Author Topic: Hi and looking for some advice re workshop/equipment/tools etc from scratch  (Read 2399 times)

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Offline Doc Daneeka

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Hi all,

First time posting, but I have browsed the forums every now and then in the past. I warn in advance this is a longish read:

Basically I have just taken a job as an electronics engineer for a small company (say about 10 employees) making some simple devices for automotive applications, nothing exceedingly complex. I was hired as the business previously had all their electronics design done externally, now they have decided to expand somewhat and they want an elec engineer to 'quickly' be able to develop new designs, products etc. (and to save money presumably). When I applied I did not know but essentially I will be 100% responible for all engineering, the first engineer they have ever hired. Now, this sounds ok probably for most, but I don't have a huge amount of experience. I graduated a few years ago and have done a little work since (mostly doing postgrad study), and electronics has always been my thing since I was 5: I am not concerned about actually being competent to do the work, however, to be effectively 100% directly responsible is quite a leap. (Also, for various reasons (which are irrelevant here...), I absolutely had to take the job, so I want things to go 'well'  :) )

Now this company has no in house workshop, engineers, anything in terms of electronics engineering etc, so I need to get everything going from scratch so I can do the work.

Obviously, part of my job is board design, which I also do not have so much experience with. I have done some small projects, although a couple of years ago. I have used some free tools, I played around with kicad a while ago, I have used Altium in the past (years ago though, and my memories of it are of a program which continuously hangs and crashes, not so nice, but maybe it's improved?). Essentially what ever route I take I will need to (re)learn pretty quick. (these are not too complex designs, microcontroller, misc components and logic, a few different connectors standard and unusual automotive ones). So seeing as it's not my wallet that will be raided (but also considering all of the above ad below paragraphs...) what do you reccomend? 

The other thing is equipment for a functional electronics 'desk-workshop-bench-office-thing etc' - since they have nothing I need to specify everything and probably source it. Of course I had (had to get rid of everything as I moved...) my private workshop at one point, all tools equipment instruments etc, but I was never at the point where I had to 'buy everything at once', these things essentially accumulated as I needed and collected them. So considering, again, everything above, what do people reccomend in general? Oscilloscopes, function generator, power supply, soldering gear, multimeters, tools? (you don't know what you need till you go to use it and you don't have it, if you have any things you think are essential I don't list, say it!) I have to get this stuff set up with a reasonable cost and obiously functional enough for my work. I have owned a few rigol things in the past and would probably go for their scope and function generator, any general advice about models etc? I used to have about 10 different multimeters, heaps of tools, all kinds of gear and other things, all accumulated over time, now I have to get 'everything' new from scratch, I am really a little lost where to start (and spending someone elses money you need to at least have a little justification/excuses...).

Sorry these are 'long' questions, if it were my own business or hobby I would just go as I like, if I did somehting not so effective I could just try something else to get things going well, but now being responsible for someone else's business means I need to do things 'right'...

Any thoughts? advice?
 

Online tautech

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Welcome to the forum Doc.

I'm not sure if you've fallen "on your feet" or "in it".  :o

We've seen this before, the "new guy" given the task of setting up the lab and some describe it as being given a hospital pass.
We can offer you advice on a suitable "package" but will budgetary constraints only have it thrown out and we have to start the process all over again ?  :-//

Might it be better that you, one:
Give us a budget as a guide
And two: throw some of your own choices into the mix so features can be discussed and possibly better options offered.
Avid Rabid Hobbyist
 

Offline MosherIV

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Hi

Welcome to the forum.

Quote
Basically I have just taken a job as an electronics engineer for a small company (say about 10 employees) making some simple devices for automotive applications, nothing exceedingly complex. I was hired as the business previously had all their electronics design done externally, now they have decided to expand somewhat and they want an elec engineer to 'quickly' be able to develop new designs, products etc. (and to save money presumably). When I applied I did not know but essentially I will be 100% responible for all engineering, the first engineer they have ever hired. Now, this sounds ok probably for most, but I don't have a huge amount of experience. I graduated a few years ago and have done a little work since (mostly doing postgrad study), and electronics has always been my thing since I was 5: I am not concerned about actually being competent to do the work, however, to be effectively 100% directly responsible is quite a leap.
I would say that it depends on whether the stuff you will be working on is for internal use ONLY - in which case, it will be OK.
If the stuff is for commercial sale, that is something to take seriously. Has the company taken out commercial liability insurance that covers your work?
 

