Tools and other useful things

This page will list tools and materials you should get to help you set up a intermediate robotics lab. We have provided links for a lot of the items though look around on eBay or at other online stores for good deals on similar products.  Sometimes you even find items at garage sales or thrift stores.  The 50 watt Peltier fridge that we used on Alfred robot base was bought for 5 dollars at a garage sale.  Please take the time to see if this hobby is right for you,  robotics can be very expensive and with any hobby there are risks. Some risks include potential fatal DC voltage and hot soldering irons. Also be sure to solder in a open area with safety glasses. Even better is to have a exhaust fan or hood. Below are tips on acquiring tools and equipment that is of high quality and sometimes cheaper to buy. You should always be on the look out for deals on test equipment as that is a large cost in robotics.

 

Tools:

  1. Sturdy worktable –  I can’t stress enough how important it is to get and or build a strong workbench for your projects,  I’m finally upgrading to a industrial level electronics workbench.  For those on a budget though a simple table can be built with a two by four wood frame and a laminate counter-top. Here is my lab as a example ESD workbench 
  2. A good quality soldering station –  you can often find a few good deals on eBay but watch out for China copy’s.  Try to stick with well know names like Weller below is alink to a good intermediate adjustable soldering station. A brass sponge is a nice upgrade for your iron as it cleans the tip of the iron without cooling it down to much like a wet sponge does.  You also don’t need a bottle of water around to wet the sponge.  Link
  3. Wire strippers –  you will use these a lot so try and find a good pair in the style you like soon you will be stripping wire like a mad scientist. Link
  4. A nice breadboard  –  This will help test your designs before making them more permanent or using them on a project.  Link
  5. A multimeter – This is probably the first test equipment you need to have though its best to spend the money and get a auto-ranging model they are a but more expensive though they make up for it with ease of use.  Fluke is a good brand to go with and are very well know for there accuracy.  Link
  6. Hand drill/Drill press –  if you have the money go for a tabletop drill press or floor model
  7. Heat gun – This is a great tool I use almost daily when building robotics to shrink heat shrink around wires
  8. Power supply  –  I don’t mean a “wall-mart” one.  I’m talking about a precision piece of equipment that can delivery you a very regulated voltage at a adjustable current level.  A 0-30 volt at 0-5amps should be a good starter power supply that will last you a long time.  Finding one cheap is not easy.  look for local colleges that have auctions or eBay for a good deal on a BK precision or equivalent brand.
  9. Oscilloscope – This is a very useful tool if you are making your own circuits for the robot or to even see what is happening on a pin on the IC or micro controller.  You do not need a super fancy one however I would look for a digital one as it will take less space up on the bench. (Bench space is always finite no matter how big the bench is)

Materials:

  1. 22 gauge hookup wire solid core and multi colored.  The worst thing you can do is wire up a entire circuit or robot with the same color wire.  Trust me I have made the mistake before and its hard to troubleshoot and or build in another circuit. Tip: I use wire for robots from old computer power supplies it ranges from 16-20 gauge wire and has a variety of colors.   Link
  2. Solder – 60/40 is a good bet for the core of your projects though if you are looking to be a little nicer to the environment then there are lead free alternatives though they will come at a higher price. It will be labeled as ROHS solder. Though be careful as ROHS solder sometimes depending on brand flow as well as others (meaning it is harder to solder with sometimes).
  3. Components  –  Look online for resistor kits, capacitor kits, transistor kits, diode kits or multi component kits.  These will give you a lot of different components to use for your projects and will start filling out your material bins.
  4. Books  – While not really a material I suggest reading up on robotics,  books have a wealth of knowledge that most online sources can’t match they also go into details on robots that you can start building with all the new tools you just got.  My reading list.