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How to set up an electronics lab

I sincerely request you to spend 5-10 minutes and read through this article fully. Thank you.

You probably saw a YouTube video on building robots or maybe even a friend of yours has a lab. You want one to to practice and make projects. How do you get going with it??

Well, if you search for videos on YouTube for setting up your own lab, you will for sure come across the EEVBlog video. (www.eevblog.com) There David goes over 2 types in 2 different videos. The actual version that goes for over 1K USD (80K INR) and another video where the overall cost goes to a price of around 400USD (32K INR) . Scary right? But not really.

No person who does electronics as a part-time hobby will want to spend as much money usually. For that amount in India atleast a low-end PC will be available.

You will also come across videos of that of BigClive (BigCliveDotCom) where he shows how you can buya simple soldering kit, a cheap soldering station and begin.)

But not all people will want to solder. Some may just want to build with breadboards while other will only want to solder. So what is the actual ideal setup?

Well, there is no ideal setup. It all comes down to liking, hobby, and requirement

Liking

When you start off with hobby projects, you will like a particular stream of electricity. It can be electronics, electrical, analog electronics, digital electronics and so on. You may prefer using 555 timers over Arduinos and vice versa.

Hobby

Is your liking going to become a hobby or is it just a game? A hobby will be something you practice and like doing over extended periods of time. And in some cases, your hobby will become your profession.

Requirement

Why do you need your Lab? Hobby or profession? Student or practice? Digital or Analog? Electronics or Electrincal?

Well all three of these have a huge impact on setting up your lab. My lab started out as a small torch light project which later went into 555s and then into MCUs. These show that mine is an electronics lab.

But yours may be different. And in some cases hobby labs don’t need huge amounts of investment based on the type you decide to practice.

In most cases, all types of electronics labs need similar equipment so it is rather difficult to choose.

Overall Requirements:

As a basic requirement, any lab for a student, hobbyist or a professional demand the nescessity for certain items.

  • A well-ventilated space
  • A well lit space
  • A flat surface such as a table
  • LED Lamp that can be clamped to the desk (Not must but recommended for effective use of the lab)

Also some basic tools:

  • A simple screw-driver set (cheapest ones will suffice for those doing it as a hobby)
  • A soldering iron (Not compulsory, but recommended for project type flexibility)
  • Some cloth gloves (to take things apart safely (not must))
  • A multimeter (must)

A wonderful example for a well lit space would be a desk that is present right next to a window with a decent LED Table Lamp. If you don’t have a table and are willing to shill out some more money, you can set up good workspaces like Chuck Hellebuyck and Alex from super make something (Alex has a very similar setup to that of Chuck Hellebuyck). Their labs would be:

CHEPs Desk (3D Printing Lab)

Of course, there are labs which are even better. But function is key. Does your lab fulfil the conditions of helping you complete projects? If yes, automatically, your lab is good.

If you are a student or a person who would like to practice electronics as a hobby again after many years:

Rough Budget: 10$ to 40$ (600 INR to 4000 INR)

Just get your hands on a basic electronics kit from any purveyor and just start out. Make sure that kit comes with n number of LEDs and a breadboard. Do not settle for the snap-circuits. Get a kit that comes with a breadboard, some transistors, many LEDs, maybe even a few buzzers and motors. As a student your requirement for an oscilloscope is minimal. The same also applies for function generators. Yes, oscilloscopes make life easier by helping you view waveforms easily, but there is simply no requirement at that stage.

Also as a student, if in college, you will have access to college tools. So you can akways make your hobby project on a breadboard and take it to your lab and test it there.

It is also known that students are known for living on the tightest of budgets. So unnecessary expenses must be avoided. Just purchase a simple kit, prototype projects and make your imagination take over you.

Some basic things I would recommend you get would be:

  • Breadboard kit (Must include basic transistors{ BC54, BC557, 2N2222A, 2N3904, 2N3906), resistors {1K, 10K, 100K, 22K, 47K, 1E, 10E, 100E, 47E, 22E, 220E, 470E, 670E} , capacitors {1uf, 10uf, 100uf, 22uf, 47uf, 1pf, 100pf, 102pf, 104pf, 22pf} , solderless breadboard, jumper wires { Male to male, Male to Female, Female to Female}, Breadboard power-supply board/9V battery clips, LEDs (3MM or 5MM ones) , 555 and 556 Timers, a small piezo buzzer, Potentiometer (1K, 10K, 10E} , Breadboard Switches (Push type))
  • Jumper Wires
  • 9V Batteries
  • A simple Soldering Iron
  • THT Through hole pad boards (PCB Board/Vero Boards)
  • multimeter

These are more than enough for you to get back into your hobby and learn also. Even though some creators mention that cheaping out on multi-meters is not safe, I’d strongly disagree for such simple projects. All that you would use it for would be measuring DC voltages under 9V which is extremely safe to touch.

When it comes to storage of your projects and components, you can use the box your kit came with. You don’t have to shill out on project boxes and enclosures and sorters. That can be done one you have realized that practical electronics is your hobby.

As a student and hobbyist, you can always go in-depth once you realize which part of electricity and electronics you like.

Also understand that resistors, capacitors etc. will be recurring expenses since you will need to replace them at some point. So if you are in a budgeting system, keep some money away for purchasing more.

