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Author Topic: Your dream electronics lab?  (Read 4414 times)
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Melbourne, Australia
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I'm in the rather lucky position right now of having a purpose-built electronics lab included in a home extension we're building. Yay! The thing is that I need ideas for the best way to set it up. It's reasonably large (about 6m x 5m, or 18' x 15') with a bit taken out of one corner for a small toilet / sink area, so after years of working on the kitchen table or anywhere I can find a flat surface it's a dream come true.

A quick brain-dump goes something like this:
  • General purpose soldering / testing workstation
  • SMD workstation (microscope, oven, hot-air tools)
  • Computer workstation (triple-head system for Eagle-joy!)
  • General purpose bench for mechanical work (non-dirty)
  • Keep dirty work (drilling, etc) in separate room
  • Photography area with light-tent and good lighting
  • Sound-proofing in walls so tools etc can be used late at night without disturbing the neighbors
  • Cabled Ethernet and wifi for visitors
  • Bar fridge to store solder paste, snacks, and drinks
  • Solder fume extractors vented externally
  • Lots of overhead storage

Floor surface? I'm conflicted on that. A hard surface is best for cleaning and finding parts if you drop them, but it's not so cosy on cold days and it can be hard on the feet. Easier to slide around on a chair though.

So, if you were setting up your dream lab at home, what would be important to you? What am I missing?

Jon
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Freetronics: www.freetronics.com
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You're missing stock!

Dunno about the ideal location but I struggled real bad to do home electronics until I bought one of those cabinets with loads of little draws and labelled and filled them with the E12 resistor series from Ohms to Mega Ohms, A bunch of matching PNP and NPN transistors - some signal some power,  common capacitors and other doodads like leds, POTs, diodes, some prototyping board, a bunch of common chips like 555 and 741, 5V regulators and these days the odd Atmel with a well known boot loader on it smiley-wink  etc etc

These days I have a study room with shelves and shelves of old derelict junk but every new project is made from about 90% parts from that original unit of miniature draws. I can often get a new idea up and running without having the hassle of ordering up a load of bits and having to wait form them to be delivered.
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You forgot the lathe, milling machine and arc welder   smiley
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Melbourne, Australia
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stock

Yes! I have drawers and cupboards and boxes and shelves full of bits accumulated over the years, so one of the best things about having a dedicated workshop will be having somewhere to keep them all easily accessible. Right now they're spread all over the house and I can never find anything when I need it.
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A good soldering Iron. A weller adjustable is what I have now and it is perfect for me at the current time.

A good solid bench. I need to look for one. I am kinda looking for one of the old time science school room tables.

A good multimeter. I purchased a Yokogawa on another forum that fits my needs well for a bench meter.

A scope. I just picked up a rigol 1052 so I hope it does a nice job for me.

Misc solder tools. A solder spool, flux bottle and that kind of inexpensive stuff that makes life easier.

Power supply. I plan to adapt an atx power supply sometime in the near future.

Parts boxes I collect a couple at a time. When acadamy has a sale on tackle boxes I go and pick up a couple of cheap ones. Deviders and stackable.

dedicated computer. I have a couple old boards and cases. I am thinking a 3200+ and a couple of gig of ram to start with. Old monitors are cheap and if I can find an LCD to repair even better.

Project dishes. I cut the bottom out of ice cream and gallon jugs to separate each project. I need to eat more ice cream.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2010, 07:08:56 am by copiertalk » Logged

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  • Compressed air at your workstations. (Can't live w/o it.)
  • In another post I just mentioned a light colored sheet vinyl for an electronics bench. Keeps boards from sliding around.
  • I painted the cement of my shop floor with a light gray epoxy paint. For woodworking, at least, it sweeps easily. You can get an anti-fatigue mat to stand on.
I could go on and on.  smiley
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Seems like you thought of everything especially fume extraction.  One thing I have found important is proper lighting, especailly when dealing with tiny parts or trying to read labels or numbers on parts.

Oh, since this is a dream lab how about a robot that serves you beer?
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Oh, since this is a dream lab how about a robot that serves you beer?
If it was a dream lab, it wouldn't be a robot serving the drinks.
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Nice! I wish I had that space, but I am lucky to have what I got (my shop at home is 8 x 12 feet).

For flooring you could use the industrial linoleum tile squares, with the rubber/vinyl edging. The edging is important (you need edging, of some manner, no matter what). The tile comes in many colors, so you could color code work areas, and also "mark off" danger areas and such if you want. Plan out your workspaces and where they will go early, before you lay the floor, then use the tile (or if you go with something else, another method) to mark off the zones - for instance, if you have a large and dangerous machine room area, mark that off with caution stripes or something.

If you do robotics work or such, you might want to tile a section of the floor in an alternating checkerboard (black and white) pattern, so you have a "reference pattern" for motion and vision experimenting.

You also need a laser cutter, a rapid prototyping machine, and a CNC mill.  smiley-wink

In all seriousness, though, you may want to think about a few large "gorilla" racks for storage. These racks are pretty heavy duty, and easy to put together (you need a rubber mallet). Purchase a bunch of rubbermaid-type tubs (or the translucent kind with flap lids) in two or three sizes -all at once-, and store larger items or assemblies in the tubs. Be sure to label them all (oh - if you don't have one, get a label maker for your lab), except for the empty ones, of course. You need to buy them all at one time, so that you know you have extras on-hand that match what you currently have in use; sometimes you end up buying storage, then go back in a year for more, and you can't find the ones you bought previously to match in the same size/shape - so nothing fits.

