzers and the $7 AVR component tester that identifies almost everything with two or three leads. You cant go wrong with them. Also at least one good multimeter, but really two or more are quite useful, especially if you can log their output. I like to use an analog multimeter to show a device's  current draw.

A bench power supply with both constant current and voltage is essential to have. Its good if it has a switchable meter or even better if it has two, so you can see voltage and current draw simultaneously. An ESD mat and a wrist strap to ground yourself.  Some small cup like containers for parts in your current project (I use the lids from peanut butter jars.) Solderless breadboards and solid wire.. Lots of different kinds of wire and cable.. Headers.. a number of different kinds of headers.. male, female, for the stuff I do, I use some RF connectors.. always need to use USB-UART converters.. I keep a bunch of plastic boxes which hold common various small parts, resistors, capacitors, LEDs, some common transistors, ferrites and toroids..

Good, bright lighting-is essential for soldering.. I have a florescent light on a boom with a magnifier, its handy for inspecting a board in detail.. I use a really bright clip on light for soldering.. I also have a small strong fan to pull the fumes away and more generally a double fan with a heat exchanger to the outdoors to keep the air fresh.

A scope is super useful, you can start out with a used analog scope.  A good soldering iron with a grounded tip and adjustable temperature. Ideally it should have changeable tips and its good to have an assortment of tips. Some kind of holder for boards. A vise is good to hold a board you are working on while you are working on it. its nice to have an all-metal one that can take some heat (for use with a preheater) I use a "stick vise" for that. It was $6.

A hot air gun with adjustable temperature and a hot plate with controllable temperature are nice too. Cables and interconnects, probes.. "Dupont cables" alligator clips.  Small tools, side cutting pliers, wire stripper, tweezers, small screwdrivers, solder in several different sizes, solder flux (pen), solder wick, solder paste. other supplies, qtips, IPA.

Really, electronics as a hobby is not all that expensive compared to many other hobbies. All told I really doubt if I have spent even $1000. Probably more like $750. And its been spread over several years.  Most of the stuff I order on ebay is under $5. You can do a lot with inexpensive tools.

But - I am just starting out, really. I'm just fooling around. Were i doing anything professionally, it would be a wholly different story.

You will have to spend more money, probably much more, eventually, but do it sensibly.

Use your inexpensive equipment to its fullest and you'll know when you have outgrown it.

« Last Edit: October 23, 2017, 10:19:52 pm by cdev »
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away."
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #21 on: October 23, 2017, 10:56:23 pm »
2000-3000€ PC and CAD graphics card + two Monitors
Sure, you'll also need to lease a personal jet. How would you visit customers otherwise?

You can rack up the bill, of course. But I don't think this was the question.
Alex
 

Offline embeddedguy85

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #22 on: October 23, 2017, 11:05:38 pm »
Well, thanks for all the replies. I have to say it is discouraging because my plan was to learn and build projects on my own and then hopefully get into freelancing... but the issue I see now is money! Because I am cash poor but time rich as it is right now. How could I afford such professional equipment to provide the services companies need?

So, maybe there is a middle step I could take? Perhaps only writing firmware on a freelance basis? This wouldnt require that equipment, right? Just basic electronics knowledge.
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #23 on: October 23, 2017, 11:08:03 pm »
Well, thanks for all the replies. I have to say it is discouraging because my plan was to learn and build projects on my own and then hopefully get into freelancing... but the issue I see now is money! Because I am cash poor but time rich as it is right now. How could I afford such professional equipment to provide the services companies need?
You are contradicting yourself. If you don't have the knowledge to use all that equipment, how you will use it? How do you plan to get customers?

At this point it is a hobby, and you can start electronics hobby with $10.

It is like saying "I want to be an auto mechanic", but I can't afford to buy a 4 car garage right now.
Alex
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #24 on: October 23, 2017, 11:09:15 pm »
If you stay in the firmware end of the business, you will still need a scope and logic analyzer but perhaps not as high end as if you were designing hardware.

After all, if you define a PWM output, it would be nice to see if it really changes pulse width.
 

Offline embeddedguy85

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #25 on: October 23, 2017, 11:11:25 pm »
Well, thanks for all the replies. I have to say it is discouraging because my plan was to learn and build projects on my own and then hopefully get into freelancing... but the issue I see now is money! Because I am cash poor but time rich as it is right now. How could I afford such professional equipment to provide the services companies need?
You are contradicting yourself. If you don't have the knowledge to use all that equipment, how you will use it? How do you plan to get customers?

At this point it is a hobby, and you can start electronics hobby with $10.

It is like saying "I want to be an auto mechanic", but I can't afford to buy a 4 car garage right now.

I dont need all that high level equipment to learn and build some fun projects, but I would need them to do the high level services. If I dont have the money to buy that equipment, and I wont have the money unless I get a job, and at that point I would have very little time to learn. It's a catch-22.
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #26 on: October 23, 2017, 11:12:15 pm »
After all, if you define a PWM output, it would be nice to see if it really changes pulse width.
There are ways around it. If you are doing this for a client, it would be stupid to bill them for this. But if you are doing it for hobby, then you should have enough time, if you don't have enough money :)

I did not have a scope for the majority of my life, and was perfectly fine. Well, I had access to an analog scope, but that thing was mostly worthless for what I was doing.
Alex
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #27 on: October 23, 2017, 11:14:15 pm »
I dont need all that high level equipment to learn and build some fun projects, but I would need them to do the high level services. If I dont have the money to buy that equipment, and I wont have the money unless I get a job, and at that point I would have very little time to learn. It's a catch-22.
Doing services is not an easy job, you are better off getting a regular job and gaining some experience. There are a lot of pitfalls in consulting, getting necessary equipment is probably the cheapest thing.

