Introduction: Setting Up the Perfect Electronics Workplace
DIY is in my blood and for about 6 years now i have been doing such work. I have a keen interest in electronics work, prototyping, reusing and building. Working is only fun and calming if you have a good workplace with all you will need at arms length. My workplace is build by myself, improved over the years. I am going to share with you my workplace i use for most of my electronics, robotics and hobby work. I hope you will find some of these ideas inspiring for setting up your workplace.
Step 1: A Comfy Sitting Place
The first and most important thing to have in your workplace is a comfortable chair, preferably foam covered and with recline and variable height for optimum approach. As electronics work involves hours and hours of sitting and working, it is ideal to have a good chair. I can recall countless times when I worked 3 to 5 hours stretch as I wanted to take a break only after the certain project was done and at that time my comfy chair helped a lot.
Step 2: Good Lighting
As mentioned earlier electronics work involves hours of sitting and it also involves focusing on small circuits and connections. Therefore it is also very important to have a good overhead light source. It keeps the strain on the eyes to a minimum. Observing minute details and small components becomes easy. When prototyping or soldering those small solder bridges can be annoying if they go unnoticed hence it is important to have good lighting so that even the finest details are visible.
Step 3: A Cool Fan
When working with electronics there are a lot of heat sources nearby. The soldering iron, hot glue gun and power supplies emit a lot of heat and can increase the temperature. So to keep you cool and calm a table fan can be very helpful. The table fan also does the job of a fum extractor but instead of sucking in solder fumes, it blows them away and dissipates them. Solder fumes are annoying and dangerous therefore the fan is helpful in staying clear of them. Dust produced from drilling or grinding is also harmful for the lungs. The fan blows the dust away and prevents them from entering your body.
Step 4: Soldering Iron Set Up
The very basic tool you will need to buy is a soldering iron. For most hobby work a basic 30 to 60 Watt pencil soldering iron will do the trick. If you plan on doing extended work, i recommend to buy a good one and not the cheap china ones as they will fail while you are in between your work and make you angry. Invest in a good Weller or Goot soldering iron. I have a 60 Watt and it is perfect for my usage.
Soldering Iron is very dangerous to use without a good stand. I bought a cheap stand and found it to be too unstable. A little nudge and it topples which can be very annoying. So to fix that i attached an old lead acid battery to it and now its perfect. Keep the soldering iron near your right hand.
If you are going to do circuit building or soldering work, a pair of helping hands go a long way. I have some cheap china one which i had to repair countless times. I would suggest not to go too expensive as i have seen those to be not so durable as well.
To clean the soldering iron i have seen a plethora of devices but the cheapest i found is to buy a steel wire scrub and place it in a container. Works perfectly.
Sooner or later you will be needing a desoldering tool. I have used and broken many over the year and now i have settled for a medium quality large sized solder sucker. Its large and has good air flow.
Solder wire is also an important part not because there is not soldering without it but because there are so many low quality ones that you will get frustrated. So take the advise and invest in a spool of high quality medium diameter wire.
Step 5: Bench Voltmeter
If you are some one like me then you will understand the need for this. My power supplies don't have on board voltmeters mainly because they are hard to mount and they are expensive. Because of that i have fried a lot of electronics thinking i was attaching the correct voltage output while i wasn't. And checking the voltage each time was a hassle. Turning on the voltmeter and then finding the leads and then connecting them to the output.
To remedy this problem what I did was take an old fluke voltmeter and i powered it up using a 9V adapter. I made a stand of it using an old lead acid battery. Then I built two small metal tubes for the positive and negative poles.Now when i power up my work place the volt meter is powered and it stays on. To check the output i am going to use, I just touch it to the poles and instantly get a reading.
Keep it on your workplace such that you can access it without moving too much.
