Dec 21, 2011

A To the Rails Christmas

It’s holiday time so I have put together a sample of things that made my Christmas list this year. Given the theme of this blog, all the items are in some way related to hobby electronics. In my noob days I often looked through personal blogs to find out what kind of equipment they owned for doing electronics work. For any aspiring DIYers out there, I hope my list gives you some new places to go for test gear and inspiration.

I first found out about this microscope from the YouTube video review posted on the website (all items are hyperlinked to their online purchasing sites). It lets you get close up images and video of circuit components and solder connections with minimum hassle. I have a standard microscope that I have used a few times for checking solder bridges on smaller components, but getting a compatible camera will cost around $150. This one seems to do the job just fine and I can use it for blog photos. Win, win.

This is a relatively cheap ($153) function generator from Instek that is capable of generating sine, square, and triangle waves. The triangle wave function is limited to 1MHz, but the sine wave and square wave functions can go as high as 3MHz with a peak-to-peak voltage of 10V at 1% resolution. This particular piece of equipment generates the waveforms digitally, which means with a high enough sampling rate you should be able to see the step changes in the output waveforms on an oscilloscope. If I can get my hands on this it will make demos far easier in addition to adding some firepower to my test equipment arsenal for doing filter testing.

A friend/artist once told me that LEDs were my medium considering my tendency to do LED-centric projects. Admittedly, I do think of LED projects before anything else, but that is mostly because they can be appreciated by anyone regardless of background. This meter is not something I consider essential to any home workbench, but I do like experimenting with LEDs and have plans to do some custom lighting designs in the future. I think this meter could help me out. I also want to test batches of LEDs for brightness using a standard test current to see if I get a Gaussian curve similar to Dave Jones’s recent resistor tests.

You might remember that I did a whole breakdown on my new BK Precision 2709B Multimeter a few months back. So why would I want another multimeter? Well the simple answer is that you can never have too many multimeters. The reality is that I would like to be able to measure input voltage and current as well as output voltage and current on certain power electronics to test for efficiency. I could do this with two meters by switching the connections, but ultimately I would like to get four meters so I won’t have to put in the effort. Plus, this meter is only about $60 and won Dave Jones’s $50 multimeter shootout.

My recent failure with my Halloween project pointed out to me how little I actually understand about wireless communication. From what I have read online Zigbee is a good protocol to start with if you are trying to learn wireless data transfer. They are a bit on the expensive side so I haven’t had the nerve to buy them for myself. Look for some blog entries on my experiments with these radios if they find their way into my lab.


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