Think about contract paperwork you will have to sign, you can get yourself into a lot of trouble if you don't have someone knowledgeable look over it.

You need to have a running capital to have a business like this.

Also, majority of people have jobs and learn in spare time on weekends. If this is a problem for you, you need to re-evaluate your situation somehow. Plus a good job is a huge learning opportunity, so probably don't get a job at McDonalds.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2017, 11:17:09 pm by ataradov »
Alex
 

Offline embeddedguy85

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #28 on: October 23, 2017, 11:17:52 pm »
If you stay in the firmware end of the business, you will still need a scope and logic analyzer but perhaps not as high end as if you were designing hardware.

After all, if you define a PWM output, it would be nice to see if it really changes pulse width.

Is freelance firmware writer a popular thing to outsource?
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #29 on: October 23, 2017, 11:19:32 pm »
Is freelance firmware writer a popular thing to outsource?
Reasonably popular. But a lot of those jobs go to either big professional design houses, or to cheaper markets, like India, Ukraine, etc.

You would still need to be familiar with hardware, and have some equipment. Nobody is going to give a job without seeing some portfolio of hearing some references.

You've got to start small - hobby projects are a good thing.

One good way to get contract job is to be an expert in a certain area - like knowing wireless technologies, or know how to certify things. It is way harder if you can just program an Arduino.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2017, 11:23:10 pm by ataradov »
Alex
 

Online hammy

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #30 on: October 23, 2017, 11:22:42 pm »
You can rack up the bill, of course. But I don't think this was the question.

How much is it for your computer setup? Your customer wants a security and data protection for the stuff you work on. Also a backup and an archive for the data and documents for several years.
A quite fast PC for your daily work is necessary and an essential part of your lab. At least some external hard disks or a NAS storage with RAID and attached backup disks is nice to have. Some customers dont allow the use of a cloud for data storage!
You need some software for your work. ECAD package? KEIL compiler for some MCUs? Tax software? Office software? An operating system you can run the software the customer provides to you? A printer? A scanner?

Maybe all this stuff is already at home. But for your freelance work or small company you usually need some more IT stuff than normal. OP question was about the costs of an initial lab setup. And the cost for IT, to run the freelance job/business is something the most people don't think about ... because ... you know ... the already have a 13" MacBook!  ;)

« Last Edit: October 23, 2017, 11:28:18 pm by hammy »
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #31 on: October 23, 2017, 11:27:07 pm »
How much is it for your computer setup?
It was not about PC specifically. Other things on the list are desirable, but not 100% required.

Also a backup and an archive for the data and documents for several years.
I'm not sure this is necessary. When the project is done, it is done. Archival services are an extra.

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Offline dmills

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #32 on: October 23, 2017, 11:35:57 pm »
Most of my kit (And I am an RF geek, the expensive end of the game) comes from ebay via the 'for parts of not working' classification.

"Does not power up" is pretty much my favourite thing to see on a listing because it just screams 'stupid power supply fault', got a good track record with those.

To give an example of what you can find I just scored a HP 8753B VNA for £360, clearly the thing has a display fault (Only the red gun seems to be working) but that monitor is a standard Sony part that is readily available so even if I cannot fix the thing (I am suspecting the cermret trimmers on the monitor board, nasty things), I can just throw another one in there for £50 plus an hour of so of fiddling.  Yea, it is a 25 year old design, so what? It will still calibrate just fine and measure my high speed traces for discontinuities just as well as the modern stuff. We will see when it turns up, sometimes you get lucky, sometimes not so much....

I have a mishmash of Anritsu, Hp/Agilent/Keysight, Marconi, Aeroflex, Fluke, TTI/Farnell, Prism, AVO and other random things, none of them paid any more then about 10% of list for, and the average is very much less then that. My cost, probably £10k or so, list? I dread to think....

Don't forget that hire is a reasonable option for the shiny stuff you only need once in a blue moon, it gets spendy quickly, but if you only need that power analyser for a week or that 20Ghz scope and probes for a few days for a specific bit of qualification, it is a cost effective option.
 

Offline Mr. Scram

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #33 on: October 23, 2017, 11:40:08 pm »
If you're in it for the money and not just a hobby, don't forget to factor in time spent browsing and bidding on eBay, the time it takes to fix things, devices that turned out to be properly broken after all and all those things.

As a hobby, it's fine to sink time into your equipment, but if you're trying to do it professionally, it's not as cheap as it may seem. They don't say "time is money" because they're joking.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #34 on: October 23, 2017, 11:43:35 pm »
Depends entirely what you want to do.
Absolute essentials would be Scope, DMM,PSU, Soldering station, hand tools etc.
You certainly don't need a state-of-the-art PC.
$1k could certainly do it to start with, but you quickly need to work out the balance between your time and spending money to save time. 
« Last Edit: October 24, 2017, 12:09:19 am by mikeselectricstuff »
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Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #35 on: October 23, 2017, 11:46:41 pm »

Question is, how much would I have to spend to setup a lab capable of doing the most common freelance jobs?

