Author Topic: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master  (Read 5817 times)

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Online Fraser

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Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« on: August 30, 2016, 09:39:14 pm »
Having struggled with relatively poor quality Chinese multimeter SMT probes and the overly long Agilent (Keysight) probe needle tip extensions, I decided it was time to invest in a decent set of multimeter probes designed for SMT work. I say 'invest'because good probes do not come cheap in the UK.

I have used some excellent quality PMK Oscilloscope probes with sprung tips that make probing SMT PCB's a joy. When I saw the similarly sprung tipped SMT probes produced by Probe Master (www.probemaster.com) I took a closer look at them.

The Probe Master SMT multimeter probes appeared well designed for their intended role and included interchangeable gold plated sprung and unsprung probe tips of differing point types. The probe tips appeared to be the same as used in automated PCB 'bed of nails' test jigs, so alternatives may fit these probe handles.

I did a search for Probe master sources in Europe and found that the only supplier appears to be our very own EEVBlog forum Moderator, Simon  :)
Simon has a shop called Sparkylabs...

 http://www.sparkylabs.co.uk/shop/index.php?manufacturers_id=9

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Sparkylabs-Probe-Master-DMM-probe-set-with-spare-tips-partsns-8150-5151-/182030535392


I ordered a set of the Type 8151 SMT probes that have straight 4mm plugs with a retractable sleeve. This ensures that I can use the probes on any equipment that accepts a shrouded or non-shrouded 4mm plug. My Huntron Tracker being an example of one equipment that cannot accept shrouded plugs.

The probes arrived today as Simon holds stock in the UK.

These probes are everything that I had hoped for. Yes they cost quite a lot of money compared to those from China, but then they will get regular use with my FLUKE 87 III and hopefully last a long time. A decent multimeter deserves decent probes and if it makes life easier when working on a tightly packed SMT PCB covered in 04002 components, all the better.

I attach some pictures of the probes. They ooze good quality and are made in the USA. The 4mm shrouded plugs are as good as any I have ever seen and the cables are very nice super flexible silicone 'Extraflex'. The probes handles are described as soft touch but they do not feel too flexible or like they will suffer from the dreaded soft rubber sticky degradation that I have found on some 'soft touch' items.

The probe tips are, as expected, standard 'bed of nails' PCB sprung tip test probes. The quality is excellent and the variety of tip types means they will suit any situation that I will ever meet. The sprung tip helps the probe stay attached to the test point on the PCB. This is especially so when you are having to hold a probe on each side of a PCB when it is sitting in a vertical PCB holder.

The fact that standard probe tips have been used means that other tip types may be purchase to suite the users needs, and to replace any damaged tips. Great design. The tips just push into the tip holder, as with automated PCB 'bed of nails' systems.

Would I recommend these probes to others who work on SMT PCB's ? Absolutely. A slip with a test probe can spell disaster for a powered PCB and even if not, its really annoying !

Now to the pictures.....

Fraser
« Last Edit: August 30, 2016, 10:24:44 pm by Fraser »
 

Online Fraser

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2016, 09:40:33 pm »
More pictures....
 

Offline alank2

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2016, 01:18:40 am »
I've got some of these and they are very nice!

I love the Probemaster probes.
 

Offline joeqsmith

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2016, 03:04:57 am »
I use them as well.  I like them over my Fluke needles.  The body is just too small on the Fluke's.   The leads are also a lot smaller OD on the Fluke probes.
How electrically robust is your meter?? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsK99WXk9VhcghnAauTBsbg
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2016, 09:27:02 am »
I'm a skinflint, so I use a homebrew "device".

Start wth a 4mm banana socket that you have lying around in your junkbox - er, component collection.
Take the 0.8mm piano wire that you have lying around in your junkbox.
Bend the piano wire around the socket's endpost; That's not trivial, given the piano wire's thickness and rigidity.
Cover with large amounts of solder, heating for a long time so that it makes some reasonable contact with the piano wire. Don't worry about the socket melting a bit; you were never going use it for anything else.
The piano wire probably got a sharp edge on the tip when you cut it[1]; if not, grind a sharp tip onto it. (If you used your best cutter to cut the wire, you'll probably need a new cutter now).
Put banana socket on the 4mm plug on the end of your nice silicone leads, and voila.

That depends on the rigidity of the piano wire, and its ability to retain a sharp tip. The tip easily leaves indentations in solder, so it is easily sufficient to cut through any oxide coatings.

