Author Topic: The $100 Lab Challenge  (Read 16946 times)

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Offline smackaay

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The $100 Lab Challenge
« on: January 28, 2013, 04:08:50 am »
I've noticed a lot of people come on to these forums asking for what to buy to start electronics and typically they have very little money. Electronics is a very expensive hobby and I know this because even my very modest lab which I've accumulated for the last 5 years or so probably represents a capital investment of 30-40 thousand dollars (Equipment, supplies, parts, boards and software). I'm sure many people here have labs in excess of 100 grand with all thouse things combined.

So I was thinking, if I had $100 and a perfectly empty bench (aside from a computer), what would you buy as a bare minimum kit to be marginally functional. Don't include parts or consumables like solder, wire, etc. Remember, we're buying this all new because technically you can get almost anything for free or bash together all kinds of equipment, at least thats something I think is part of the exercise.

Here's my list:

700 tie point solderless breadboard $2.35
Soldering stand $4.50
Soldering iron (weller 25w) $27.00
Jewellers screwdrivers (super cheap ones) $2.00
Mastech Multimeter (MAS830L) $20.00
Wire strippers/cutters $5.00
Side cutter $3.50
Long tweezers    $4.00
5V 4A enclosed power supply $10.00
12V 2A enclose power supply $11.00
Helping hands $9.00

Total $98.35


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Offline cwalex

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2013, 04:16:55 am »
I like the list but if you remove the 2 psus and soldering iron you could get a cheap regulated temp hakko clone station and use wall warts / atx psu that you have lying around but maybe that violates the fact you have to buy everything  :-[
 

Offline DavidDLC

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2013, 04:50:24 am »
I don't like the super cheapo screwdrivers, it's money on the trash can.

And the helping hand is not a must, rather use that money for something else.

David.
 

Offline cwalex

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2013, 05:46:56 am »
And the helping hand is not a must, rather use that money for something else.

Like bluetack or whatever name it goes by these days. The stuff you use to hold posters on your wall. Hemostats to hold the board and a heavy weight on them (big pliers or something) are better from my experience. Hemostats are cheaper than "helping hands) too. I do find the helping hands helpful sometimes when soldering 2 wires together that are difficult to persuade in the right position. :)
 

Offline vtl

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2013, 05:50:50 am »
Some comments:

Flux tube and braid you can probably get with the change remaining.
I've seen Hakko 936 50W clones go as low as $35, it will definetly be better than that low power Weller
A $2 screwdriver set will be worthless, theyll end up chewing up any screw you attempt to use them on

I'd just leave out the wirestrippers and just have the cutters for stripping. Spend the saving on assorted test leads/wires
 

Offline jaqie

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2013, 07:10:07 am »
I have a set of "husky" screwdrivers, and the smallest in them are actually quite capable of being used in place of a jewler's set. the largest is standard size.  They are not expensive and are built surprisingly well. they were like $10 for an 8 piece set, the one i got.
 

Online mariush

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2013, 07:19:00 am »
The 25w weller can be found on amazon.com for about 15$ : http://www.amazon.com/Weller-SP23LK-25-Watt-Soldering-Iron/dp/B0009ZD2AG/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1359266089&sr=8-9&keywords=soldering+iron

Good and cheap Uni-T multimeters can be bought from eBay for 10$ and up (and they're perfectly good for someone that starts dabbling in electronics and works with low voltage only): http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_odkw=uni-t+multimeter+NOT+probe&_osacat=92074&_from=R40&_trksid=p2045573.m570.l1313&_nkw=uni-t+multimeter+-probe&_sacat=92074


My best advice to anyone that wants to start in electronics is to start with a breadboard, some perfboard (breadboard like pcb), some quality solder wire and a decent solder station like Hakko 936 or Hakko 888.  If you're lucky to be in US, the Hakko is 80$... which is cheap for its quality. 

Watch some tutorial videos on youtube, some simple circuits, and DO them on breadboard, then move them to perfboard... this way you get experience soldering and so on.

If needed, start with some simple circuits like a simple linear regulator on perfboard... it's enough to open the datasheet for a lm317 and make the example circuit on perfboard and you have your adjustable power supply (that you can power from a phone charger or your computer's power supply). You'd be proud you made something by yourself, and it also helps you power other experiments.

Yes, a soldering station is somewhat expensive but it will last you for years and you'll be able to sell it without much loss, and with a cheap solder iron you'll only be disappointed or discouraged frin experimenting when you have issues soldering.

I had no need for wirestripper, I have one now but even so I still often just use an utility knife (those things with retractable blades). They're cheap.  Instead of cutters, in a pinch you can use some nail clippers, the leads are thin enough and soft enough to be cut easily.

