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#### BobtailLizard

##### New Member
Hi guys,

He loves making circuit boards, programming his own chips in basic. Creating different devices like automatic door openers, remote controlled vehicles and all sorts of wacky things! He designs and creates his own circuit boards - although i am not sure how he does it (I don't think he has any special equipment for it)

Soldering equipment (iron, sucker, solder)
Oscilloscope
Tools (screw drivers, etc)
A bench top power supply unit
A multimeter

What is the most important piece of equipment you use when making your circuit boards?

Budget of under $150 -$200

Edit:
Is any of this stuff suitable? if so, what does it do & how important is it to make circuit boards?
• Frequency Counters
• Hantek Test Equipment
• Siglent Test Equipment
• RF Test Equipment
• Function Generators

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#### atferrari

##### Well-Known Member
Function generator was my last good thing I bought, maybe a tad on the expensive side for your budget (thus I do no suggest brand/model). It is always good to have it for the signal I need, no matter if for an occasional verification or a long test.

#### BobtailLizard

##### New Member
Function generator was my last good thing I bought, maybe a tad on the expensive side for your budget (thus I do no suggest brand/model). It is always good to have it for the signal I need, no matter if for an occasional verification or a long test.
Hi,

Thanks for the suggestion.

So what exactly is the FG used for?
Is it suitable for an electronics hobbyist?

#### atferrari

##### Well-Known Member
Hi,

Thanks for the suggestion.

Is it suitable for an electronics hobbyist?
Simply put, yes. Knowing where you live, could help other suggest brands or suppliers.

#### BobtailLizard

##### New Member
I live in Perth, Australia

#### spec

##### Well-Known Member
Hy BobtailLizard,

Welcome to ETO.

A function generator would be a good choice, as atferrari suggested.

Three things that I find essential are:

(1) Small vice and PCB holding unit.
(2) Good bench lamp
(3) Magnifying system to allow work with miniature components, especially surface mount. They come in two forms optical and electro-optic.

The optical systems are traditional and expensive- a cheap one in not worth bothering with.
The electro-optic systems comprise a camera and a display unit (monitor). These systems range from quite cheap to expensive and can be very good value for money

spec

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#### Inquisitive

##### Super Moderator
Hi BobtailLizard,

Call me old school.

Fastest trouble shooting aid as opposed to a digital multimeter is an analog meter. It is a lot faster when chasing circuits. There is no waiting for the meter to catch up. It does fast continuity. Both analog and digital have their merits on my bench.

Good second hand analogs can be found at amateur radio festivals or meets. They are not too expensive.

Regards,
Inq

#### BobtailLizard

##### New Member
Hy BobtailLizard,

Welcome to ETO.

A function generator would be a good choice, as atferrari suggested.

Three things that I find essential are:

(1) Small vice and PCB holding unit.
(2) Good bench lamp
(3) Magnifying system to allow work with miniature components, especially surface mount. They come in two forms optical and electronic.

The optical systems are traditional and expensive- a cheap one in not worth bothering with.
The electronic systems comprise a camera and a display unit (monitor). These systems range from quite cheap to expensive and can be very good value for money

spec
Hi,

Actually the magnifying system sounds like a good idea, he is always grumbling about having to use his glasses to see things he's working on.
Do you have any recommendations (particular brands, aussie vendors)?

I did a quick google but all I could find were magnifying systems to read books and such, is there anything specialize for electronics?

Thanks!

Hi BobtailLizard,

Call me old school.

Fastest trouble shooting aid as opposed to a digital multimeter is an analog meter. It is a lot faster when chasing circuits. There is no waiting for the meter to catch up. It does fast continuity. Both analog and digital have their merits on my bench.

Good second hand analogs can be found at amateur radio festivals or meets. They are not too expensive.

Regards,
Inq
I will look into this, sounds like a good idea. Thanks

#### spec

##### Well-Known Member
Hi,

Actually the magnifying system sounds like a good idea, he is always grumbling about having to use his glasses to see things he's working on.
Do you have any recommendations (particular brands, aussie vendors)?

