Since the life of a graduate student is very monotonous, I decided to create my own personal lab to do some fun projects. I will make all these projects open source as I finish them. First I would like to share the experience of setting up an inexpensive lab. I hope it will help some people to set up their own. Here is a picture of my cute small lab sitting in a corner of my room. I dedicated a wooden Ikea table to place the necessary components. To setup an electronics lab you mostly need some measuring instruments, tools to assemble the PCBs, wires to connect components for rapid prototyping, wire cutter, stripper and some miscellaneous tools.
Ignore this Plexiglas with the setup, I was just testing something for my research project. Anyway, here is a list of the equipment which is necessary for a hobbyist electronics lab:
- Oscilloscope: I decided to buy one which is portable and comes with logic analyzer. It is really necessary for embedded system fun projects. Majority of my projects needed digital interfaces like SPI, I2C and UART. Hantek 6022BL is a very good option to serve that purpose. It has 2 channel oscilloscope and 16 channel logic analyzer. Price is only $80 in ebay with the necessary cables and connectors.
- Digital Multi-meter: It is mandatory to have at least a multimeter in your lab. I bought a UNI-T pocket multimeter. Any multimeter will serve your purpose. I think $10~$20 is reasonable to buy a okayish multimeter.
- Hot Air Gun: If you design boards, which has smd components then you definitely need hot air to solder the components to your board. I purchased a soldering station (Zeny) which has hot air gun and soldering iron together. It came with multiple different tips for iron and nozzles for hot air gun. The price was $53.
- Soldering Iron: If you design boards which has through hole components only then you just need soldering iron. Here is the link of the soldering station to buy it from Amazon.
- Solder Paste : Solder paste is important to solder smd components. I bought this one which is $10.
- Solder: It is very important to have solder in your lab. I picked up this one which is $7.58.
- PCB Holder: It is very important to hold your PCB when you solder. I found this PCB holder very useful and cheap ($13).
- Magnifying Glass: I solder 0201 components often. So I decided to buy a magnifying glass as well. It is $6.65. Here is the link:
- Desoldering Pump: Desoldering pump is useful to remove stubborn solder from your through hole components specifically. It costs $7~$8. Here is a link:
- Tweezers: You should definitely have it to carry the tiny components to your board to solder. I spent $8 to buy some of them together. Here is the link
- Tip Cleaner: It is necessary to have tip cleaner in your lab too. It was $8 for me. Here is a link
- wires: You should definitely buy some wires for rapid prototyping. Different colors are helpful in case of interfaces. Here is a useful link to buy wires. I spent $20 to buy 6 colors 28AWG wires. It also comes with spool. So that you can hang it like the above picture.
- Wire Cutter: This is important to have it as well. I spent $5 to buy one. Here is the link:
- Wire Stipper: You need to have different AWG wire stipper covering from 10~30 AWG. For me I bought 2 separate ones: First one cost $9, second one $5
- Spool Rack: This one is my favorite. I made it myself because every spool rack I found was expensive. So I went to home depot and looked for materials to make a spool rack. I found PBC pipes are very useful for this purpose. Trust me I spent only $4.5 to make this spool rack in 30 minutes. This reminds me, necessity is the mother of invention 😉
- Development Board: This is totally up to you. I have number of boards in my lab. Here is a list of them:
- MOJO FPGA development board
- Raspberry PI
- TI Launchpad
- STM neucleo (STM32F411R)
- Beaglebone Black
- Intel Neural Compute Stick 2
So in total you need to spend around $252 + development board cost (you would like to purchase) to setup your own personal fun lab. I hope this post will be helpful to new hobbyists to set up their own lab.