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Offline Half ShellTopic starter

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Building my workshop
« on: November 29, 2008, 08:57:31 PM »
In a way, I've been spoiled. During high school, when I was first starting out (it seems so long ago now...) I had my father's wood working workshop. This shop nearly had every tool imagineable and, while not the greatest shop for metal working, still worked.

For the past four years I've been even more spoiled - my college has several CNC machines and an entire machine shop at my disposal. I have had lab space for the past year and a half due to my TA position, and have unlimited access to other student labs with nearly every piece of hardware or lab equipment I could ever need (and many I never did need).

The problem is I'm graduating soon and moving to an unknown location (could be any number of states, really). I need to rebuild my own workspace with much of the equipment I've been taking for granted for so long!

Out of college I will more than likely get a nice paying engineering job, so money will be an issue at first but not for long. Space will be the real issue - I'm planning on having an apartment, so I will be building this lab for a small room, probably a small desk and then lab equipment and some storage.

My end goal is to start my own business, so prototyping and building will soon become a necessity. My strength is in electrical engineering and programming, so the first things I plan on tackling are oscilloscopes and digital multimeters and power supplies. Beyond that, I am in the process of learning machine shop tools and look to possibly get some of these for myself.

I am planning out what to get now, looking for the cheapest possible ones to get in order to speed up getting them and lower overall cost of developing my products :-).

I'm asking the forum for not just advice on the best model/place to get the following pieces of equipment, but also what tools I should be looking to buy. Over time, I hope to make a larger list of "suggested" tools and places to get so I can create a hopefully useful list for others building their labs.

THIS LIST WILL BE EDITED OVER TIME:

Electronic Equipment:

Oscilloscope - has to be able to see high speed PWM signals, so probably digital, though analog is acceptable. I know the price difference.

Power Supply - nothing special - 3 amp max to power most small motors for testing purposes.
  • Homemade - there are a number of home made power supply projects out there, and some on the forum have reported excellent successes with these. If I can find an easy project or kit that is cheap enough to warrant a home made version, I'll go with this.

Digital Multimeter - The more accurate the better, but since I typically deal with digital circuits the precision of this tool isn't particularly important.

Soldering Iron - I'm going to be doing a lot of soldering
  • Weller Soldering Iron - I use these in the lab - they're very good. Unless someone has a better suggestion, I'll probably get this one.


Machine Shop: What will I need to make prototypes?

CNC - I need to be able to work with light metal and plastics to make parts that I draw in SolidWorks or equivalent program.

Lathe - Would I need this?


Hand Tools: What hand tools will I need beyond the typical screwdriver set, hammers and handsaws?
  • Wire Cutter
  • Wire Stripper
  • Wire crimper
  • Pliers
  • Precision Screwdriver set
  • Third hand
  • Hemostat
[/b][/list]
« Last Edit: December 01, 2008, 12:03:32 PM by Half Shell »

Offline szhang

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2008, 09:14:22 PM »
Unless you're loaded, that list doesn't look like something a recent college graduate can amass and still have money for food.

Analog oscilloscopes can easily see fast PWM signals, digitals ones are just smaller and more friendly.

If you mostly just need to see PWM (or digital signals), get a logic analyzer.  They are alot cheaper.

For tools, can't forget the essentials like pliers, strippers, wire-cutters.

You might also need a machine mill, it might even be more useful than a lathe.

Offline Half ShellTopic starter

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2008, 09:18:48 PM »
Unless you're loaded, that list doesn't look like something a recent college graduate can amass and still have money for food.

Analog oscilloscopes can easily see fast PWM signals, digitals ones are just smaller and more friendly.

If you mostly just need to see PWM (or digital signals), get a logic analyzer.  They are alot cheaper.

For tools, can't forget the essentials like pliers, strippers, wire-cutters.