When it comes to purchasing all of the parts mentioned above, as a student, you can rely on just Amazon since most parts mentioned above are available. But you will get better choices and prices from dedicated suppliers such as DigiKey.

Also do not spend money on a 3D Printer. It needs a bit of investment which is not necessary as a student. You can rely on Communities and college printers for simple level prototyping. Also schools in India that have Atal Tinkering Labs have them which can also be used by you if you are a student of the institution..

As a full on hobbyist:

Rough Budget: 200-800 USD (5000INR to `30K INR)

As a full on hobbyist, you don’t have to worry about anything. But yes, the above mentioned factors do apply.

But I would recommend that you add a few things too:

  • All component types (THT) { LEDs, Capacitors, Resistors, Transistors, MOSFETs,, Inductors etc.)
  • Basic MCUs (Arduinos, RPI Picos’, ATTiny 85 and so on)
  • A good temperature control soldering station/iron (TS80, TS100, Solderon/Hakko 938 etc.)
  • Good soldering accessories such as helping hands, lead, liquid flux and more)
  • Wires of all types and common guages (24 guage, stranded and un-stranded, Jumper wires of all types)
  • A simple Power supply (variable is not necessary since based on your hobby of choice, its necessity is justified)
  • Various breadboards
  • Multiple sizes of vero boards
  • Basic tools such as pliers, wire cutters, wire insulator removers etc.
  • motors etc. of all kinds
  • Some basic sensors and chips such as timers and so on
  • 555s, 556s, LM386, LM358, UA741s etc (OP-Amps and amplifier (sound){Its necessity is justified based on choice)
  • Oscilloscope and function generator (Not compulsory)
  • A good branded multi-meter form Mastech or Uni-T
  • A very high quality component sorter (Similar to the ones made by Alkon in india).
  • 3D Printer (very useful for quick prototyping and enclosure designing. Not must) {Any Prusa or Ender is recommended}

More components will get added or removed based on the hobby you decide to pursue. Analog electronics won’t need MCUs so you will not have a need to purchase them and vice versa.

Also, a simple oscilloscope and function generator is more than enough. The kit type or the USB type will suffice. You don’t need a full fledged LCD high end oscilloscope like the ones made by keysight since its demand may not be fulfilled. But if you feel that you need high-end ones, you may invest in one since it will always pay back for itself.

Also get a good quality work bench since a good desk and chair will pay back too with increased efficiency.

An honorable mention is also that your hobby can and may and will become your primary source of money if determined. But dedication is always necessary for this

My own lab does not have an oscilloscope and function generator since most of the projects I make can be analyzed and debugged with the help of a multimeter. But it will always be useful.

When it comes to purchasing these parts, you can buy them from dedicated suppliers like DigiKey and more. These dedicated suppliers make it easy since buying parts in bulk will be cheap and easy.

A professional grade lab:

Budget: 1000-3000USD (20K to 100K INR)

For setting up such a lab, I would just suggest that you refer to EEVBlog’s video on the subject since it has all details necessary. But remember that the budget will be high.

Also recommended would be a 3D Printer since it will truly help with quick-turn prototyping. A Prusa printer is best if you have the budget

Even though the video maybe a 11 years old, it is still highly relevant since electronics is a field where things don’t change fast with exceptions like technologies which include 5G and more.

Parts can either be purchased from EBay if you are ok with it or stick to reputed suppliers like DigiKey (worldwide), Farnell (UK)

But do understand that for a professional lab, even other necessities based on which field of electronics you follow, will become a must. But I cannot mention all of them since it will be a never ending flowchart of variables.

If you are a parent who is reading this, since you decided to help your child, please understand two things.

  1. If your child showed this article to you, please analyse your child’s potential and budgets and help them with the subject. Since as I mentioned above, a hobby can and will become a profession if determined.
  2. Please understand that this is a very costly hobby and will need some funding. So, feel free to plan you financials as such.

But I sincerely request you to never deny your child this beautiful technological hobby. It will help their IQ Increase while making them more skilled which will make them different from their peers and counter-parts.

The budgets I mention above are with respect to 2022 and are subject to change based on inflation, costs, shortages, manufacturing options and more.

Some more points will be added as time passes too.

If you found this post to be useful, please feel free to share it and if you have any queries, do comment below. Also, feel free to share a picture of your lab on twitter and tag #mylabesc and I will try my best to respond to all comments and tweets.

Honorable Mentions:

  1. TheGeekPub Lab https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KfWMJV7fQ0&ab_channel=TheGeekPub (Hobby grade lab)
  2. Alex Gyver’s Lab https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPAPyDstK9Q&ab_channel=AlexGyver (Hobby grade)
  3. EEVBlog lab https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_PbjbRaO2E&t=1s&ab_channel=EEVblog (Professional grade)
  4. Dalibor Farny Lab https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCIbN_-8few&t=308s&ab_channel=DaliborFarn%C3%BD (Professional grade lab)
  5. GreatScott! ‘s lab https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-djg27lJyQ&ab_channel=GreatScott%21 (Professional grade lab)

Thank You for reading this!

PS:

The reason why I wrote this page is because I has difficulty when I began due to overwhelming cos projections and confusions; And I sincerely hope that others do not get restrained because of this.

Atul

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