Breadboard wires can also be bought cheaply on eBay, but if you want you can get some network cable that has solid strand wires, strip the jacket and you have 8 different colors. 

Tweezers can help, but these can be bought at any store that sells stuff for women - sure, ideally you'd get esd safe tweezers and so on, but for small simple experiments until you gain confidence, any tweezer will do.

You don't need helping hands, you'll only be frustrated with the poor quality. I got some from eBay and I rarely use them. They're not heavy enough to keep the board or whatever's connected to it in place when soldering, it moves or bends on the desk.
 

Offline Simon

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2013, 07:59:07 am »
I've found that waiting to buy that slightly more expensive bit of kit pays off. 100 dollars is not alot and if your serious then treat it seriously. 30-40 thousand ? did you come here just to gloat ? I'm sure for 5 grand tops anyone would be happy unless they had specific needs. The most important bit of slightly more expensive kit thesae days is a scope and you can get one for a few hundred bucks/quid/eu.... after that a decent meter for 30, a decent antex soldering iron for well under 30, and you can start on around 5-700, morw than your hundred I know and I've been medling since I was a kid so I know what it is like to have equipment that is out of reach and it is only now that I can afford a scope.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2013, 08:02:15 am »
I've noticed a lot of people come on to these forums asking for what to buy to start electronics and typically they have very little money. Electronics is a very expensive hobby and I know this because even my very modest lab which I've accumulated for the last 5 years or so probably represents a capital investment of 30-40 thousand dollars (Equipment, supplies, parts, boards and software). I'm sure many people here have labs in excess of 100 grand with all thouse things combined.

Umm, 100K?  :o
Kidding right?
If I spent that on my hobby I'd be a dead man.
If I spent that for business, I'd still be a dead man!

Dave.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2013, 08:04:53 am »
I've found that waiting to buy that slightly more expensive bit of kit pays off. 100 dollars is not alot and if your serious then treat it seriously. 30-40 thousand ? did you come here just to gloat ? I'm sure for 5 grand tops anyone would be happy unless they had specific needs.

Yeah, $5K would equip you with a pretty kick-arse lab these days.
Even more so if you are in the US or other countries that have oodles of cheap 2nd hand gear on ebay.

Dave.
 

Offline nanofrog

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2013, 09:20:44 am »
I've found that waiting to buy that slightly more expensive bit of kit pays off. 100 dollars is not alot and if your serious then treat it seriously. 30-40 thousand ? did you come here just to gloat ? I'm sure for 5 grand tops anyone would be happy unless they had specific needs.

Yeah, $5K would equip you with a pretty kick-arse lab these days.
Even more so if you are in the US or other countries that have oodles of cheap 2nd hand gear on ebay.

Dave.
Assuming someone isn't after brand new or top end for every bit of gear, $2 - 2.5k can do quite alot in the US.
 

Offline psycho0815

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2013, 10:17:57 am »
I'm with dave and Simon on this one.
In most cases going super cheap will come back to bite you eventually.
As for the 30-40 k Dollars: really?
I mean i consider myself fairly decently equipped these days (except maybe for a decent function gen) and i paid like 1,5k€ in total.
And i bought most of it new.
You could propably get away with half that, if you go 2nd hand, which i would've had no problem with, if there were any decent offers, but in germany that's fairly rare.
The one piece of 2nd hand equipment i got is a Weller 2002 EC Soldering Station. Got it for free, when the local university reequipped its labs.
Still works great after 10 or so years.

As for the Challenge:
a breadboard with jumper wires
a handful of components
and a decent meter

that should get you started enough to figure out if you're really into it. Buy the rest when you need it. that's pretty much the way i did it anyways.

Cheers
Psycho
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http://h-reg.blogspot.de
 

Offline ftransform

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2013, 10:34:31 am »
Maybe this guy does hardcore spectrum analysis of 40ghz signals..

 I don't think its so bad, consider the people who will buy luxury cars.... or planes... or gun collections or spend 40 grand renovating a kitchen with granite tiles.. or 5000$ cabinets... or boats...

What do you buy when you don't like partaking in activities which can leave you a paraplegic or in dave jones locker? (lol!) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Jones%27_Locker
Dangerous high speed car vs PFANG...

Or don't care for crystal chandeliers and vacation homes?
« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 10:40:06 am by ftransform »
 

Offline Simon

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2013, 11:38:49 am »
BUT SPENDING 30-40K ON LAB EQUIPMENT IS LIKE BUYING A YACHT AND KEEPING IT IN THE GARDEN POND.
 