[1] EDIT: I've remembered that I didn't cut it. I repeatedly bent it until it work-hardened and fractured - with a very useful sharp edge.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2016, 01:45:57 pm by tggzzz »
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Online Fraser

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2016, 01:40:30 pm »
tggzzz,

I thought of making some probes myself. I even bought the sprung 'bed of nails' test probes. I was going to either modify the tips of some cheap Chinese probes or build probe handles using ball point pen shells. I never got around to doing it though.

The Chinese probes that I purchased were cheap at around £4 but they were simply standard multimeter probes with the tips drilled to take a needle pint pin. The tip did not even last one session of diagnostics before it bent over ! I then bought the probe tip extensions from Franky's shop for around £8. They are excellent quality and slip over standard probe ends. The trouble is the probe handle plus the probe extension makes for a overly long and not very rigid SMT probe. The probe extension also lack the sprung tip that I like so much. I also have a few sets of Agilent multimeter probes that include grabbers and SMT probe extensions, but these are the same SMT tip extensions that I already have from Franky so offer no advantage.

After all the above, I decided it was worth buying at least one decent, designed for purpose, set of SMT probes rather than messing around with next best or compromise solutions. Most of what I work on these days is SMT technology so these probes will be in daily use and ergonomics are important. Sadly the Probe Master probes are not easy to source in the UK and no matter how your procure them, they will still cost around £40. Our USA friends can get them a lot cheaper, lucky sods  :)

I should finish by thanking Simon for so kindly supplying my lead set as without him I would have had to order from the USA with associated importation costs and transit time. Thanks Simon  :-+

Fraser
« Last Edit: August 31, 2016, 01:45:33 pm by Fraser »
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2016, 01:49:03 pm »
I thought of making some probes myself. I even bought the sprung 'bed of nails' test probes. I was going to either modify the tips of some cheap Chinese probes or build probe handles using ball point pen shells. I never got around to doing it though.

I tried a "pogo pin" for another purpose, but found it far too fragile.

Quote
After all the above, I decided it was worth buying at least one decent, designed for purpose, set of SMT probes rather than messing around with next best or compromise solutions. Most of what I work on these days is SMT technology so these probes will be in daily use and ergonomics are important.

Very reasonable. I'm sure they are better than my contraptions, but my contraptions are sufficient for me.
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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Online Fraser

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2016, 01:55:02 pm »
tggzzz,

No criticism of your DIY probes intended. I have been doing the same and have been surprised that in an age of SMT PCB's there are not more reasonably priced commercial options available (excluding the bastardised Chinese offerings). I believe in the KISS principle and if it works, why not ?

Interesting comment from you on the 'Pogo' pins. I just took a look at the Probe Master tips and they are very robust so I am wondering if they are somewhat different in that respect to normal 'bed of nails' pins ? They are certainly expensive to buy spare sets.....$25 for 10 in the USA when the whole probes are only $40 with 10 tips included !

Fraser
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2016, 01:59:43 pm »
I've never liked spring probes on test leads - they don't give as much control over pressure, and they are more fragile than simple sharp points.
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Online Fraser

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2016, 02:05:22 pm »
Experiences differ Mike, but Probe Master do include non sprung tips as well for those situations that benefit from such.

Fraser
 

Offline Simon

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2016, 05:09:57 pm »
I got work to buy me some pomona probes only to find that once I had shorted them once and damaged the plating or stainless surface they never seemed to make good contact again. I also could not get replacement tips so someone on here recomended probe master - The rest is history....
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2016, 06:04:15 pm »
No criticism of your DIY probes intended. I have been doing the same and have been surprised that in an age of SMT PCB's there are not more reasonably priced commercial options available (excluding the bastardised Chinese offerings). I believe in the KISS principle and if it works, why not ?

Interesting comment from you on the 'Pogo' pins. I just took a look at the Probe Master tips and they are very robust so I am wondering if they are somewhat different in that respect to normal 'bed of nails' pins ? They are certainly expensive to buy spare sets.....$25 for 10 in the USA when the whole probes are only $40 with 10 tips included !

No criticism inferred, even though it would be appropriate :)

The pogo pins I tried were intended for test fixtures making contact with a PCB. They were sufficient if it was compression force was along the shaft. If it was sideways or extension force, then they rapidly fell apart. Wrong tool for that job[1], piano wire was better. I'm sure there are more appropriate ones, but it was unnecessary for me to hunt for them.

