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College student bench equipment suggestions

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by adahany, Mar 23, 2015.

  1. adahany

    adahany New Member

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    I am a senior electrical engineer, and I am thinking about making my own small lab in my room. I constantly work on projects but most of the time I use the schools equipment, which is inconvenient at times. I would like to know of any cheap or college student budget equipment that you would suggest that I should start with. Also, if you have any advice on buying old equipment from ebay or craigslist (oscilloscopes, power supply, digital multimeter..) what should I watch for while buying off these sites. Any suggestions are welcome.
    Thanks.
     
  2. tunedwolf

    tunedwolf Well-Known Member

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    Make sure any seller you are buying equipment from is genuine and that the equipment being sold meets or better yet, exceeds your requirements. Ask for plenty of photos and accurate descriptions of any flaws, faults or other anomalies. Be prepared to pay a fair price for it, if it's good enough, but don't be over generous.

    A good second hand Fluke 87V will do 99.999% of anything you could ask from a Multimeter and an old VTVM will do the rest. A frequency counter is a handy thing to have if you're dealing with HF or VHF coupled with a half decent Tek or Gould dual beam 'scope with cursors, and maybe a grid dip, but you could knock that up yourself. A lot of folks here like the small Rigol DSO, and for the money it's not bad I admit, and for most digital stuff it's a good fit, but it get's pricey if you want or need bandwidth. A decent 3 rail power supply would be a Hameg or something. Or a cheap alternative might be one of those little 0-30V 2A Chinese supplies. An ESR/ LC Meter would be handy if you are planning on repairing equipment, not essential by any means, but handy. A decent quality soldering/ rework station. The Chinese ones are pretty good quality now, so it need not be an expensive one. IF you can find one second hand at reasonable money, a Pace or a Metcal rework station would be real nice. A good lighted bench magnifyer

    All of this is just me taking a quick stab in the dark, "I constantly work on projects" leaves the field pretty open, there's no point buying gear you will never use :)
     
  3. Reloadron

    Reloadron Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Well when using the school's equipment think about the equipment you use the most, the indispensable test measurement and diagnostic equipment and place a focus on getting those items. When buying? Just make sure the stuff works as advertised. Shop and compare. Get a good handle on used equipment prices. Again, buy the need items first and then the nice to have. :)

    If in the Cleveland, Ohio area I have a nice scope you may want, :)

    Ron
     
  4. dave

    Dave New Member

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  5. dr pepper

    dr pepper Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    I went to collect a 'scope, the seller had 3 the same from a scientific facility, 2 of them had knobs broken off the front, I was luck I had the choice of the 3, plenty of sellers dont know what they are selling and dont know if its complete or works fully, just because a 'scope draws a line on the screen doesnt mean its working properly, some sellers assume it is.
     
  6. KeepItSimpleStupid

    KeepItSimpleStupid Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Look at what your labs use. When I went to school, a scope, bench multimeter (so it would have a hard time walking), function generator and power supplies were the norm. Digital pretty much required us to purchase a breadboard for the huge project. My microcontroller experience is dated (Think 6800). That development system was built by fellow EE's.

    A handheld meter is always a good investment, I have three at home. An early Fluke 77. The useful stuff is the bar graph display, 3000 counts, auto-power off and auto-range. I have a Chinese meter from Circuit Specialists which has the frequency counter and a backlight. The weakness is no auto-power off and a $4.99 Meter from Harbor Freight. I actually got it free. So we're talking $125 (1970's dollars), $40, but really a $25 promo) and free). The Harbor Freight meter has a battery test and even a transistor tester, I have about 6 bench meters now.

    My work handheld meters had TRMS and peak-hold. One bench work meter I would use for low Resistance measurements. At work I also had access to a $400 AC/DC current probe and a battery operated low bandwidth scope.

    Power supplies, scope and multimeter are the basics. Signal generators or arbitrary waveform generators might be next on the list. There is a cheap "component tester" kit that everyone like here.
    LCR and transistor tester.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
  7. JLNY

    JLNY Active Member

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    As someone who has been a hobbyist since high school and used a lot of eBay-bought and make-do equipment through college, I'll throw in my two cents. I used to work with a lot of questionable equipment to save money when I was starting out, but I have eventually come to have to replace most of it. It helped me get started in the hobby, but, if you have the money to spend, I would not skimp if you can help it.

    My list of bare-minimum must-haves would be:

    - a used scope- 2 channels bare minimum, and maybe 4 if you can find a good deal. Ebay usually has lots of used ones out of schools and labs that usually work just fine. Max frequency depends on what frequencies you actually plan to work at, so if you only plan to use it for audio, or maybe digital stuff with microcontrollers and 74 series logic, then as low as 20 MHz might be fine. I was able to got a 4-channel, 100 MHz scope for a good price of about $100.