I'm just not seeing WHY someone would need to spend so much on equipment. Maybe a more sophisticated oscilloscope? But which projects require such a piece of equipment?
.. but of course If you can't answer those questions yourself, you almost certainly don't yet have sufficient skills to make a living freelancing.

Who would hire a freelancer who doesn't even know what tools they need to do the job?
 
 
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Offline dmills

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #36 on: October 23, 2017, 11:47:28 pm »
Well aware of time being money, and it is nearly never worth fixing the cheap stuff if it is not utterly trivial, however once you are looking at £30,000 of phase noise measurement kit that you picked up for £1,500  then blowing a few days on seeing it right makes some sense if you have a use for it.

Got to keep an eye on the opportunity cost as well.

Regards, Dan.

 
 

Offline rhb

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #37 on: October 23, 2017, 11:59:28 pm »
As this is a response to a PM from me I think I should comment.

The OP was planning to start out with a soldering iron and a DMM.  Yes, you can do a lot with that and some LEDs.  I have a life long friend who is an MSP430 expert and mostly uses LEDs for debugging.  The more you know, the less you need.  But the price is time and experience.

I'm tooling up for a serious embedded effort as there are no jobs for old PhD level scientists in the oil industry and I want a job.  Less for money than for social engagement with technical people at similar skill levels.  I have vast DSP experience which I'm hoping might give me an edge in SDR algorithm designs.  My initial list is a 200+ MHz MSO, 3.2 GHz SA and a 4 channel PS.  At a minimum that comes to around $6k.  It is certainly not necessary to spend $6k to get started and I never suggested it was.  But to do professional work with embedded devices with RF links it certainly helps. And it IS essential if you're working with some bleeding edge device that just came out.  In my case, I've got a LimeSDR to play with.

I think I should note that I have NO professional electronics experience or formal instruction.  This has been an on again off again hobby for 50 years,  I have probably spent about $1500 on test gear over those 50 years. Much of which I had to fix to be able to use it.  My first good scope was an old Dumont 1060 dual trace 60 MHz scope with a  30 day warranty.  The horizontal sweep died after about 6 weeks.  It sat until I managed to swap a couple of ESDI disks for a wonky Tek 465 which worked well enough to allow me to fix the Dumont and then in turn fix the 465.  It took over a week of work every evening to track down the bad solder joints that afflicted the horizontal sweep on the Dumont.  I bought a Rigol DS1102E because I didn't want to face all those socketed transistors and old solder joints.  I've got a bunch of other old Tek and HP gear that is probably no longer worth the trouble of repairing.  The Dumont I'll almost certainly keep.  It doesn't have a fan and is a very nice analog scope.

As far as I can tell, the OP has no experience with embedded programming at all.  Or electronics.  I suggested he get an Elegoo Mega2560 kit and a DMM and get to doing stuff.  That will let him get his feet wet without spending too much.  He might well find he does not enjoy reading hundreds of pages of datasheets and user manuals for devices trying to figure out whether it will meet a requirement.   The Elegoo seems to have a pretty good set of tutorial examples and lots of interesting bits to play with.

He's interested in the STM32F4xx which is certainly a fine device.  But he asked me how to tell if a device would work with it.  Naturally that is what datasheets are for and why you can make money if you can do it.

In light of his limited means, I think the OP should start out as cheaply as possible and find out if he enjoys the work.  If after 6 months he's done all the stuff you can do with an Arduino starter set and is having fun, he can buy the scope, logic analyzer and other accoutrements.
 

Offline embeddedguy85

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #38 on: October 24, 2017, 12:10:58 am »

Question is, how much would I have to spend to setup a lab capable of doing the most common freelance jobs?

I'm just not seeing WHY someone would need to spend so much on equipment. Maybe a more sophisticated oscilloscope? But which projects require such a piece of equipment?
.. but of course If you can't answer those questions yourself, you almost certainly don't yet have sufficient skills to make a living freelancing.

Who would hire a freelancer who doesn't even know what tools they need to do the job?

Well of course im not applying to jobs right now.
 

Offline cdev

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #39 on: October 24, 2017, 02:14:05 am »
For around $7 on ebay you can get a quite usable USB logic analyzer that works well with sigrok. Thats an amazing deal.

Do you have a DMM or an analog multimeter?

You can get a Blue Pill STM32F103 board for under $2 and program it with a stlinkv2 which also costs around $3 or use a 3.3 volt USB-UART converter board (any of a half dozen different kinds will do) to program it. The development tools to use that are free to download.

Then you will be programming an embedded computer.
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away."
 

Offline cdev

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #40 on: October 24, 2017, 02:21:20 am »
A very very large number of jobs involving technology as well as publishing and dozens of other fields are likely to be outsourced/offshored in large numbers in the next few years. Office work of all kinds will be hit hard. As many as 40% of US jobs. Plus healthcare.

Shhhh! Its a big secret. Don't tell anybody, okay? Blame it on automation.