You might also need a machine mill, it might even be more useful than a lathe.
I'm getting offers from 65k to 80k a year - it all comes down to where I actually want to work. Soooo unless we're talking 10k for a machine, I can afford it.  ;D

For the machine mill - any suggestions on where to sstart looking?
« Last Edit: November 29, 2008, 09:19:49 PM by Half Shell »

Offline SciTech02

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2008, 10:31:51 PM »
Your list seems about right to me.  An interesting idea/question popped into my head just now: can you use a computer for an oscilloscope?  It probably isn't easy to do; but chances are you already own/will get a computer (for documenting and programing your projects) and I thought if it could double as an oscilloscope, you can kill two birds with one stone.  The idea came to me because I recalled a signal education kit that Parallax sells, which includes a "USB oscilloscope".  Here's the link: http://www.parallax.com/Store/Education/KitsandBoards/tabid/182/CategoryID/67/List/0/SortField/0/catpageindex/2/Level/a/ProductID/312/Default.aspx

As for the tools and soldering Iron, check out this "computer/electrical" tool kit.  I have one and it works well.  I'm not sure the soldering iron it comes with is as good as a Weller, but it seems to work fine.  Link: http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2104638
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Offline szhang

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2008, 10:56:35 PM »
bleh no radio shack soldering irons please :P  At least get a temperature controlled iron.  In any case, 25W is barely enough for most electronics work.

My impression with those cheap kits (and I have several) is you get what you paid for.  The tools are usually of crappy material and worksmanship.

The hand tools I find most useful are

wire stripper
wire cutter
decent pliers
set of (nice) precision screwdrivers (cheap ones strip/break)
a few bigger screwdrivers
hemostat

I also use an automatic crimper quite a lot, but I don't have one myself so I do all my wire crimping at the university robotics club-room.


There are USB oscilloscopes, but those are slow (something like 200kHz sample rate), though a nice digital scope can easily run you a couple thousand.

Offline Half ShellTopic starter

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2008, 06:36:39 AM »
So far it seems most people are pushing for an analog oscilloscope. For this I've found this model so far:

http://www.amazon.com/Instek-GOS620-MHz-Analog-Oscilloscope/dp/B0007R8ZCG/ref=pd_bbs_sr_5?ie=UTF8&s=industrial&qid=1228048468&sr=8-5

I've used this exact model in some labs before - it sucks sketching waveforms that are below a certain speed though. USB models tend to be slow from the version I've seen and not worth the price overall. Also a tool dedicated solely to that purpose (ie a real oscilloscope versus a computer trying to be one) tends to be better anyway.

As for soldering iron - you'll see that I selected a 100 watt variable temperature soldering iron that's pretty good quality. Unless suggestions for that get better, then that's the one in the running right now.

I've also updated the handtools section.

As a side note - what's a hemostat?

Offline pomprocker

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Offline szhang

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2008, 04:12:01 PM »
So far it seems most people are pushing for an analog oscilloscope. For this I've found this model so far:

http://www.amazon.com/Instek-GOS620-MHz-Analog-Oscilloscope/dp/B0007R8ZCG/ref=pd_bbs_sr_5?ie=UTF8&s=industrial&qid=1228048468&sr=8-5

I've used this exact model in some labs before - it sucks sketching waveforms that are below a certain speed though. USB models tend to be slow from the version I've seen and not worth the price overall. Also a tool dedicated solely to that purpose (ie a real oscilloscope versus a computer trying to be one) tends to be better anyway.

As for soldering iron - you'll see that I selected a 100 watt variable temperature soldering iron that's pretty good quality. Unless suggestions for that get better, then that's the one in the running right now.

I've also updated the handtools section.

As a side note - what's a hemostat?


I was talking about the radioshack iron someone suggested.  In any case wellers are great, but the wes51 is 50W not 100W.  I personally prefer digital ones, but that is just me.

Yeah my biggest beef with analog scopes is the annoying flicker when you plot low frequency waves.  Some nicer analog ones let you change how strong the beam is, and thus how long it stays on screen.  It completely depend on how much you're willing to spend vs how willing you're to look at flickering waveforms.

I also really like the numerical displays on digital scopes, though I worked with one analog scope that also displayed stuff like peak-to-peak voltage, cursor position etc on the screen.  It was pretty cool (I think it was a tektronic)

hemostats are those tweezer like things they use to clamp blood vessles shut down surgery.  It is pretty useful for electronics especially when you play with small SMD parts.


