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Equipping a Small Hackerspace? 174

andy writes "After gentle prodding for about a year, my company actually agreed to include an electronics/robotics lab in the current build-out of our new office space. As I never really expected this to happen, I was at a bit of a loss when they asked me what sort of workbenches, equipment, etc. I wanted for the lab. The lab will only be approximately 9'x15' but there is a decent amount of vertical space to work with. I was thinking of having 2 workbenches side-by-side, one for 'hardware' and the other for 'software' with a floor-standing cabinet for storage. Semi-mobile workbenches might be a plus. Those of you that work in these sorts of environments, what do you recommend in the way of workbenches, storage, organization, and electronics?"
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Equipping a Small Hackerspace?

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  • Where do you work and are they hiring?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Unfortunately, the robotics lab is only there so they can 'train/build' their replacements.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        excellent. I can make a fortune repairing 'mysterious bugs' on my replacement. Like when the 20 dollar and hour consultant put me out of my 90 and hour gig. Latter they asked me to go back and fix his mess...I charged 120 an hour.

        • "Like when the 20 dollar and hour consultant put me out of my 90 and hour gig.

          There was probably a valid reason for that.

          • "Like when the 20 dollar and hour consultant put me out of my 90 and hour gig.

            There was probably a valid reason for that.

            Consultants are usually shitheads?

            • I used to have a T-shirt that said "I'm not unemployed, I'm a consultant".

            • by flyneye ( 84093 )

              As nearly as I can tell from meeting several over the years, they tend to be cast offs from the industry they are consulting. First they doll up the ol' resume , then they sell themselves with the precision of a Chevy dealer to the first president he can find sweating under pressure of the board to flip a profit. Then come the endless touring and "chats" w/ employees over subjects like "what could be done to improve the workflow?" Then come the downsizing starting with any brass who opposed them ( the ones

    • They'll be hiring soon if he doesn't get any better answers than that...

      One suggestion- make sure there are two exits, so that when the robots decide they are done having you tinker with them there's a higher chance of getting out. Also helpful if anything catches on fire.

    • Why do all the neat opportunities always go to the lads with the fewest clues?

  • Don't forget to get a cabinet. It makes storing random hardware a lot neater.

    • If you're doing anything computer or network related, you're going to need a 19" rack, and you should get it upfront so you can allocate the space to access the front and back. You'll want some shelving in a fixed location, but rolling shelves or carts let you effectively use the space in back of your racks. You'll want lots of electricity, and usually Wiremold is the winning way to deploy it. The real trick, if you're in a US-like country, is deciding whether you only need 110v or also 220-240v.

      Your B

      • The cabinet drawers should have sturdy rails since you're likely going to have some dedicated to power supplies and some to solenoids and motors (you said robotics right?). Those things can be heavy enough on their own, wire can add up in weight too.

        Lighting is key - get extra and make sure you've got decent bulbs. Even if you don't work with surface mount, small electronics work is so much better with good lighting (mine is jury-rigged). You might want to consider having one or two of those giant lenses

  • by digitalsushi ( 137809 ) <> on Thursday December 09, 2010 @04:49PM (#34506350) Journal

    You will already have the core things you need 90% of the time. Go install your desks in an ergo way, then give your core tools a nice spot to live. Don't worry, they will get lost, borrowed, and misplaced quickly. Soon you'll have three of each, and you'll always know where one is.

    The rest will evolve organically. Let it flow in as each project evolves. The most clever configuration will be the one that is flexed from the inside out, as your frustrations permanently solve yet another configuration issue. In a few years, people will wonder how your tech feng shui is so strong.

    Eventually people who visit your hackerspace will coo at the random junk bottles of parts, odd CAD lamp lighting, and floor stains, completely oblivious to the purpose, but envious to their shallow cores at the shininess. You will be envied in your organic nerd pile.

  • by johnny cashed ( 590023 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @04:50PM (#34506358) Homepage
    Like Vidmar, Bott, or Lista. Lots of storage, small space. Can also be used to hold up a benchtop. Pricey, but you won't regret them.
    • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @05:24PM (#34506846)


      I've run several aircraft maintenance and inspection section toolrooms in the Air Force, and good bench/storage solutions are a major "workspace effectiveness multiplier".