Is freelance firmware writer a popular thing to outsource?
« Last Edit: October 24, 2017, 02:32:56 am by cdev »
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Offline Mr. Scram

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #41 on: October 24, 2017, 02:42:51 am »
A very very large number of jobs involving technology as well as publishing and dozens of other fields are likely to be outsourced/offshored in large numbers in the next few years. Office work of all kinds will be hit hard. As many as 40% of US jobs. Plus healthcare.

Shhhh! Its a big secret. Don't tell anybody, okay? Blame it on automation.

Is freelance firmware writer a popular thing to outsource?
That was 2008. A few years later, companies started realizing outsourcing isn't a silver bullet. Many have partially or fully retraced their steps.
 

Offline Brumby

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #42 on: October 24, 2017, 03:12:54 am »
There are a lot of people with a lot of suggestions here.  They each are pointing in their own direction, but they all have one thing in common: They are reporting where they are at after having travelled or observed their own journey.

You have yet to begin yours - and it can be safely said that your journey will never be identical to anyone else's.  The phrase "it depends on what you want to do" as mentioned several times already, is just the beginning direction.  The road you travel and the changes in direction you take will make your journey unlike anyone else's.

It is because of this very unpredictable nature that I strongly recommend you take a step back from all the recommendations of high end equipment and software and focus on a more basic approach.  In fact, I would suggest $1000 spent on a reasonable collection of general purpose gear for a lab is far and away the best way to start.  Get to know how to use that gear with confidence - and when you find yourself limited by the capabilities of a piece of gear, you will not only know what features you need - but why you need them.  As an additional benefit, you will have an appreciation of the constraints of the task at hand and, therefore, you can look at how certain features are implemented so that they fit your need.

For example, say you have a need for a peak voltage measurement.  There are a number of options available - but let's also say you aren't always going to be in a position to observe these readings in real time.  Solutions might be to have some logging software - or to have a meter with peak detect and automatic hold.  Getting an instrument without some such capability is a waste and even when you do - which of these is the better solution?

The best person to answer this is you ... but only when you are in that position.  Certainly you can bring a specific question here for our input - but we can only offer suggestions.  The ultimate decision is yours.  There will be hundreds of such decisions along your journey and while we can give you some insights, we cannot give you a budget, let alone a shopping list for a mature lab.

Some people may say that some of the gear you get for your $1000 is not going to be good enough - and they are certainly going to be correct ... at some point.  The issue that you need to come to terms with here is that you must not attempt to assemble a full spec lab at the outset.

What I suggest is that you do what I did many years ago when I first extended my woodworking into the realms of routing.  A local hardware store was clearing their stock of old router bits, so I was able to assemble quite a range for an extremely modest amount.  Certainly, the quality wasn't high spec - but I was able to create a wide variety of finishes.  Over time, the most commonly used bits were replaced by high quality replacements which lasted much longer and gave much better results.  I also found I needed longer bits for some applications and new profiles for other work.  I even designed my own profile and had it made up.  My range of router bits now looks nothing like my original purchase - but I still have more than half of them in my collection, since they are still useful for a cut that I don't do all that frequently.


The worst purchases you can make are the ones where you do not understand why you are choosing a specific item.  Building a lab is like growing up - you can't just skip the teenage years to become an adult.  You learn a lot of "Why" during those years.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2017, 03:28:49 am by Brumby »
 
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Offline cdev

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #43 on: October 24, 2017, 03:30:22 am »
The perspectives people give you here can and will save you a huge amount of money.. so every penny you spend will likely be worth it.

You'll be a very well informed buyer.
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away."
 

Offline Berni

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #44 on: October 24, 2017, 05:53:01 am »
You might be taking things a bit too quick here. What you need to be good at freelance engineering is mostly experience. Simply having a nice $6000 lab won't do it.

Yes there is the typical laundry list of equipment that are pretty essential for basic work (multimeter,scope,psu,soldering equipment, magnification...etc) But to start with none of that equipment needs to be particularly good (Like a cheap Rigol 100MHz scope) so you can make it trough for $1000 just fine to start with. Then as you get in to the more specialized fields you buy equipment as you need it. If you get in to high speed digital you might want a >1GHz scope, but that cheap rigol will still come in useful for more basic tasks even one you have the fancy scope. When you get in to RF there is a whole new list of expensive equipment to get.

But as a freelance design engineer you will still spend half of your time just in front of a PC so this is just as important to being productive. So a reasonably up to date PC with good design software is quite vital. You likely want to choose one PCB design tool and focus on it to get good at it. This stuff can cut the time to design a board in 1/4.

Again all of this is useless unless you got engineering experience! You need to have designed at least a few electronics projects to be any good(as a hobby or working for someone). When you sit down with your new customer to discuss the project you have to be prepared. Your costumer might come to you with purely a conceptual idea of what he wants the product to do without any understanding how it might do it. Its your job then to evaluate what the best way to do it is and talk with the customer on what sort of limitations or benefits doing it this way might have. You get no hand holding in freelance, no company graybeard to call in to the meeting for an opinion. Coming in to this with no electronics experience will not get you far. The costumer has to see you as smart and competent, the only reason they want to pay you to do the job is because they can't do it themselves(usually due to the lack of said experience)

One can become a cashier at a store overnight, but the path to becoming a good electronics engineer is long (but can be quite fun!)
« Last Edit: October 24, 2017, 05:58:06 am by Berni »
 

Offline AndyC_772

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #45 on: October 24, 2017, 06:20:39 am »
Is freelance firmware writer a popular thing to outsource?