Offline idpromnut

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The only advice I can give you is think about who will be continuing on each aspect of your job when you stop doing it. For example, if you get to the point that you need to hire someone to help you, what will that person do?  Schematic + board layout? Manufacturing support? In the first, use an industry standard design tool so you can find someone that knows how to use it (rather than having to pay someone to learn whatever tool you choose). In the latter, make sure the manufacturing process is well documented and the reasons for decisions taken as part of detailing the process are recorded (the "why" is as important as the "how"!).
 

Offline Doc Daneeka

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Quote
Might it be better that you, one:
Give us a budget as a guide
And two: throw some of your own choices into the mix so features can be discussed and possibly better options offered.

As I said the designs are not immense complex projects, but of course things could 'increase' in the future. but Budget is upto 7k Euro, which seems plenty to me, but it is easy to fall into the trap of "oh, that'd be nice to have...", that being said, a 4 channel scope would be 'nice'. In the past i have used Rigol things, I had one of their scopes and function generators that I bought in a combo package once, and I thought they were great especially considering the price, so that was my first thought, but I don't have so much experienece with the latest instruments from various places... A 100Mhz 4 channel scope would I imagine be basically everything I need. I notice rigol have also scopes with 16 channel logic analyser too, but I am wondering how useful these features are (are they just kind of bolt on afterthought to add some 'polish' to the product, or are these really useful and worth the extra cost? getting into the 'nice to have that' territory...)

In terms of soldering gear, general tools and so on I really am unsure, I will likely find some convienient local supplier or shop and get what I can as it is thought of...

In terms of software, I am under the impression that  still the big ones are Altium and eagle, neither of which I have significant experience with.  Altium is beyond the budget, and something that is more widespread standard leaves eagle as a sane choice (looks about $1600)? As I said I am not averse to free software either, as long as it works painlessly, but as others have said if it's not widely used, it's not so good.

 

Offline nctnico

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I'd try and get A-brand test equipment even if it has been manufacturer refurbished (with warranty). Hameg, Keysight and R&S all have oscillosopes and other equipment which could fit your budget.

I see you are in Europe so do yourself a big favour and get soldering equipment from Ersa. I've used JBC and Weller but the tips from these brands turn bad quickly so you keep buying replacements and making-do with less than perfect soldering tips.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Offline TerraHertz

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Is that "7K budget" for initial setup, or per year?
First thing I thought when I read your post, is that since the company has never done in-house R&D/development, you can be pretty certain they have no idea of the costs involved.

You should talk to them and find out what they were paying per year to the external contractors, and if they expect you to achieve similar results at a greatly reduced cost to them. Also the contractors were likely working for multiple companies, and *their* equipment costs were averaged over all.
Collecting old scopes, logic analyzers, and unfinished projects. http://everist.org
 

Offline Doc Daneeka

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Quote
Quote
Is that "7K budget" for initial setup, or per year?

Initial, also they want to get going quite rapidly.

Quote
First thing I thought when I read your post, is that since the company has never done in-house R&D/development, you can be pretty certain they have no idea of the costs involved.

Exactly, this is kind of what I meant by "i am 100% responsible" in effect, which as I say is a little bit of a challenge because I only have some of my own small projects to judge against (where I had a better idea to quote and charge since I already was kind of established) and in any other case I have not been responsible for someone elses budget...

As far as I know they were paying external company on a per project basis, if they wanted a new board or or prototype, they pay around that same amount. Yes of course an external company will already be established and averaging their costs over many clients... but the nature of the product means many revisions for different models (basically the same hardware each time, not huge re-engineering efforts) so I believe they feel they would save there, and there is also a need for fairly rapid prototype/ r and d development
 


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