EDIT:

How accurate do you need your power supply be?  My powersupply is just a modified 350W ATX PSU, it provides 12V@18A, 5V@35A, 3.3V@28A, -12V@.3A, and -5V@.8A.  It works great with everything I need.  And it is alot more powerful than an affordable commercial one.  And, it was free because I just scavenged it out of an old computer.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2008, 04:20:41 PM by szhang »

Offline Half ShellTopic starter

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2008, 08:37:19 AM »
Hmm strangely enough I've used hemostats for just that purpose, just didn't know what the hell to call it beyond a "scissor clamp".

Quote
How accurate do you need your power supply be?  My powersupply is just a modified 350W ATX PSU, it provides 12V@18A, 5V@35A, 3.3V@28A, -12V@.3A, and -5V@.8A.  It works great with everything I need.  And it is alot more powerful than an affordable commercial one.  And, it was free because I just scavenged it out of an old computer.

That sounds like a VERY good power supply. You took it from your computer/modified a power supply to make one? Got a link for that?

What tools should I have for working with basic metal - thin pieces that I would be using and could cut without welding?

Offline pomprocker

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2008, 11:08:25 AM »
links for building your own benchtop power supply from an ATX computer power supply are allover the web.

Offline Half ShellTopic starter

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2008, 11:40:51 AM »
links for building your own benchtop power supply from an ATX computer power supply are allover the web.

I suppose my question is more along the lines of - is it worth it? Is the quality decent? Is the cost versus the time spent making the power supply worth buying the power supply or making one.

Offline pomprocker

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2008, 01:55:37 PM »
Depends...how much is your time worth? do you have extra atx power supplies laying around? etc...

from what i've seen it looks fun, dangerous, and interesting.

Offline szhang

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2008, 05:37:42 PM »
links for building your own benchtop power supply from an ATX computer power supply are allover the web.

I suppose my question is more along the lines of - is it worth it? Is the quality decent? Is the cost versus the time spent making the power supply worth buying the power supply or making one.

I don't think it is dangerous, after all you don't really have to open the ATX power supply.  Though if you do make sure you power it down and let it sit a while, the capacitors in there could conceivably be dangerous.

In term of raw power you can't beat it unless you spent a bunch of money.  There is ripple on the output, but usually small enough it doesn't matter (after all, your computer rans on that stuff).  If I need really precise voltages I usually use a regulator with the 12V line.

It is really easy to build, all you have to do is to separate all the wires for different voltages (they are color coded), and put a 10ohm power resistor between 12V and GND (atx power supplies usually need a load or they'll automatically shutdown).  I put everything in a project box and added some female banana plugs and voila!

There is no current control, but the supply has great overcurrent protection, they automatically shutdown if you overcurrent them.  Though on the 5V rail, the current limit is so high I can short it and the supply will still run happily, at least until the alligator clips melt...

My favorite thing to do is to short the 5V with a piece of pencil lead.  it glows white hot from the current.  Probably not good for my eyes though...

Offline ArcMan

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2008, 08:48:08 PM »
Quote
I also really like the numerical displays on digital scopes, though I worked with one analog scope that also displayed stuff like peak-to-peak voltage, cursor position etc on the screen.  It was pretty cool (I think it was a tektronic)

Yes.  A Tek 468.  I have one.  :)

Offline Admin

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2008, 11:16:37 PM »
A few tips . . .

1) get a gov't job in a gov't funded lab - that's what I did, tons of equipment free to use

2) get an industry job, and convince your boss to let you use the equipment (you'll pay for wear/tear)

3) start your business NOW. then on your tax forms label the equipment costs as business expenses - the IRS will in return reduce your taxes. make sure you can prove they are real business expenses if the IRS comes knocking on your door ;D

Offline cooldog

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2008, 06:35:05 AM »
when your done building your workshop you might consider entering it here

http://www.instructables.com/contest/workshopofthefuture/
http://www.instructables.com/contest/showyourspace/

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Offline kpmcgurk

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Re: Building my workshop
« Reply #16 on: June 06, 2009, 06:04:54 AM »
I see that this is to a point a graveyard thread, but in reality, its not that old.

I see that no one really pointed on the idea of a CNC or lathe.
-There are many options, For a small shop that you will be running, you dont really need anything quite fancy, I would look into http://www.woodstockint.com/ShopFoxMachinery/ as they have quite a few at a decent price!
some people are just Born smart, but some people have to work for it, and those are the people who succeed.

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