It's highly unlikely that someone will design hardware, then outsource the firmware to run on it.

What people want is solutions to their problems. If the problem is "we need a device to do X", then the solution typically involves hardware design, firmware, testing, documentation, and training. You'll need to be able to do all these things.
 
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Offline Brumby

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #46 on: October 24, 2017, 06:31:16 am »
I knew there was something I didn't spell out as clearly as I wanted - and it was succinctly put here...
Any professional measurement you take will need to be backed up by a calibrated instrument and the instrument will have to be accurate enough to justify the measurement.
That is some very idealized scenario. I've seen so many contractors that have no idea what they are doing, and they have no problems winning the bids.

Equipment matters way less than your brains.


Your brain is your most powerful tool and your most valuable asset.  Many people have gone for years being very successful in various endeavours without the tools that others have leaned upon.

Certainly the right gear can make life easier, but without the underlying skills, you are not going to to utilise that gear effectively.  But if you put your mind to it, you can do quite a bit more without the gear than you might realise.
 

Offline Awesome14

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #47 on: October 24, 2017, 06:50:05 am »
It sounds like you want to make all preparations up front, debating this and that, as an excuse to avoid actually doing anything. How much do you know about electronics? Pick a project and build it! You don't require anything but a computer to design a pcb. See here for free software:  http://www.4pcb.com/

They also make your board in low runs for cheap prices. My impression is that you haven't yet conceived of the available opportunities. IoT is probably the most wide open field in electronics today. It involves using the Internet to communicate with and control other devices and systems via smart phone or computer, or between two different IoT devices.

But for starters, you probably do fine with a 3-1/2 digit multimeter for under 20.00USD. You can get a 30V 5A DC variable PSU for about 30.00USD. A 20 Mhz  dual-trace USB DSO costs about 60.00USD. You can get a good laptop for 200.00USD that will run anything you want.

I picked up an USB EEPROM reader/writer for 40.00USD. It works with many chips, even old ones. I picked up a DMM on DHGATE for 80.00USD that does vdc/vac, resistance, Idc/Iac, uA, mA, frequency, period, cap, diode, temp, RH, luminosity, and SPL.

Interconnects (think pomona), bread board stuff, assortment of board-level components, soldering station, tips, tinning compound, solder, flux, copper braid, solder sucker, heat gun, shrink tubing, jump wire, hand tools, and connectors will run another few hundred. Get a decent soldering station. I recommend a basic Weller unit.

You'll also need a cordless drill, rotary tool (think dremel) a mill and some end mills (drill press with a vise works in a pinch!). I never tried to buy everything I might need. I used the same soldering iron and tip for 10 years. You get to know the stuff you have and how to get the most out of it.

But before you make the jump, pick some project, and get just what you need for that project. When you complete the project, if you still enjoy electronics, pick a bigger project.
Anything truly new begins as a thought.
 

Offline Brumby

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #48 on: October 24, 2017, 06:58:05 am »
It sounds like you want to make all preparations up front, debating this and that, as an excuse to avoid actually doing anything.

This is all to frequently the case in many avenues in life.  Too scared to jump in until all possible preparations have been made.

The end result is .... you never start - because there is always something else.
 

Offline Dubbie

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #49 on: October 24, 2017, 09:41:18 am »
You said that you are money poor but time rich. IMO that is the best thing at the moment. You can spend $30-40 on some dev boards and hundreds of hours reading and experimenting and you will learn a ton. The biggest obstacle to your goal right now is not equipment, but knowledge. Luckily in this day and age, gaining it mainly costs time.
 

Offline cdev

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #50 on: October 24, 2017, 08:58:39 pm »
Be happy you aren't one of those folks graduating with $100,000s in college debt who has never had any practical experience, with both the government and parents breathing down their necks for them to get a high paying job so they can start paying back that debt. (which is non-discharge-able unlike the debts incurred by multinational corporations who get bailed out because they are claimed to be "too big to fail".)

Did you see the video where they were asking them (recent grads still in their graduation gowns) how one would hook up a light bulb?
« Last Edit: October 24, 2017, 09:00:33 pm by cdev »
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Offline fonograph

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #51 on: October 24, 2017, 09:17:19 pm »
The above is very true - I forgot the software  :palm:

   https://youtu.be/i8ju_10NkGY   >:D
« Last Edit: October 24, 2017, 09:18:53 pm by fonograph »
 

Offline Awesome14

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #52 on: October 24, 2017, 10:18:38 pm »
Be happy you aren't one of those folks graduating with $100,000s in college debt who has never had any practical experience, with both the government and parents breathing down their necks for them to get a high paying job so they can start paying back that debt. (which is non-discharge-able unlike the debts incurred by multinational corporations who get bailed out because they are claimed to be "too big to fail".)

Did you see the video where they were asking them (recent grads still in their graduation gowns) how one would hook up a light bulb?
cdev, I don't know where you get the 100,000s in debt idea for a college education. It appears you're not from the United States, so that must apply to some other nation's schools. Could you please state which nation you are referring to.

