7 tools that all electronics laboratories must have – Mippin

An electronics lab can only have so many tools ranging from wire cutters and pliers to multimeters and voltmeters. The thing is, though, if you’re just gathering the tools to have in your electrical lab, you can’t really get everything and this requires you to know what the essentials are.

Lest it be misunderstood though, the tools I’ve included in this list are must-haves, but this doesn’t mean other tools should be overlooked.

Over the years power tools have evolved and most of them have been a step up from some basic hardware tools while others are meant to perform a specific task.

Either way, you don’t need to spend a fortune to get them; As long as they’re safe enough and up to the task of what you’ll be doing, they should be good enough.

So, how about we get to the point and see what are the 7 essential tools for any electronic laboratory?

Electronic Lab Tips

No matter what tools you have in your e-lab, there are a few things you need to pay attention to to make sure your lab is in top shape.

  • Always clean your workbench after you’re done.
  • Be sure to turn off electrical measuring instruments after you finish using them.
  • Lubricate the moving parts of tools such as screwdrivers.
  • After use, be sure to store all tools according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

See also: The 11 Best Soldering Irons (For Electronics and Circuit Boards)

The 7 essential tools for any electronics laboratory

On the main agenda, let’s find out what tools should be in your e-lab. Depending on what your application is, any of these will be useful enough.

1. A digital multimeter

Like most electrical and electronic equipment, there are many multimeters, such as electronic multimeters, automotive multimeters, and clamp-on multimeters. There are more or less differences between all of these, but at the end of the day, you want something that can handle whatever you throw at it.

The main measurement you should expect in the best digital multimeter includes AC and DC voltage, resistance, and continuity measurements, among others.

In most cases, multimeters are used to design electrical circuits and/or troubleshoot existing ones. In addition to this, they have been refined over the years to handle other measurements such as temperature measurement and non-contact voltage measurements, and some also come with probe tips.

Depending on the type of multimeter you get and what features it has, you can pay anywhere from $7 to $150. Therefore, I cannot stress enough the importance of looking for what you really need. The last thing you want is to get invested for what you really need.

2. Rotating tools

Besides a multimeter, this is another versatile tool to have in your electronics lab. Just like any other tools you have in your lab, these too come in different price points, and as such, it’s important that you narrow down your options to what you really need.

A rotary tool is mainly used for cutting square holes in plastic boxes, drilling holes through a printed circuit board, trimming a PCB that is a bit big so it can fit into the cabinet it’s meant to be in, etc.

Rotary tools also come with different accessories, all of which can be purchased as kits at home improvement centers and hardware stores. Although you could work with many accessories, I recommend sticking with the miniature cut-off wheels, sanding drums, and cutting tips for electronic applications.

You should always keep in mind choosing the same spindle size for all accessories, as choosing a larger one will not fit the rotary tool. You should also stick to only using it for drilling soft materials like PCBs, as using it on harder materials would burn it.

See also: What is Raspberry Pi? (Linear Actuator Controller)

3. Oscilloscopes

There’s no way this one would miss out on our list. If you know anything about electronics, then you know that it all comes down to signals and that the oscilloscope is the primary tool in measuring and observing signals.

Let’s see what they are about…

Also known as oscopios or simply viewfinders, they usually have a graphic format screen on a pair of axes (X and Y). The Y axis is typically used to indicate voltage readings, while the X axis is used to indicate time. Oscilloscopes are typically a fast, powerful, and accurate way to measure signal shapes.

So if you want to know exactly what’s going on in an electrical circuit, this is definitely a must-have. Like the multimeter and rotary tools, they are also available in two different variants: digital or analog oscilloscopes. Most are pretty affordable, but if you want some really advanced features, you’re going to have to spend thousands of dollars.

I recommend you go for digital oscilloscopes as they have many features such as peak-to-peak voltage, pulse width measurement, peak-to-peak voltage, rise times, signal comparisons, and more.

4. Optical tools

Have you ever taken a look at a motherboard? Some components are so small that it is difficult or almost impossible to grasp them with tweezers or even see them.

If you’re going to work with it, then you’ll want to have some basic lab optics. This could be magnifying loupes or even large magnifying glasses. The problem with these though is that the magnification can only go up to 5-10x which isn’t that impressive but if you are dealing with basic lab functions then these will be quite useful.

For advanced users, such as when you need surface mount assembly or inspection of electronic equipment, it would be a good idea to get a stereo microscope. This typically has a magnification level of between 25x and over 90x, which is pretty impressive.

Stereo microscopes are perfect for use in board-level inspection and surface mount chip soldering, but as convenient as they are, you should be ready to spend a few hundred bucks on them. Depending on whether or not they have a fixed or variable zoom, you will have to pay more or less.

5. CSF meter

Like multimeters, LCR meters also have quite a wide application. they are typically recommended for measuring inductance (L), capacitance (C), and resistance (R), hence the name LCR meter.

With these too, you will have options to choose from. First, there is a variant that will measure the total impedance of an electrical component and with these, you won’t have to spend a lot of cash. However, there is a more expensive type that not only measures the equivalent impedance, but can also measure the equivalence series resistance (ESR) as well as the quality factor (Q) of the components.

If you need to have more accuracy from your LCR meter, you will have to shell out more cash as the lower priced ones have accuracy tolerances as low as 20%, which can make a world of difference.

6. Power supply

Now here’s something you really can’t live without in your electronics lab. It’s pretty obvious that there’s no way you can test a circuit without applying power to it.

There are many power supplies present in the market that are designed with different features. In a general purpose lab, for example, the most important features your power supply should have include variable current and voltage control.

Basically, a power supply allows you to supply different voltages for different applications and most of these can operate in a constant voltage or current mode. This makes it much easier to troubleshoot different components or even a part of your electronic design and much faster too.

See also: Explain the working mechanism of an uninterruptible power supply

7. Mechanical tools for precision operations.

You will also want to have some machine tools in your electronics lab. These will be useful for making basic tasks a walk in the park and making more complex ones a walk in the park.

Some of these include wire cutters, a pair of ESD-safe pliers, precision screwdrivers, wire strippers, alligator clips and leads for your multimeter, cutters, needle-nose pliers, and more. At the end of the day, you should consider getting either of these depending on how much you expect to make on your workbench.

final verdict

With all the tools mentioned above in your electronics lab, you’ll be off to a good start. If you’re a hobbyist, you really don’t have to break the bank to get really advanced features, but otherwise it might be a good idea to get the best of everything to avoid future costs. Above all, remember to observe the utmost care and maintenance in the handling of all your electronic measuring equipment.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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