So how do you setup a electronics lab?
I did read a lot of articles, forums, and watched a fair amount of YouTube movies about how to set up a electronics lab. However in all those articles, and movies I missed a few things, which in my opinion,are essential even before you set up a lab in the first place. And so I think a better question is: What kind of electronics lab to setup ?
Before getting to setup a lab
Once you get involved into electronics, there comes a point you need equipment, to do your electronics stuff. And if your going to read up on this subject, you will discover that in most cases, people will tell you get quite an amount of stuff. For example:
- Get multi meter
- Get even one more multi meter
- Get a soldering iron
- Get a decent scope (analog or digital, or both)
- Get a lab power supply (PSU)
- Get all kinds of pliers
- Get screwdrivers an such
- Get a function generator
- Get a frequency counter
- Get a shitload of components
You get the point. The list is endless, and it will cost you at least a 1000 euro’s to get a basic lab like this together.
So let’s stop here. And think about it for a moment. Once you get involved or want to get involved into electronics, there is a learning curve. In other words: What kind of electronics are you interested in ?
And when talking about electronics, I’m not talking about putting some Arduino modules together, and writing code. To me, that’s not electronics. That’s programming electronics. Once you get to the point in troubleshooting the modules itself, I call it electronics.
So when starting electronics, one of the basic things to get are: stuff to learn. Now you can go to any (online) bookstore, and buy a few kilograms of book’s about the subject, and starting out your own personal library. But you also can get a book, a few parts, and start building the projects which are described in the book. A good example of this is the series: Make Electronics. The best part is: There are kits you can buy, which contains all the components.
Another approach may be to get an Arduino, or Raspberry PI, and some resistors, and LED’s and play around with these, and create small projects.
You may also need one or two (small) breadboards.
In the example of the Make Electronics, the beauty of it is: you get a small stock of components, which you can play around with. Of course you need some tools, and the bare minimum is a multi-meter, and a soldering iron, and some cutting tools, to clip off some wires. One or two small pliers is a must.
However at this point, you’re not sure if your going to stick to this hobby, or that it’s fun, but not for you. If you start with the list a few lines back, you invested a lot into something you never going to use again. Of course you can sell it on, but there will be a loss of money.
Another important thing to think about is: get a dedicated place where you can practice or build your stuff. I reasonable workspace, to work at, is a must. This is most likely the place where you start building your electronics lab.
And once you learned some stuff, you may find a certain part of electronics interesting. That can be repairing like audio, or analog stuff (old radio’s, receivers) Maybe you like RF or HF stuff, Or you really like to design stuff. Or you want to dive into digital stuff. In other words: Electronics is a broad area.
I started with a make electronics book, and once I played around with the 7400 series logic IC’s I was hooked, and wanted to learn more about digital stuff. Logically (pun intended) I started to put together a electronics lab, which is suited for troubleshooting digital stuff.
Once you get into a certain field of electronics, and you’re more sure that you keep involved into electronics, you may start to look around for equipment. Once at that point, getting a decent lab power supply, a scope and a function generator is a good way to go.
And once you know and understand these devices, and getting better in electronics in general, more specific equipment can be bought. If your into RF stuff, a Spectrum Analyzer, when dealing with different protocols, and buses like I2C for example you may want to have a USB protocol / logic analyzer or a logic analyzer build into your oscilloscope. And sooner or later, you’re going to discover that buying equipment which is sold as “for parts or repair” is much cheaper, and that it can be fun to repair equipment. And doing so, you learn at the same time 🙂 However when you going to walk the path of ” I can like to fix stuff” The more likely it is that you’re getting more and more equipment, and a pile of electronic components. And eventually run out of available space..
At the point you know what your interest is, it’s much easier to get a stock of components. You also know which equipment you need to get. This way setting up a electronics lab, you can keep the initial costs down. So to summarize:
To get a minimal electronics lab together, start with the basic stuff:
- Learn Electronics, buy book, and a small kit of components
- Multi meter
- Create your own dedicated workspace
- One or two breadboards
- A couple of screwdrivers
- One or two pliers
Once your convinced that electronics is something you really like to do, go out and buy a soldering iron. When building small projects on breadboards, you don’t need a soldering iron. However if you want to make the circuits permanent, you do need a soldering iron.
And when buying a multi meter, don’t buy a meter which is in below or in the 15 euro range. Just don’t. For 50 euro’s you can get a decent meter. Even if you don’t know if electronics is something for you, don’t buy the cheapest multi meter you can get. Because you really going to regret it.
Getting equipment like Multi-meters,Soldering iron, Scope etc. is a topic on it’s own.