When I graduated I was about 10,000USD in debt for student loans. The remainder of my tuition was paid by government grants (don't have to be paid back; free money). University education is not the only way to go, but it is the best way, and the way most electronics professionals choose.

If I wasn't educated in physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering; I doubt whether I would have picked them up on my own. Maybe you were unable to get a college education. But don't tell everyone else that uneducated in the way to go.

Take your ridiculous prejudices and misinformation about getting an education somewhere else, because you're not helping anyone! Anyone in the United States can get a college education paid for by the government, and incur debt that can be paid back within a few years.

Non-citizens are a different story. But they're not entitled to government education programs in the U.S., because they're not Americans. Not everyone can be an American. 
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Offline Mr. Scram

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #53 on: October 24, 2017, 10:32:24 pm »
cdev, I don't know where you get the 100,000s in debt idea for a college education. It appears you're not from the United States, so that must apply to some other nation's schools. Could you please state which nation you are referring to.

When I graduated I was about 10,000USD in debt for student loans. The remainder of my tuition was paid by government grants (don't have to be paid back; free money). University education is not the only way to go, but it is the best way, and the way most electronics professionals choose.

If I wasn't educated in physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering; I doubt whether I would have picked them up on my own. Maybe you were unable to get a college education. But don't tell everyone else that uneducated in the way to go.

Take your ridiculous prejudices and misinformation about getting an education somewhere else, because you're not helping anyone! Anyone in the United States can get a college education paid for by the government, and incur debt that can be paid back within a few years.

Non-citizens are a different story. But they're not entitled to government education programs in the U.S., because they're not Americans. Not everyone can be an American.
How long ago did you graduate? It's no secret that the cost of US education has skyrocketed the past few years, and debt followed suit. Apparently, a student has, on average, a deb of close to $40000 upon graduation. As recent as 10 or 20 years ago, that was just a fraction.

Note that I'm not saying that you shouldn't get a degree, but it's good to be realistic about the situation, especially considering the conditions that are attached to these debts.
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #54 on: October 24, 2017, 10:59:03 pm »

Question is, how much would I have to spend to setup a lab capable of doing the most common freelance jobs?

I'm just not seeing WHY someone would need to spend so much on equipment. Maybe a more sophisticated oscilloscope? But which projects require such a piece of equipment?
.. but of course If you can't answer those questions yourself, you almost certainly don't yet have sufficient skills to make a living freelancing.

Who would hire a freelancer who doesn't even know what tools they need to do the job?

Precisely.

But I'd add that if someone has sufficient experience to be a freelancer, they also probably know what they don't need because they can find a way to workaround the lack of it, at least until they manage to hire or buy the tool.

When I worked in contract R&D, the company didn't like buying equipment; they preferred the contract to include the cost of the equipment.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
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Offline tggzzz

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #55 on: October 24, 2017, 11:10:30 pm »
I was under the impression that an electronics lab setup would cost around $1,000 according to the eevblog video.

But recently ive talked to someone who says he is spending $6k+ on a lab.

Question is, how much would I have to spend to setup a lab capable of doing the most common freelance jobs?

I'm just not seeing WHY someone would need to spend so much on equipment. Maybe a more sophisticated oscilloscope? But which projects require such a piece of equipment?

Clients don't give contracts to a lab. They give contracts to someone that can demonstrate their experience by way of previously successful completed projects.

So you should first ensure that you have completed work under your belt, and that requires very little equipment.

I built my first microprocessor (6800+TTL) from scratch using a multimeter,some switches and LEDs. I have to admit to taking it to university to use a scope for 10 minutes, to verify that the critical non-TTL 6800 clock had good signal integrity. That is the equivalent of hiring something I couldn't afford.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2017, 11:13:47 pm by tggzzz »
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Offline cdev

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« Last Edit: October 25, 2017, 03:38:55 am by cdev »
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away."
 

Offline sairfan1

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #57 on: October 25, 2017, 02:41:17 am »
Sorry for question on a question, just wanted to know what kind of projects you guys do as a freelancer.
 

Offline cdev

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #58 on: October 25, 2017, 01:49:22 pm »
Some are very worried about our younger people's expectations. I really cant talk about this - its outside of the scope of this web site.

Think a bit about supply and demand and how it works.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2017, 01:56:30 pm by cdev »
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Offline rhb

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #59 on: October 25, 2017, 10:59:07 pm »
University education has become a scam preying upon adolescents and their parents.

I was asked to serve on the external advisory board of the geoscience department where I got my MS.  Not one of the professors responded to any emails attempting to start a conversation about what math skills certain specialties required.  After 3 years of this farce, I came to the conclusion the only interest I had in common with the department was my money.   The only reason I'd been asked to serve was the expectation I'd be so flattered I'd give them my money.

Education is important.  Woe unto those who ignore the need.  How you get it is less important.  I've seen high school hobby projects on HackaDay that I'd hire the person in a heartbeat as an engineer and send him to school if there was something he didn't know that I thought important.  Handsome is as handsome does.

One of the really nice things about the oil industry was I worked with people who had degrees in English, music and probably every other subject imaginable.  No one cared about what pieces of paper you had.  They cared about what you could do.