Offline vk3yedotcom

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2013, 12:00:50 pm »
Some thoughts in italics

700 tie point solderless breadboard $2.35 OK
Soldering stand $4.50  Not essential. Can make own.
Soldering iron (weller 25w) $27.00 OK
Jewellers screwdrivers (super cheap ones) $2.00  OK
Mastech Multimeter (MAS830L) $20.00 OK
Wire strippers/cutters $5.00 A utility knife will do instead if you're careful
Side cutter $3.50  OK
Long tweezers    $4.00  Yes for surface mount. Otherwide not essential.
5V 4A enclosed power supply $10.00 Not needed. Can just use the below with a 7805 regulator.
12V 2A enclose power supply $11.00 OK
Helping hands $9.00 Not needed

I consider the following essential even for wiring basic kits:

* Long - nose pliers (these often also have wire cutters in them)
* Utility knife (eg Stanley knife or cheaper plastic versions)
* Screwdrivers x 4 (Phillips x 2 and flat bladed x 2 / small and large)
* Metal tray to stop stuff rolling off bench (30 x 40cm - obtainable from op-shops)
* Boxes Boxes Boxes - to store your parts (Sistema containers from supermarkets are excellent quality and see-through)

Plus these if you're making your own stuff (as opposed to putting together kits)

* Hand drill and bits
* Nibbling tool
* Tapered reamer (an old pair of scissors can sort of work)
* Hacksaw
* Mitre box
* Hammer (for if your project doesn't work)

« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 12:09:28 pm by vk3yedotcom »
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Offline Simon

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2013, 12:11:28 pm »
FOR PEOPLE STARTING MAKING YOUR OWN IS A GOOD EXERCISE AND SOMETIMES COST EFFECTIVE, OBVIOUSLY YOU HAVE TO BUY WHAT YOU CAN'T MAKE: PARTS, BREADBOARDS, VEROBOARDS, SOLDERING IRON, MULTIMETER.

OH AND YES IS IT SPARKFUN THAT FOR A JOKE PUT UP FOR SALE A KIT SOLDERING IRON (THAT NEEDED SOLDERING IRON TO MAKE IT) AND PEOPLE ACTUALLY BOUGHT IT..........
 

Offline TerraHertz

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2013, 12:37:53 pm »
Those workshop cost estimates don't include building the workshop in the first place.... (Sigh.)

Anyway, here's a zero cost way to improvise a useful work holder. You're going to have one or more pairs of pliers already, and elastic bands are free, so....
Collecting old scopes, logic analyzers, and unfinished projects. http://everist.org
 

Offline Simon

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #17 on: January 28, 2013, 12:39:35 pm »
THAT IS STURDIER THAN A HELPING HANDS AND THE ONLY WAY ON LARGE STUFF
 

Offline SLJ

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #18 on: January 28, 2013, 12:42:12 pm »
This question is highly dependent on what you want to do in the electronics field.  The bare minimum would be hand tools, soldering iron, and a meter.  After that it entirely depends on what you plan on fooling around with.  Circuit design, service, restoration, analog, digital, vacuum tube, transistor, ICs, etc.  The first list is pretty close for someone not knowing what they will get into. 

I'm pretty sure most of us don't have $40,000-$100,000 to set up a lab unless we plan on being single the rest of our lives.  In that case you better be into vacuum tubes because that's about the only thing you'll have to keep you warm at night.

Offline jaqie

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2013, 12:57:31 pm »
a little sexist there, aren't we?  ::)
 

Offline smackaay

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2013, 01:27:21 pm »
With the 30-40k thing or even the 100k thing, think about how much stuff you accumulate in parts, software, boards, equipment and tools. I think it's deceptive especially on the parts end because they're small but there's a lot of money in parts especially if you're like me and tend to keep some aside. Also look at how much software you use that you've paid for, that shit adds up.
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Offline SLJ

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #21 on: January 28, 2013, 01:36:33 pm »
a little sexist there, aren't we?  ::)

No, it goes both ways.  No gender stated.

Offline (In)Sanity

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #22 on: January 28, 2013, 01:40:52 pm »
Spice,  breadboard,  Chinese parts kit,   followed by disappointment when the cheap parts don't do what spice did.   On another note blowing stuff up can be so much more entertaining. 
 

Offline robrenz

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #23 on: January 28, 2013, 01:46:25 pm »
I think many of us would be shocked at the total if we were realy objective and counted every penny related to the EE hobby. :scared:

Offline nixxon

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Re: The $100 Lab Challenge
« Reply #24 on: January 28, 2013, 02:02:21 pm »
THAT IS STURDIER THAN A HELPING HANDS AND THE ONLY WAY ON LARGE STUFF

Do you know how to fix a broken Caps Lock LED indicator?  ;)
 


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