... if you had a huge budget and could buy whatever you wanted...

That’s sort of the situation I’m in. New job. No workshop to speak of. Employer just told me “make a list of all the things we need and add all the things we did not know we needed to that list too. I’ll make sure it gets ordered”

I’m just starting to compile a list. Idea is that we end up with a type of fab-lab or something similar at our disposal. So far we have a laser-cutter and a really nice air filtering system. We have a budget to buy gear right now, and my boss seams keen on taking full advantage of that

Things I want to get are:

  • function generator
  • scope
  • 3D Printer
  • Circuit Printer? Etching Station? Some workflow for creating our own circuits ideally also supporting flex circuits
  • re-flow oven?

Does anyone have recommendations?

Does anyone have any suggestions for cool/interesting/crazy gadgets you’d like to recommend to me? What tools would you love in your workshop?

I’m gonna do a detailed equipment search in the coming days, I was hoping to get some inspiration here…

You dont say what the job is but for the pcb stuff mega electronics can sort out a turnkey line for you. Dont forget the mundane stuff.

Soldering, drilling , and hand tools.

Test instruments again depend on what you are doing, i could easily run up a million on that given the chance.

A good coffee machine? (think secondary tools)

Don't forget the Maggylamp! You may find your eyes need it one day!

With all tools, get good quality ones from respected manufacturers.

A couple of good multimeters is a must. Fluke are good.

Variable power supply.

A good selection of spare components, Rs, Cs and transistors.

A good soldering station is a must have.


Don’t forget the Maggylamp! You may find your eyes need it one day!

And some fine tweezers. Spring tweezers (that are normally closed and open when squeezed) are also handy.
Storage boxes of various sizes to keep components and partially made projects in and some method of labelling them.
A safe (you wouldn’t want the prototype/schematic/code that you’ve worked on for 6 months to go walkabouts).
A temperature controlled environment to test your product’s reliability at different temperatures (set at 5o C, to keep your drinks cold, when not in use for testing :))

A drill vice is also very useful for assembling pcbs.

Get two of everything.

In this situation the trick is to discover what the budget is (there will be a limit) and make sure you spend the lot.

Pcb lines, laser cutters and printers can be a pita however unless you have an ongoing maintenance budgetand an experienced techie who can run them.

Its not really for any specific task. Its for a workshop doing design and research work around human computer interaction. Up until now they'be been doing more qualitative/evaluations type things and outsourcing hardware, but now they seem interested in actually getting their hands dirty.

Another problem I am facing is that we have a crazy space constraint. The limit in shopping will be space, not cash, I suspect.

Whats the smallest setup for creating decent quality PCBs? I usually use a wax-printer & HCL approach. But I'm interested in stuff that does not require acids, like milling pcbs etc. I just am not sure if the quality of a CNC milled pcb will meet my standards. I've been thinking about something like this: http://cartesianco.com/pages/argentum though I prefer to find something less experimental.

Any thoughts?

@robtillard. Coffee machine is the one piece of equipment next to the lasercutter which we already have. Good call though.

fkeel: Another problem I am facing is that we have a crazy space constraint. The limit in shopping will be space, not cash, I suspect.

Whats the smallest setup for creating decent quality

It sounds as though you have little experience of pcbs.

Milling can work (google on proxxon mill) but it s really only suitable for large components such as through hole.

I would suggest sticking to prototype boards such as pad or veroboard and outscourcing if you really need a pcb.

You can expose a pcb in the sun and etch in a tray but you also need a drill and i personally would not be without a board shear. Also an exposure unit for the late nights, and a sink/water supply. Room for the oven as well.

The bits can rapidly add up.

A decent pcb line takes considerable space and the chemicals have shelf lives which have to be managed.

Maplins do a pcb kit for the hobby market which uses the iron on resist method.

Chinese manufacturers are cheap and produce a quality board which would require a large space and investment to replicate.

A DMG-Mori multi-axis CNC machining center?

Hi, Don't forget a 10 year supply of consumables for all this equipment, you never want to run short at that critical moment.

Tom.... :)

Scope - good 4 channel scope like GDS-2204A with 4 probes. Can also get logic analyzer and function generator modules for it. http://www.gwinstek.com/en-global/products/Oscilloscopes/Digital_Storage_Oscilloscopes/1

PCBs - far easier to have made out of house, with silk screening & solder masking done for you. Then you're not limited to double sided boards either for extra power & ground planes for RF boards, or more signal layers if using higher pin count components. Lot of companies around that will turn boards around in a day or so or overnight even. Google "PCB companies" and your location to find someone not far away for fast shipping.

I seccond the suggestion to outsource your PCB etching. It's so much better to have someone else do it, until you are in production and making a hundred boards per day.

The same goes for the pick-and-place equipment. Unless you are in continuous production, let someone else do this.

A reflow oven might be useful if you are hand-assembling prototype boards at a rate of one or two per day. Sparkfun had a good blog post about their early purchases of reflow equipment - they found the expensive machine they bought first was actually less useful than the cheaper ones.

Does Ben Heck (YouTube) publish a list of what's in his workshop? That's a pretty well-equipped prototyping shop. Have a look at the background of some of his videos to see what he has.

My first purchase for this kind of setup is racking. You need lots of storage for lots of things. Hundreds, if not thousands of small-component boxes, all the way up to a specific rack to put the vacuum pump when you're not using it.