      I have _severe_ love for Lista. We even got our Snap-on rep to work with the Lista rep to get our Lista box foam cut for our tools.
      Snap-on boxes are very nice, but Lista IMO makes even better ones that survive G.I. abuse and often cost less.

      Leadership like the professional appearance of modern workspaces, which helps sell what you do for them.

      • by gonzo67 ( 612392 )

        As an old AF retiree who spent half my career as a MX type (325X1>2A4x1/2A1X2 to be specific)...I can attest to the abuse the tools the GI uses goes through, and that is frequently just to get the mission done. I recall the Snap-on rep coming by to show off a new shiny "indestructable" very large socket driver. We gave it to the crew chiefs who took it out and cam eback 2 hours later saying buy 5 of them as they dropped the bent monster onto the tool crib bench. The Snap-on guy wanted to know why they

        • by radtea ( 464814 )

          The crew dogs stated they managed to change the brakes on 5 C-130s with it before it started to bend, so it survived longer than any other they had on hand before bending!

          That's the difference between a good tool and a great tool: merely good tools fail by shattering.

  • 9' by 15' ? Does this lab currently contain a mop bucket and cleaning supplies? Sounds like something out of Office Space.
    • Michael Scott Paper Company FTW! Oh, wait, wrong Office... Sorry.

  • Vertical Space (Score:5, Informative)

    by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @04:53PM (#34506394) Homepage Journal
    If you have a lot of vertical space, you could utilize some good pegboard and hangar brackets to store most of your tools. Also, I always find myself in want of a drill press and, to a lesser extent, a lathe and a mill. Welding equipment is also a plus. But all of those (minus a drill press, those can be pretty small) take up space. Fans and heaters are a nice convenience, if there isn't already some sort of environmental control. Finally, if other people than yourself are going to be working there regularly (I think that's kind of the definition of a hackerspace) then you might want to get a really nice label-maker/gun so that things stay relatively organized.
    • by Java Pimp ( 98454 ) <java_pimp@yah o o .com> on Thursday December 09, 2010 @05:02PM (#34506532) Homepage

      you might want to get a really nice label-maker/gun so that things stay relatively organized.

      Is the gun for just in case the label-maker approach does not work?

      • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @05:23PM (#34506842) Journal

        Actually guns are good for all around organizational features.

        Just the other day, I opened my drawer to get my VB5 reference book, thought it'd be a great idea to whip up a form using Access 2000 for the database.

        I had left my gun in my drawer on top of the book. So when I went to get the book, I had to pick up the gun. I then had a flash of bad memories, from the last time I used VB5, and was overcome with suicidal thoughts. I then realized that I was contemplating suicide, and I already had a gun in my hand, so I quickly put it back on top of the VB Book, closed the drawer, and have vowed never to touch that attrocity ever again.

        This happens about twice a season.

        • by daid303 ( 843777 )

          Actually guns are good for all around organizational features.

          Just the other day, I opened my drawer to get my VB5 reference book, thought it'd be a great idea to whip up a form using Access 2000 for the database.

          I had left my gun in my drawer on top of the book. So when I went to get the book, I had to pick up the gun. I then had a flash of bad memories, from the last time I used VB5, and was overcome with suicidal thoughts. I then realized that I was contemplating suicide, and I already had a gun in my hand, so I quickly put it back on top of the VB Book, closed the drawer, and have vowed never to touch that attrocity ever again.

          This happens about twice a season.

          Yeah. Bad habits die hard.

          You should be using VB6 these days.

    • Honest question here. Heck, I would love to know the answer personally. Can you legitimately weld in a 9x15 foot room?

      If the answer is actually yes, what equipment do you need to make it safe?

      And the final question is, with that equipment, can you legitimately weld in a 9x15 foot room?

      • And the final question is, with that equipment, can you legitimately weld in a 9x15 foot room?