To return to the OP's question.  Get an Arduino kit and a DMM and see what you can do.  You'll find out what else you  need pretty quickly.  You might also find you don't like the work.  Not everyone does.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #60 on: October 25, 2017, 11:16:12 pm »
I was under the impression that an electronics lab setup would cost around $1,000 according to the eevblog video.
But recently ive talked to someone who says he is spending $6k+ on a lab.
Question is, how much would I have to spend to setup a lab capable of doing the most common freelance jobs?

Depends entirely upon what you are doing.
You could be freelancing doing mostly embedded software, in which case your "lab" is a PC, a desk, and some embedded debuggers.
You buy gear as you need them, don'
t make the mistake of setting up a lab before you know what work you will be doing.
 

Offline TheUnnamedNewbie

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #61 on: October 26, 2017, 06:25:35 am »
If you are doing true freelancing, you should not think of equipment as having a cost, but think of how long with will take for it to pay back it' s investment in the form of time savings.

Think of how much your time costs you (And your clients). As far as common rates go, lets just assume 50 euro per hour, which from what I understand is a quite low rate for a freelance EE that is any good at their job.

You now might think "Why do I need this expensive soldering iron that costs 1000 euros when I can get a cheap one for 100?". Well, if you spend 2 hours a week soldering with the cheap one, but lower it down to 1h30 minutes by going for the more expensive one, that iron will pay itself back in less than a year. In a sense, you could say that the cheap one costs more because you must include the cost of the time that you could save by going for a more expensive innitial model.

The same goes for stuff like scopes and powersupplies. If you spend just one day trying to bring a board up and struggeling because you went for a cheap supply instead of one that allowed it's output-toggle to be scripted, it' s likely that expensive supply would have already made up for the cost of purches.

In short: Don't make the mistake of thinking cost is just the initial cost of purchase, but factor in the amount of time you lose/gain by going for the cheaper/more expensive model. This is a key difference between doing a project as a hobby or as a way to put food on the table.
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Offline AndyC_772

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #62 on: October 26, 2017, 06:50:33 am »
I'd argue that if you're strictly charging by the hour, then a tool that saves time doesn't pay for itself. Quite the opposite!

The benefit comes if you can charge the same to get the job done, but it actually takes you less time with a new tool than it would have done otherwise. Work out how long you think a job should take and quote that, and don't then reduce that quote in future because you have better equipment, unless you have to.

Better tools also mean a better chance of first-time success at getting the job done. A quality soldering station is less likely to result in damaged leads and lifted pads, which are ugly at best, and at worst, a costly embarrassment.

Often overlooked too is that good tools are simply nicer to use. You'll enjoy your work more, and that's a good reason to choose a career path. If you have discretion over equipment purchases, and it's your own money, you can buy the gear you actually want rather than whatever is "best" according to a bean-counter.

(I've still never forgotten the time the 100 MHz Tektronix scope I asked for was substituted for a 150 MHz Owon "because it's better value").

Offline Psi

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #63 on: October 26, 2017, 07:20:54 am »
$1000 - for test gear (2x meters, cheap scope, USB LA, maybe a cheap LCR)
$400 - Hand/power tools (sidecutters, screw drivers, cheap cordless drill etc)
$500 - for general work room stuff, (desk, chair, workbench, lots of multicompartment storage boxes)
$400 - of generic parts stock, resistor kits, caps, jellybean semiconductors etc..
$800 - desktop or laptop computer
$900 - generic software licences, (win10/msoffice, cheap pcb design package, misc other minor licences)

So i think $4k is probably more reasonable to go from an empty room to a usable electronics lab.
Could save a little if you went all open source software. But still be looking at ~3k.

There would still items/gear missing, but that would setup a lab that's usable.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2017, 07:26:18 am by Psi »
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Offline tggzzz

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #64 on: October 26, 2017, 08:06:29 am »
Better tools also mean a better chance of first-time success at getting the job done.

If and only if they are used effectively, of course.

Learning to use any tool effectively requires time; such time should not be ignored, and may be accounted for in terms of "lost opportunity cost".
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Offline AndyC_772

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #65 on: October 26, 2017, 08:41:54 am »
I disagree. If two tools are designed to do the same job, the good tool is likely to be easier to learn and use than the less-good tool, almost by definition.

Take a solder station, for example. A good one will have quality tips that get up to temperature quickly, tend not to oxidise, and make it easy to create a quality joint. A bad one makes the job harder and requires more skill on the part of the operator to achieve a satisfactory result.

The same goes for cutters and pliers, multimeters, optical devices, test leads and other common items. Quality kit is easy to use and gets the job done right first time. Inferior kit may be able to do the same job, but introduces awkwardness, unreliability, distractions that you don't need.

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #66 on: October 26, 2017, 09:36:20 am »
I disagree. If two tools are designed to do the same job, the good tool is likely to be easier to learn and use than the less-good tool, almost by definition.

Take a solder station, for example. A good one will have quality tips that get up to temperature quickly, tend not to oxidise, and make it easy to create a quality joint. A bad one makes the job harder and requires more skill on the part of the operator to achieve a satisfactory result.

The same goes for cutters and pliers, multimeters, optical devices, test leads and other common items. Quality kit is easy to use and gets the job done right first time. Inferior kit may be able to do the same job, but introduces awkwardness, unreliability, distractions that you don't need.

Those are different points to the ones I was making. It assumes that someone is already competent to use a specific tool.

