A guide for making your own home electronics lab (for beginners)

Sharan Seshadri

27 December 2016

This article is aimed primarily at beginners, who want to start out with building their own Do-It-Yourself projects at home, but are not sure where to begin. As far as ideas go, well one should use their creativity/imagination, but there are some basic/essential tools required to get started with an electronics project of any sort. And that is where this article will help.

It is recommended that you keep a separate shelf or box(es) to store your components/materials. Organisation of the workspace is especially important here, considering that there are all sorts of equipment, ranging from tiny components to expensive multimeters. Also, proximity to a power source is recommended.

  1. Breadboard: A basic component any hobbyist must have. A breadboard acts as the base on which you place your active/passive components or your peripheral devices. An essential item for beginners.

  2. An electronics component kit: There are a variety of components kits available in the market. The idea is to have several generic components of different varieties and keep them all in one place. Though, if you are looking for a specific resistor or a capacitor, it is advisable to find an electronics component store close to home!

    A typical component kit with a breadboard

    For reference, these are a few components that you must look for in every kit:

    1. Passive components: assorted resistors and capacitors

    2. Active components:

      • Transistors (BJT and/or MOSFETs)

      • BC547/548 are common choices that are good for amplifying properties

      • Op Amps

    3. Others

      • Light dependent resistors

      • Potentiometers (1K or 10K)

      • Electret condenser mics

      • Relays

      • LEDs (a lot of them!): LEDs are one of the most basic tests to check if your circuit, or even a part of your circuit is working the way you want it to.

      • Switches

      • Buzzers, if you prefer a noisier alternative to LEDs

  3. A multimeter: Depending on the cost, this can be a very basic model, or can come with additional features. This device can be typically used to check voltages, resistances, or capacitances across two particular points in the circuit, or even current through a particular branch. A basic multimeter usually costs about Rs.250, but the expensive ones can go up to Rs.2000.

    Digital Multimeter

  4. Soldering iron: Sometimes, we may need to attach certain components to wires, or other components. Soldering is a semi permanent method to achieve this. A soldering iron typically comes with a stand. One must also buy the solder, the material that is melted to keep fix components together. There are plenty of videos on how to safely use a soldering iron, because it is very easy to burn yourself with this!

    Soldering iron

  5. The 555- a basic IC: The 555 IC, named for the fact that it is internally composed of three 5K resistors, is one of the most basic and widely used chips in the market. It can be used in a variety of modes, depending on the configuration of resistors and capacitors attached to it. An extremely versatile chip, it is a must have in your component kit.

  6. Microcontrollers/Development boards: Microcontroller projects are a notch above simple resistor-capacitor projects. There are a large number of microcontrollers out there, for each need. The Arduino Uno development board, which comes with an Atmel Atmega 32 microcontroller, is a favourite of most beginners. Other boards include TI’s MSP430 launchpad, or the Raspberry Pi.

  7. Sensors: There are several types of sensors, and like the board, these depend on what you would like to use them for. Again, these are used mostly in IoT projects, but if you are creative enough, you could use them wherever needed.

  8. Batteries: A 12V standard battery should be sufficient. If you need a higher source of voltage, you can always purchase a battery eliminator.

So there you have it! With these components, you are on track to start out with your own DIY project! Happy innovating!

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