When you make more and more complicated electronics projects at some point you will have to start dealing with not only tiny components but also huges amounts of tiny components. Different values, tolerances, package, use case, max power, voltage, capacitance, resistance and color there is really a lot of those. It's easy if you have just a few resistors and capacitors that you often use for a project, but when you have over 100 different components, things get complicated. That's why I decided to make this simple project and share it with You, so that everyone can nicely organize electronics workshop at almost no cost.
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Step 1: Parts
There is not a lot that we need for this project, key components are small plastic test tubes, those are small but SMD components are so tiny that we can easily fit thousands of these in just one test tube. Keep in mind that we need test tubes with a cap to close it. Here is a link to test tubes:
We will also need 3mm laser plywood that we will cut on a laser cutter. I used a small sheet of plywood that was about the size of A4 paper. Of course to cut it we need a laser cutter, I will use Epilog Zing 16 laser cutter that I won in the epilog contest, if there is a makerspace near by ask them if they have a lasercutter, these days it's quite popular tool.
We will also print 4 legs for this project on a 3D printer so you need access to a 3D printer and some filament, color and material is up to you.
Step 2: Design
Main goal of this project is to make organizing electronic components easier. Thanks to plastic test tubes we can organize components but we also need something to organize those test tubes. This part will be cut on a laser cutter, simple sheet of plywood with bunch of holes and engraving on the top with the package size of components. Initialy I wanted to engrave each value below each hole for test tube, but there is so many different values for each component that I decided to just organize them according to package size. So for example in an organizer labeled as 1206 I will keep resistors and capacitors of this package and I will organize them in ascending order.
Step 3: Laser Cutting
This step is just pure fun, you can find my design files below, you can design your own if you want, and you need to design your own if you use different test tubes. After that simply import SVG file to your laser's cutter software and press start. Of course don't forget to turn on fume extractor and about safety. This step is mainly focused on enjoying your laser cutter at work and that's what you should focus on also :)
*if you don't have an access to a laser cutter you can make the same thing with a drill, just draw every hole on the plywood and then drill those holes with a proper drill bit. You can also print this part on a 3D printer, but this will take a lot of time. And the last way is simply to use a CNC machine. Still laser cutting is the fastest and in my opinion the best choice for this specific project, I just wanted to let you know about the alternatives.
Step 4: 3D Printing
To make this thing stand but also make it stackable so that we can fit more of those organizers in one place we need legs. 3D printing was abvious choice for legs because that's the easiest way to make those. I decded to design a thread at the top of leg and dedicated nut so that we can assemble it without additional screws. Nut also has a hole that perfectly fit the bottom of the leg so that we can stack organizers. Of course if you want to DIY this part of the project, feel free to do it, there is plenty of posibilities to make those legs.
Step 5: Assembly
Assembly process really coudn't be easier, we just need to put 4 legs in the corners of our organizer and secure it with a nut on the top.
Step 6: Labels
Huge part of this project is proper labeling. Printing values with an inkjet printer and sticking those to test tubes is a good idea, but I come up with something even simpler. Small plastic bags that those components were packed in had all of the info sticked on them (value, package, id number, tolerance) so I just used an utility knife to cut those out and stick them to the test tubes with a tape. I had about 80 test tubes to label so it took me quite a lot of time to make that but it was worth it, right now I know every detail about each component and if I need even more O can simply find more info online with component id. The only downside is that I can't see value from the top so I have to take out test tube to see it, I want to fix it by sticking values on the top of each test tube, small paper with value printed will do the job.
As I previously said the best way would be to engrave each value on the plywood and that way have everything perfectly organized. I am still developing my workshop and collecting components so this permament solution is not really for me, I will probably upgrade that in the future.
Step 7: Organizing
So now it's time to put components in test tubes, label everything and start placing test tubes in plywood organizers. I decided to put them in ascending order so that it's a little bit easier to find value that I am looking for. My advice is to lay down every test tube and arange them in the ascending order then put them in proper plywood sheet according to the package size. I know that this is not the best solution and labeling everything from the top is a must but as for now that is much better than what I had and I will probably tweak some stuff while developing my workshop.
Step 8: Enjoy!
The last step is the best one, pure enjoyment of the finished project. Something you can't buy, you made it on your own to make your workshop a better place! Those simple projects that make our life easier, that's what I really like making. Hope you enjoy this instructable, I will definitely enjoy this project while working on a new PCB project in the near future. Thanks for reading!