    - a good bench power supply- If you plan to do RF related projects I recommend a linear power supply, as switching supplies can produce RF noise. If noise isn't an issue, however, a switcher will likely have a higher max current rating for the same cost. A decent one might run well over a hundred dollars, but off-brand Chinese ones can also be had for around $60 on ebay and amazon- if you dare trust them.

    -a digital multimeter- Flukes are nice, but truth be told, I've gotten by just fine with the cheap $25 ones you buy at the hardware store. I'll probably take some flak for suggesting that, though. Sometimes the cheap ones aren't auto-ranging, if that is something that will bother you. Do NOT get an analog panel meter one.

    -some kind of audio signal generator- I used to use one made from a kit based around the XR-2206 chip, but it isn't that great so I'll leave it to others to suggest where to find a proper one. My school's amateur radio station still sometimes uses old tube-based HP 200CD wein bridges up at their lab, but those are probably being sold as collectors items on eBay these days. In a pinch, a simple twin-T sine-wave oscillator or a 555 timer for a square wave can work.

    -I wouldn't recommend a frequency counter just yet unless you specifically plan to do RF work.

    I also used to use a simple home-made power supply based on the LM317 variable regulator that I made from a kit, then another that I got for free at a Hamfest. They work fine for low-power stuff, but they have no current limiting control and the transformers in them started to overheat once I started making projects with higher power requirements. I now use one of the aforementioned Chinese $60 supplies. It works for me so far.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
  8. adahany

    adahany New Member

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    Thanks for your suggestions.

    What I really use the most id the oscilloscope, the power-supply, multi meter, and once a while a wave generator. I usually work on micro controller based projects (PIC, arduino..). Nothing really mainstream yet, I am currently taking a couple of RF classes so I might be doing RF based projects in the near future.


    I have a 30 dollar multi-meter that I use now. I also found the followings for cheap from a local craigslist seller.

    Data Precision 1351 Multimeter
    Keithley 177 Microvolt DMM

    I don't know how good they are.

    The scope is the most expensive part for me. The old scopes I find on craigslist are just too big to have in a bed room. I have been looking at scopes made by Rigol and Hantek. I don't know how reliable are these Chinese companies. Also, if you have any sub 400 dollars scope to suggest that would be helpful.

    For the power supply I might just get a Chinese one off amazon. Until I have more money then I will invest on a good brand. If you have a power supply that you have tried and liked let me know the make and model.

    I also would like to know of a good budget soldering station. There are so many on the net now I dont really know what brands are the best. At school we work with weller welders but those tend to run high on price.

    Thanks,
     
  9. KeepItSimpleStupid

    KeepItSimpleStupid Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Good so I hit the nail on the head.

    I've used the 177. Datasheet is here: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...kGP4vE9Ew65hVbQ&bvm=bv.89184060,d.cWc&cad=rja

    It does offer good precision and a low voltage drop when measuring currents and it offers TRMS measurements, A 177 with a battery pack would be quite useful. What you will not like is the lack of auto-range. If you don't need these capabilities, I'd forgo it although sometimes you may need a second meter.

    A feedback ammeter like the Keithley 480 or 485 (auto-ranging) is a step up.

    I have a fair amount of Keithley stuff and have used their stuff professionally. Keithley requires like a $200 minimum order for anything and don't expect parts to be available. The older the manual is, the better the manual.

    Most of my Keithley stuff I got cheap and broken off of ebay. A 485 cost me $5.00 to fix. Usually $300+ on ebay, so I got it for about $75.00. I have a broken voltage source that works 100% with the IEEE board disconnected. A 480 was more difficult to find the obsolete parts, but fixed for about $20.
    A frequency counter needs some tact switches and Keithley provided me the OEM part number and I've procured the parts. I have a current source that still needs to be repaired and a system DVM that probably has an NVRAM problem.

    --

    Metcal is hailed as wonderful soldering station. I don't have one. I got a fancy solder/desolder/heat/hot air Solder station from www.circuitspecialists.com.

    ==
    Fluke is getting on my nerves. they wouldn't even provide a battery door unless you paid the full price for service. I use to be, you could get parts. The most common part I replaced was the LCD from being dropped.

    ==

    Cowboybob has a nice pocket scope recommendation.
     
  10. JLNY

    JLNY Active Member

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    Adahany,

    I can't speak for those multimeters specifically, but as long as they appear to work and are not too expensive, I think they should work fine.