Finally - you mentioned that you already had parts drawers; are they all the same kind? This is important too - I found on the reorganizing of my shop to just ditch some random parts drawers I had, and instead I bought a bunch of Stack-On drawers (and a bunch of extra dividers); I have found Stack-On drawers to be perfect for all my small parts, and everything matches well. You might think I'm crazy for all this "purchase a bunch so they match" business, but the fact is, keeping things regular in organization (and labeling -all- of the drawers) really helps you to find things.

Above your workbenches, if they are against a wall, you should put in shelving standards rails, brackets, and melamine shelving; such a system will allow you some adjustment as time goes by, while having a sturdy shelving system (anchor the rails to the studs). You can use these for test equipment, power supplies, extra storage, as well as a space for books.

If you don't already have one set up for your house, think about setting up a central file server(s) for "stuff"; I ended up building a small "server closet" in my shop, which is networked to the rest of the house. I store on the server a ton of stuff; one section is reference for electronics and robotics - so I have a bunch of spec sheet PDFs, tutorials, projects, pictures, etc. I can access these from my office or my shop (well, I still haven't built my shop computer, but soon). So, if I am browsing around looking for something, and it is interesting to electronics work, I can put it on the file server, then look at it later as needed in my shop (that's the theory, at least). The reverse is true as well; if I am working on a project in my shop, I can reference it later in my office as needed - I can also reference it from any computer in the house on the network (and with wireless, on my Android phone, and netbook, too).

Finally, make sure you have some kind of air conditioning system. My shop is currently somewhat miserable for a portion of the year (like right now) because I don't have any real A/C in it (I have a portable swamp cooler, but that's about it). I plan on fixing this during the winter, if I can get it done (I am thinking about a mini-split A/C system).

Oh - one more thing - something I wish I had room for, and you most certainly do - is a largish central work table/bench; you could even put it on lockable casters for positioning it as needed. I should also mention that you might want to think about a set of double doors to the outside, with a concrete pad and a transition ramp or something; this will help you move in/out larger projects and tools...

 smiley
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floor surface, I would go for ceramic or stone tile with underfloor heating.

as for equipment.
metcal soldering station
huntron tracker
logic analyser
ghz range digital oscilloscope
spectrum analyser
3d printer

did I miss anything?  :-?

For the decorum, I would go with the "Frankenstein's lab" look, although the jacob's ladders could be a problem if you do RF work. ;D
« Last Edit: August 25, 2010, 12:26:45 pm by UltraMagnus » Logged

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Dog proof.  Lately she's been stealing things.
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Dog proof.  Lately she's been stealing things.

Heh - I'll second that!

Not too long back we found out our dog likes to eat money (paper bills); we don't know why. Now my wife keeps her purse off the floor...

 ;D
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If it was a dream lab, it wouldn't be a robot serving the drinks.

Don't be so sure: http://www.zygbotics.com/2009/03/19/hrp-4c-japanese-robot-girl-makes-asimo-blush/

Remember, these probably come with a remote with mute buttons smiley-grin
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Not too long back we found out our dog likes to eat money (paper bills); we don't know why
She heard someone say "flushing money down the toilet" and took it literally!   ;D

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Now my wife keeps her purse off the floor...
Dog's are very good at teaching humans new tricks!  Ours' has taught us all sorts of new things...

- Don't leave the leash within reach.  She can jump about waist high so hanging the leash from a peg is out.  She's learned to cut the leash with one bite.

- Don't leave CAT5 cables within reach.  (see above)

- Don't leave Kleenex in sight.  One way or another she will get it and shred.

- Don't leave knitting in sight.  (see above)

- Don't leave CDs or DVDs in sight.  Every one she's gotten has multiple holes.  I'm amazed at how quickly and easily she can piere them.


Fortunately, she doesn't eat things she shouldn't.  With the electronics stuff, she steals something then runs around waving it in the air like a trophy.
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Compressed air at your workstations

@BroHogan: That's an interesting idea. I hadn't thought of that at all. Can you explain why you find it so useful?

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proper lighting

@Pauly: Yes, that's the first thing one of my friends mentioned when I asked him this question too. I'm intending to provide a very high level of overall ambient light using flouros distributed across the ceiling, and supplement it with movable lights over the workspaces.

@cr0sh: Brilliant suggestions! Movable large bench, double door access, climate control, all going on my list for sure. I already have a server rack at home so that'll probably be moving into the garage just on the other side of the wall from the workshop, keeping the noisy fans out of general earshot but with the machines easy to access. Containers are definitely important too. When I was working on Practical Arduino I bought a heap of plastic kitchen containers which I've found to be really helpful for keep stuff grouped together for small projects:

http://www.practicalarduino.com/news/id/121

I've also bought about 15 larger tubs (20 liter capacity) which are wide / long but quite shallow. They're great for storing more bulky things so I have one dedicated to USB cables, another for Ethernet cables, one for plastic cases, one for hard disks, etc.

In terms of actual construction the builders are now at the point of doing the footings for the concrete slab. By next week the foundations will be in and they'll be starting to work on the frame. It's been freezing cold and way too much rain over the last week though so things have been held up a bit. Can't pour concrete in the rain.
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