I did a quick google but all I could find were magnifying systems to read books and such, is there anything specialize for electronics?
Yes, there are magnifying systems for electronics and many ETO members have them.

About recommendations, I would like to find a good magnifying system for home use myself and can't decide between an optical or electro-optical system. At work we had wiremen with pro optical equipment that was ideal but cost the earth.

I suppose you want the present to be a surprise, otherwise you could ask your Dad which optical system he would like. The problem is that the choice is very subjective.

I did do some investigating into a magnifying system a couple of years ago but didn't come to any conclusion. The best route would be to use some secondhand professional gear- Little Ghostman, another member took this approach- but that would be difficult for a present.

spec

PS: For what it is worth here is a cut and paste of some links that I kept from my investigation into optical systems for electronics:

AmScope (optical)
This is the one I thought was best of the AmScope range, but it is a bit expensive:
+++_http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-90X-Stereo-Zoom-Microscope-on-Boom-Stand-with-80-LED-Light-/190807584758?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2c6d04aff6

http://www.amscope.com/microscopes/3-5x-90x-stereo-zoom-microscope-with-single-arm-boom-stand.html
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/10X-20X-4...531?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item58c632fd93
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/10X-20X-B...284?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d595774cc
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/10X-20X-L...e-Boom-Arm-with-Gooseneck-Light-/400429192095
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/10X-20X-S...348?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item58c6306c9c
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/10X-20X-W...855?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2c6d530707
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/20X-30X-S...672?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d59541af0
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/20X-30X-W...923?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b7092f3
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/20X-Stere...258?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20cff39f7a
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/20X-Widef...765?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b709255
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/2X-225X-E...305?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b704269
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/2X-90X-Ex...519?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20cff32767
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-35X-45X...517?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20cff32765
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-180X...695?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2ec39a307f
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-180X...296?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b60ae18
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-180X...324?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20cfeb8d54
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-180X...109?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b70264d
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-180X...154?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b60b172
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-225X...800?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d364400a0
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-45X-...760?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2c6d0a0ef8
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-45X-...251?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b7026db
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-45X-...491?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b7027cb
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-45X-...416?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item58c653a098
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-45X-...195?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b7041fb
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-45X-...157?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b60b175
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-45X-...537?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b703b81
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-45X-...756?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2c6d04aff4
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-45X-...242?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d5965ebc2
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-90X-...973?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b70411d
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-90X-...419?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20cff30f93
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-90X-...199?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b7041ff
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-90X-...632?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2c6d0a0e78
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-90X-...389?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d596b188d
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-90X-...645?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2c6d04af85
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-90X-...069?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2ec39bfafd
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-90X-...322?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2c6d7536da
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-90X-...814?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20cff320be
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-90X-...846?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20cfeb8f5e
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-90X-...866?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20cfeb935a
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/5X-10X-15...626?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2c6d0a4522
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/5X-10X-Bi...323?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20cff39bd3
http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/precision*world/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_ipg=&_from=
http://www.ebay.com/itm/3-5X-45X-Stereo-Zoom-Microscope-with-Single-Arm-Boom-Stand-/400428150070

GT_Vision (optical)

http://www.gtvision.co.uk/WebRoot/S...D69/GX_Microscopes_Stereo_Range_Datasheet.pdf

Supereyes (electro optical)

http://stuccu.co.uk/s/Supereyes-MbS...yBa4rKzDPlFW9W-zQavnMg2gXlyLAFikAAaAooD8P8HAQ

Andonstar
_2MP USB (electro-optical)
http://www.eevblog.com/2014/01/07/eevblog-566-cheap-usb-microscope-reviews/

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#### spec

##### Well-Known Member
When I did a bit of surface mount work 20x magnification was the most useful. So if you go for a single magnification microscope, x20 would seem to be a good choice. But I am no expert and perhaps other members more experienced with fine work will advise differently.

Of course, variable magnification would be ideal, but this tends to compromise the optical quality and increase the cost.