    I know nothing about handheld or computer scopes, so someone else will have to help you there.

    That said, it shouldn't be too hard to get a used scope for under $400 on ebay as long as you have the patience for an auction. Know what features you need, know what you are willing to pay, and be ready to walk away if the price goes too high. These are the basic concepts of bidding for just about anything. As for space, well, old analog scopes aren't going to save you space, but working without one is like flying blind. a 2 channel scope will probably be smaller than 4 channel.

    The power supply I use is a Tekpower TP-3003. I work with a lot of RF circuits, so this model is a linear power supply.

    All I can say on a soldering station is that for years I have used an unregulated iron with no temperature control, and it is hellish. A friend of mine uses something similar to one of these:
    http://www.amazon.com/Soldering-Station-extra-heating-element/dp/B005TI1282/
    My amateur radio station uses these:
    http://www.amazon.com/Weller-WES51-Analog-Soldering-Station/dp/B000BRC2XU/
    A bit higher on the price point, but they are fantastic.

    Edit: a note on KISS's comment: I have used a Metcal before in my workplace. They are ineed wonderful, but as far as price point goes they are real expensive.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
  11. Overclocked

    Overclocked Member

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    I would probably get stuff in this order:

    1) Breadboard and wires (assuming you have this stuff)
    2) Multimeter ($50ish)
    3) Soldering station ($50ish)
    4) Storage for all your parts (Those big plastic things in the craft section of walmart are great)
    5) O-Scope ($300)

    I honestly use a 3v to 5V PSU, which can put out up to 500mA (I also have a 1.5V to 3.3V that never gets used). I built it myself to save on cost, using the DIY PCB method (OSHpark is probably more worth it). It is suitable for most of the work I do, which is microcontroller work. Other stuff I do uses boost converters, and batteries are plenty, but your mileage may vary.

    Thats all the stuff I use on a project to project basis. I oddly dont need a frequency counter or signal generator. My bench is near my computer, and there are ways you can turn your sound card into a signal generator. Granted its limited to sine, square or triangle, but Ive never had a need for any of that.

    My biggest use is the O-scope since Ive gotten it. Best investment by far!
     
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  12. dr pepper

    dr pepper Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    If your into pic and avr a salae logic analyser is good, you can get copies for inder 10 notes.
     
  13. DerStrom8

    DerStrom8 Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    For a low profile beginners scope I'd recommend the Rigol DS1052e (2-channel) or DS1054z (4-channel). The 1052 costs about $300 and the 1054 costs $400. They're not fancy but will do the trick for most everyday tests.
     
  14. Paul_L

    Paul_L Member

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    Power supply design I would want an electronic load. What area of electronics are you looking into?
     
  15. adahany

    adahany New Member

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    I like how you ordered things. I have most of this besides the Scope. I think I would save a little more this month and get a decent 4 channel that would serve me well. I use the scope more than anything else. Also for the PSU I think it is just better to get a Cheap Chinese for now. thanks for this post =)
     
  16. adahany

    adahany New Member

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    I am working on different projects now. I am making a double channel BLDC motor controller that I have been working on for quite some time now about to finish it. Also, I am going to be making a DYI quad-copter for the summer. I am still not decided on what specific area I will focus on for now. I am doing Semiconductor research in school (mosftly MOSFET simulation and design) . I am also taking RF classes, but I don't like the class so far it has been too much calculations and theory (might be just the professor is bad). So next is probably analog design and micropro focused classes. I really like the digital part of electronics.
     
  17. adahany

    adahany New Member

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    I am between getting a used Tek from ebay for 400 or buying the a new Rigol. I might go with the rigol just because it has all the new features such as usb port to store snapshots and so forth. The used teks on ebay usually dont have that, but they are better scopes than Rigol I would say.
     
  18. adahany

    adahany New Member

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    I found a DATA PRECISION MULTIMETER 1351 in a local used electronics store for 25 dollars. Is this multimeter any good ?
    thanks
     
  19. Overclocked

    Overclocked Member

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    4 Channel would be nice, but you could also get a logic analyzer pretty cheap off of Ebay. I would personally go with the Rigol (because its what I have). It does what I need it to do. We were all students once, and as soon as I got a full time job a scope was one of the first things I bought.

    One more suggestion: Component testers

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/New-All-in-...333?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4adb93091d

    Also they come in a slightly different kit form:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/M328-DIY-Ki...545?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item35d2a8b959
     
  20. KeepItSimpleStupid

    KeepItSimpleStupid Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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  21. adahany

    adahany New Member

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    Thanks for the component tester link. I ordered one this are very handy tools.
     

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