Step 6: Electric Mini Drill
In electric work a mini drill is as important as a soldering iron. You will be needing it for drilling pcb, plastic and more. Grinding stuff and shaping them will also be one of the uses. So for all that I recommend to buy a good electric mini drill. The best is to buy a dremel but they are very expensive. So if you are on a budget, you can buy a cheaper one with many grinding and drilling attachments. I have a small cheap drill which does most of the work i need.
If you are going to get a cheaper one then you will need to get a DC power supply.So get a good power supply as it will improve the performance of your drill. Keep it close by as you will be needing it frequently.
Step 7: Multimeter
Well if you will do electronics work, you cant do it without a good multimeter. So go ahead and invest in a good one as it will be worth it. Wrong readings can be very annoying. Keep it on the right hand side of your workplace.
Step 8: Power Supplies
Everything runs on power. Power supplies are another very important part of your workplace. What i have are two power supplies. The top one is custom built and has fixed 12v and 5v out as well as 1.2 to 25v variable. This will cover most of your prototyping needs. But just for good measure i have another ATX power supply with fixed 12v and 5v output and can deliver a lot of amps.
You can buy bench power supplies but if you are someone like me you would want to build your own. Well for that you can buy an ATX supply and modify it. I wont go into the detail of that but there are thousands of tutorials on instructables alone. You can also build one from scratch using a transformer. For that you can search the internet.
Don't go looking for something very powerful with more than 5 amps because it will get dangerous and you will never be needing such power. What i have are 1.5 amp output and they are always underused.
Keep them close so that you can adjust the output easily and the leads can reach your test subjects.
Step 9: Supply Closet
Another time tested feature of my work place is a supply closet right in front of my workplace. This is also important as it holds hardware including nuts, bolts, screws etc. When ever i am building a robot or an enclosure i find it very convenient to have all the parts i need right in front of me.
I would recommend to buy a medium sized component closet but not to stock it right away but instead whenever you need to buy some hardware for a project, buy extra and store the excess. It will help to build a usable stock of hardware overtime. If you buy all at once you may buy many things you end up never using.
Step 10: Tools and Components
While you are working it is important to have the tools you need and the frequently used components very close by. That is why i have placed two boxes at lower level to my right.
One of the box hold tools most frequently used including cutter, wire stripper, screwdriver, solder sucker, files etc.I use them and place them back, keeping my workplace neat and tidy.
The second box holds components of most frequent use including resistors, led's, switches etc.
These two boxes are very important as they save me from searching for my tools or components in the large toolbox or component packs.
Step 11: Organize, Organize, Organize !!!
Organize is the name of the game. If your materials are organized you will work more efficiently and be happy. In electronics work you will be needing wires, connectors, heat shrink, test leads, zip ties and many more.
So you needs to keep this stuff near but not too close. I recommend to arrange it neatly in separate boxes for easy access when needed.
Step 12: Adhesives
For any kind of work you will be needing adhesives. Basic work only requires basic adhesives but when you get into the depth you will require a lot of them. I have plenty of tapes and glues all places in a box towards my left so that they are easy to find.
Tapes include electrical tape, scotch tape, double sided tape etc. Glues include super glue, UHU glue, wood glue etc.
Step 13: Vices
Working over the years I have began to appreciate the usefulness of vices. They are helpful in securing your things while you work on them. They also prevent injury. I have a small hobby vise for basic soldering work and a large vise for heavy duty cutting, grinding etc.
Step 14: Magnifying Glass
Remember all those teeny tiny things i talked about earlier. Well to see them properly you can also use magnifying glasses. So you can buy one but i find that magnifying glasses that are salvaged from old cameras are much more magnifying and helpful, not to mention, cheap.
Step 15: Music
Those long hours can get boring and quiet. So fill the space i have a music system. Play some tunes and enjoy your work.
Step 16: Concluding Remarks
Thank you for viewing and i hope you like the ideas and get some help in setting up you workplace. I will take this opportunity to emphasize that in this instructable my focus was on how to set up your workplace with respect to the things needed and the place where they should go but i didn't go into detail of each of them. For that i will post separate ibles for each as there is so much detail i want to go into.