A good x20 loupe (eye glass) is also handy for inspecting, but it is no good for working on an item because of the very close focal distance and narrow field of view . Loupes are not expensive. https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/?ie=UTF8...vptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_5rvdfwqkkn_b

I always have one of these in my tool box: http://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/handheld-magnifiers/0732858/

This AmScope model, SW-3B24-FRL, which does x20 and x40, is well received:

http://www.amscope.com/20x-40x-stereo-microscope-on-single-arm-boom-with-ring-light.html

But you may need a Barlow lens to increase the viewing distance from 4" to 8" for electronic work rather than just viewing. The viewing distance needs to be long enough to accommodate tools: soldering iron, tweezers etc.

Because of the magnification, the rigidity of the stand etc is more important than you might at first think.

The amount of light in the eyepiece is inversely proportional to the magnification, so good illumination without shadows is also more important than you may think.

spec

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#### spec

##### Well-Known Member
Your post has revived my interest in microscopes; as I am investigating my posts are a bit disjointed.

I rather fancy the AmScope SM-5BX microscope (with the addition of a LED illuminating ring), but it is a bit pricey

(1) x3.5 to x45 zoom range
(2) Wide viewing angle
(3) 8" focus distance
(4) Solid ball bearing sliding boom

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-5X-45X-...251?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d3b7026db

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#### ronsimpson

##### Well-Known Member
I got one of those USB microscopes to solder by. It requires my laptop. It takes pictures and videos to.

#### spec

##### Well-Known Member
Would mods please delete- info covered in later post

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#### spec

##### Well-Known Member
Perhaps if my selection criteria for an optical microscope is listed, that would help:

(1) AmScope
AmScope instruments give a good price/performance ratio. Obviously they are not in the same league as professional instruments, but you would be paying £2K UK upwards for those, unless you bought second hand. But even then, they will be expensive. The other thing about AmScope is that they offer a huge range of instruments which are widely used for home/semi pro projects.
(2) Camera
The decision needs to be made from scratch if a camera facility is/will be required. A camera can always be added later if the housing is there. With no housing this avenue is blocked. But it is possible to use a small camera to take shots through the normal eye-peice.
(3) Optics
(3.1) Quality
Obviously the quality of the optics is paramount. A microscope with poor optics, however cheap, will be a PITA and essentially useless. The optics are a given and cannot be modified.
(3.2) Magnification Range
x3 to x20 minimum. Unless the microscope will be used for other work, the maximum magnification required for electronics work is probably x40. Note that high magnification microscopes are difficult to use and a wide zoom range compromises the optics. Also as the magnification increases, so the field of view decreases.
(3.3) Working Distance
4" tolerable, 6" good, 8" desirable. Long focus distance microscopes use a Barlow lens to increase the focal length. This is a third lens that fits on the end of the optic tubes. A long focal length gives room for working on the unit under observation (UUO). A short focal distance is another PITA.
(3.4) Field of View
As wide as possible. A microscope with a narrow field of view is also a PITA to use
(4) Stand
Solid and adjustable. Boom is more convenient. It may be possible to modify a stand to improve it. For example the base plate could easily be made bigger/heavier and any plastic fittings could be replaced by metal versions. A bit of fettling here and there may also help.
(5) Lighting
LED ring is best without going to the expense of fibre optic illumination. A LED ring could always be added later to spread the cost. Also, you could roll your own lighting

spec

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#### spec

##### Well-Known Member
You don't always get more for your money:

#### spec

##### Well-Known Member
Bit of info on using microscopes. The Omano 1030 microscope with JW11 stand is recommended.

spec

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#### spec

##### Well-Known Member
After a load of investigation it appears that the SM-3BX-80S hits the best price/ performance ratio, but at \$400 US it is over your price range. It has an ideal zoom range of x3.5 to x45 and a relatively wide field of view. It also has an 8" viewing distance and a LED light ring. Once again though, this is just a paper analysis- I have never used this microscope.
http://www.amscope.com/stereo-micro...croscope-on-boom-stand-with-80-led-light.html
http://bestcompoundmicroscopes.com/best-amscope-sm-3bx-80s-stereo-zoom-microscope-review/

spec

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