[1] https://entertaininghacks.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/scope-probe-accessory-improves-signal-fidelity/
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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Online nfmax

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2016, 08:39:47 pm »
I just came across this thread today, and very much liked what I saw. I've just ordered a set for myself. Cheers guys!
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2016, 11:39:39 pm »
No criticism of your DIY probes intended. I have been doing the same and have been surprised that in an age of SMT PCB's there are not more reasonably priced commercial options available (excluding the bastardised Chinese offerings). I believe in the KISS principle and if it works, why not ?

Interesting comment from you on the 'Pogo' pins. I just took a look at the Probe Master tips and they are very robust so I am wondering if they are somewhat different in that respect to normal 'bed of nails' pins ? They are certainly expensive to buy spare sets.....$25 for 10 in the USA when the whole probes are only $40 with 10 tips included !

No criticism inferred, even though it would be appropriate :)


Just because I can take the pictures, here are images of the sharp work-hardened 0.8mm tip and the entire bodge. Crude or what? :)
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 Johnny Electron

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2016, 12:49:00 pm »
If your making your own probe tips out of something already hardened like piano wire, hone sharpen a nice sharp point on the end.  Hone sharpen instead of grinding so you don't anneal the wire and make the point soft. If you bend it back and forth until it breaks you are also doing a localized annealing and softening the end.  You do need special cutters that are meant to cut hardened wire.  I've used piano wire on hobby rc plane applications for years using sizes ranging from .015" to .125".  Great stuff.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2016, 01:06:46 pm by Johnny Electron »
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2016, 01:02:18 pm »
If your making your own probe tips why can't you just use something that's already hardened like .030" piano wire and hone sharpen a nice sharp point on the end.  (Hone sharpen instead of grind so you don't anneal the wire and make the point soft.). You do need special cutters that are meant to cut hardened wire.  I've used piano wire on hobby rc plane applications for years using sizes ranging from .015" to .125".  Great stuff.

Erm, it is 0.8mm piano wire.

I would have to test whether the difference between honing and grinding significantly affected the result. Both involve removal of metal by friction.
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 vinicius.jlantunes

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2016, 01:11:11 pm »
I'm happy to always hear good things about Probemaster here in the forum. Coincidentally I ordered this same set of probes a couple days ago, as well as a few BNC goodies. Seems you can't go wrong with them.

Offline Johnny Electron

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2016, 01:15:03 pm »
Sorry I edited my post before I saw yours.  It's the heat that's created by grinding.  Honing can utilize oil to keep the wire cool.  I've also made-designed springs in the past for work related projects.  It doesn't take much to anneal thin wire. 
 

Online Fraser

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #18 on: September 02, 2016, 07:29:47 pm »
I have started a new thread comparing the Probe Master 8151 and Pomona/Fluke 6341/TL910 SMT probes. I have X-Ray imaged both to reveal their construction within the insulation.

https://www.eevblog.com/forum/testgear/smt-probes-comparison-probe-master-8151-vs-pomona-6341-tl910-inc-x-ray-images/msg1017612/#msg1017612

Fraser
 

Online nfmax

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #19 on: September 06, 2016, 07:44:00 pm »
I just came across this thread today, and very much liked what I saw. I've just ordered a set for myself. Cheers guys!
The probes arrived today (well they were delivered yesterday, but I was out so Royal Mail left a card & I collected them today from the sorting office). They are very nice indeed, just what I need for a fault-finding job I have to tackle soon. Much better than the Agilent probe tips I have which are too long and flexible. Recommended!
« Last Edit: September 06, 2016, 07:47:54 pm by nfmax »
 

Offline Simon

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #20 on: September 07, 2016, 10:31:42 am »
I'm glad you like them.
 

Offline Dubbie

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #21 on: September 07, 2016, 10:47:02 am »
I bought some of these after blowing up an IC with a slipped probe. The little tips with the sharp sawtooth ends are amazing! Great contact and no chance of slipping. Very very nice probes. They are my daily probes now.


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Offline Simon

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #22 on: September 07, 2016, 10:48:00 am »
I don't use anything else unless it would be for high current.
 
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Offline tooki

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Re: Very nice SMT multimeter probes from Probe Master
« Reply #23 on: September 07, 2016, 05:57:26 pm »
I also have them, and they're now the probes kept plugged into my Keithley 197 bench meter. They really are as awesome as everyone here is saying!! :)

I also have the small toothed probe tips inserted. They're fantastic.
 


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