        That's what I'd like to know. While some types of welding require more space than others do, for safety reasons, I can't imagine any equipment allowing you to use a space that size. The issue of getting around the item in and of itself is formidable. It would likely be doable if you've got the room completely free of other stuff, but with a bench it's going to get tight real quick.

        • If you've got a 9x15 space for your lab, it's probably in an office building, and probably in a city, and there are so many sets of rules that you will not be able to meet if you want to do it safely and legally. For welding, you need things like cement floors, lots of ventilation, fireproof construction, beefed-up electricity, safety inspectors, fire code compliance, appropriate insurance, etc. etc., and that's if you're doing something nice and clean like MIG or spot welding, as opposed to acetylene torc

          • whether you can get approval for soldering, which still takes a decent fireproof bench and some ventilation.

            Electronics soldering is quite safe. Most standard office furniture (e.g. particle board with melamine) should be fire resistant enough by nature to be safe enough, and any sane workbench would be a non-issue. A small square of hardboard (high-density fibreboard) as a temporary tabletop protection is an approach I've used with no problem in locations without a workbench.

            An small to medium wattage soldering iron with a stand [] is quite safe.

            While the soldering fumes can provoke and may cause to asthma (due to

      • I suppose the answer depends somewhat on your definition of legitimate...

        If the room is lit properly, heavily ventilated, and you get some of the smaller equipment, you can certainly weld some things in such a space. When I crafted a sword for my high school senior project, I was welding in a poorly lit garage that was about the dimensions you listed (probably a bit longer than the 15' though). The weld job was pretty simple, very rudimentary, and didn't require a lot of skill. If you are going to be wel
      • Re:Vertical Space (Score:4, Informative)

        by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @05:37PM (#34507036)

        "Can you legitimately weld in a 9x15 foot room?"

        Sure, though I'd prefer a TIG machine since it's a very neat process.

        Good welding forums ample info and reasonable participants: [] [] []

      • Certainly possible. Compact arc-welding units (available for 120Vac AC mains) are pretty small, and if the pieces of metal you are welding are as well, then with proper ventilation, and isolation from flammable materials, then sure it is possible in small degrees.

        Inadvertently triggering a fire alarm and/or suppression system in an office environment could be an issue too.

      • by Ambvai ( 1106941 )

        I'm a jeweler, and routinely weld in such a small space... I utilize torch, laser and arc, depending on the job and all the equipment necessary would fit into/onto a decently sized table. Like my old kitchen table.

        Of course, I doubt the OP is referring to welding on such a small scale.

    • Self-reply, but one more thing that came to mind. I don't know if the construction is done on the room yet, but make sure there are lots of power outlets at all heights around the room if at all possible. You will never have too many outlets, but you will always have too many tools to plug in safely.
    • Welding (hot work) adds too many complications to what sounds like an office environment. Don't do it.
    • by gtwreck ( 74885 )

      We have had good success with retail "slat-wall" mounted on the walls all the way to the ceiling above our workbenches. It can support a lot of weight and there are a lot of ways to attach shelving or mount equipment using widely available brackets. And it will not deteriorate over time like pegboard. Also, it's attractive, which will help make your space look clean to passers by.

      Also, have them give you lots of network and power drops spread around the room, you will constantly run out. Attach a lot of

    • I'll have to second the pegboard and label maker. Our lab has one full-size rack, workbenches at standing level, tall chairs, walls lined in pegboard, tools and pull-out bins of many sizes attached to said pegboard. The high benches leave enough space for toolchests, filing cabinets, miniracks, hidden wiring, etc. under the bench. It's smaller than the OP's proposed space (more like 10x10ft) and just big enough for two people to work on machines at the same time. We had to run additional power and HVAC to