While there may not be much of a learning curve when moving from one pair of cutters (or soldering iron) to another, there is in moving from a scope to a logic analyser or spectrum analyser. In the latter case, frequently "better" means increased capabilities and concomitant increased complexity.

A recent example for me was getting to grips with the triggering capabilities of my "new" Agilent logic analyser - and I first used an LA in anger 37 years ago, so I'm not exactly a newbie in that respect!
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
Having fun doing more, with less
 

Offline rhb

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #67 on: October 26, 2017, 01:29:52 pm »
I'd argue that if you're strictly charging by the hour, then a tool that saves time doesn't pay for itself. Quite the opposite!

Might be true for some, but I routinely dropped over $3k/yr on books and professional society journals precisely because it allowed me to work more quickly.  When I couldn't get a faster computer at work I upgraded my home system to the tune of $3-4k.  I also put in quite a bit of time in the evenings reading and contemplating work problems.  I do not consider that billable time.

I took a week off every year to attend a professional society annual meeting on my nickel.  Another $5+k/yr expense.

So there are contractors and there are contractors.  Being able to do things quickly was precisely what justified my very stiff hourly rate.  I did not miss deadlines or produce buggy code.  I'd much rather bill 20 hrs at $100/hr than 40 hrs at $50/hr.  Clients seemed to like it.  It was generally perceived that I worked much harder than I did.

If you're not prepared to invest in yourself, why would you expect someone else to invest in you?

 

Offline xani

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #68 on: October 26, 2017, 02:41:08 pm »
While there may not be much of a learning curve when moving from one pair of cutters (or soldering iron) to another, there is in moving from a scope to a logic analyser or spectrum analyser. In the latter case, frequently "better" means increased capabilities and concomitant increased complexity.

But you're not talking about same thing. Moving from scope to spectrum analyzer is not "moving to better tool", it is "moving to completely different tool"

Moving from $50 2 channel analog to Rigol 1054Z won't be harder. There is of course the point of "higher" option just having way more features than lower one but often it isn't "more expensive one is harder to use", often it is just "that device just has worse interface that this other device you used" because it runs different UI, or is older model, or is from completely different vendor than your previous one. It could very well be other way around

The important part is buying a tools that have as much features you will use and not overpaying for those you do not or use rarely and can be worked around.
 

Offline cdev

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #69 on: October 26, 2017, 02:51:29 pm »
The final product is what people pay for. What matters is that it works.

OP, can I ask you this point blank, are you a market researcher?

Are you conducting market research for a client?
« Last Edit: October 26, 2017, 03:00:06 pm by cdev »
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away."
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #70 on: October 26, 2017, 02:54:49 pm »
While there may not be much of a learning curve when moving from one pair of cutters (or soldering iron) to another, there is in moving from a scope to a logic analyser or spectrum analyser. In the latter case, frequently "better" means increased capabilities and concomitant increased complexity.

But you're not talking about same thing. Moving from scope to spectrum analyzer is not "moving to better tool", it is "moving to completely different tool"

Well, duh. If you had read the previous paragraph and not snipped it, you would realise that is the point I was making. Here's the relevant bit:
Those are different points to the ones I was making.

Quote
Moving from $50 2 channel analog to Rigol 1054Z won't be harder. There is of course the point of "higher" option just having way more features than lower one but often it isn't "more expensive one is harder to use", often it is just "that device just has worse interface that this other device you used" because it runs different UI, or is older model, or is from completely different vendor than your previous one. It could very well be other way around

You have ignored and snipped (again!) my subsequent paragraph, which gives an example of exactly where and how that can happen. Here's the relevant bit:
A recent example for me was getting to grips with the triggering capabilities of my "new" Agilent logic analyser - and I first used an LA in anger 37 years ago, so I'm not exactly a newbie in that respect!

In addition I will note that I have found it far easier to teach newbies how to use an analogue scope than a typical digitising scope. The principal reason is that analogue scopes have the minimum necessary controls and they are all visible on the front panel. Typical digitising scopes usually have important controls that are invisible because they are buried somewhere in a menu system, plus they also have other controls that significantly change the display in subtle ways that are hard for a beginner to understand.

Quote
The important part is buying a tools that have as much features you will use and not overpaying for those you do not or use rarely and can be worked around.

Now there, we agree. That is implicit in an earlier of message of mine, https://www.eevblog.com/forum/beginners/total-cost-for-a-lab-for-marketable-work-(freelancing)/msg1332031/#msg1332031
« Last Edit: October 26, 2017, 03:00:57 pm by tggzzz »
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
Having fun doing more, with less
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #71 on: October 26, 2017, 02:56:56 pm »
The final product is what people pay for.

What matters is that it works.

Yes.

And in particular people don't give contracts to labs or lab equipment - they give them to freelancers they believe can do the job.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
Having fun doing more, with less
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Total cost for a lab for marketable work (freelancing)
« Reply #72 on: October 26, 2017, 03:05:51 pm »
The final product is what people pay for. What matters is that it works.

OP, can I ask you this point blank, are you a market researcher?

Are you conducting market research for a client?

I suspect the other topic he has started may throw some light on that, viz: https://www.eevblog.com/forum/beginners/beginner-looking-for-info-on-freelancing-possibilities/msg1314412/#msg1314412
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
Having fun doing more, with less
 


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