  • Lots of stuff (Score:5, Informative)

    by larwe ( 858929 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @04:57PM (#34506466)
    Make the most of the vertical space if it's against a wall. You will want to have several pieces of reasonably heavy equipment semipermanently present above the workbench - so build a couple of deep, sturdy shelves that can hold your benchtop PSUs, oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers, etc. The probes and wires dangle down from the front. The lowest shelf should be as low as possible while still clearing the top of the tallest PC monitor you intend to put on that bench. Support those shelves with at least 1.5x the manufacturer-recommended number of pegs. The back of the shelf should have enough room to the wall, or cutouts, to fit - comfortably - an AC plug so that you don't have to move heaven and earth in order to add or remove an AC-powered piece of equipment from amongst the stuff on either side of it. As well as outlets at floor level, you need an outlet strip running down the back of the bench, or on the wall behind the bench at chest level to a seated person, with a minimum of 8-10 outlets per workbench. The outlets should be spaced far enough apart that they can hold a plugpack. DO NOT think that 6-way adapters are "good enough". It is a royal pain in the ass to deal with them, and they add to cable clutter. You will probably want a local Ethernet network for testing net-booting appliances, as well as wiring into your regular Internet connection. So make room for a small Ethernet switch. Use some more of the wall space for component drawers of the type people use to store nails, screws, etc. You cannot have too many of these. Since you will probably be using many SMD components (I know I do!) make a rack for the reels. A regular piece of wooden dowel with a sturdy chain attached to each end, suspended from the center of the chain, works OK. Having loose reels around the place is another pain in the ass - if you have them on a dowel then you can put R/C/L values in neat order, separate diodes from transistors, etc. These are a few of my suggestions based on my own workspace (I do this sort of thing on a contract basis)... I personally have also ditched all my desktop PCs and use netbooks and notebooks exclusively - much of the hardware you'll be using has to be tethered to the dev system by a short USB cable, and having a desktop PC up close enough really wastes desktop real estate.
    • Some additional notes:

      You will want to have several pieces of reasonably heavy equipment semipermanently present above the workbench - so build a couple of deep, sturdy shelves that can hold your benchtop PSUs, oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers, etc.

      Also consider that many pieces of automatic test equipment are rack-mountable. You may want to consider making a portable "cart" with all of your gadgets(including a power strip with retractable extension cord, and maybe even a small computer for GPIB control).

      Others have suggested being used to losing tools. You can keep track of them easily if you have the discipline to keep a record of all your tools, returning them at the end of your shift(great way to kill time), neatly arrang

  • Stuff (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @04:59PM (#34506496)

    Monitor arms and wireless keyboards/mice, or a keyboard drawer. This frees up valuable desk space for working on stuff.

    Also useful:

    USB port replicator - used for laptops, gets legacy and USB ports up on the desk from the tower, so you can get at them.
    Variable power supply - get good ones with a couple of voltage options. +/- 5V, +/- 12V rails along with a variable output is very handy
    Plenty of outlets on the desks or, better yet, built into the desks
    Grounding - if you can't get grounded desks, get antistatic pads or, at least, antistatic wrist straps, and ground everything you can

    The three things you shouldn't scrimp on - power supply, soldering station with adjustable temperature, multimeter

    Get a cheap desktop for the hardware station - interfacing with hardware doesn't take much horsepower.

    Buy a monster for the software station so you can run multiple OSes in virtual machines - get the free VMWare player that lets you create virtual machines and you can run Solaris, Linux, FreeBSD, etc...

  • by Richard_J_N ( 631241 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @05:01PM (#34506528)

    - Cover the wall in network and power-points - you might well make use of 12 ethernet ports and 50 mains sockets.
    - Have deep, load-bearing shelves above the workbench, (again, with power), and under-shelf lighting.
    - Consider the ergonomics: workbench height for standing (and some tall stools), a/c, bright light, silent computers. LCD monitor on a swing-arm?
    - If money is limited, you're probably better off with a larger variety of stock and tools than with fewer expensive ones.
    - Do you need the ability to make it dark? Plumbing? Dust/Fume extraction?
    - Ensure the floor is easy to clean, not static-prone, and easy to see where you dropped things.

    • by JustinOpinion ( 1246824 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @05:37PM (#34507042)
      One thing worth looking into are the desks sold by AnthroCart []. They can address some of the points you mentioned (power availability, ergonomics, ...).

      AnthroCarts are not cheap, but they are solid, can carry substantial weight, and will last a long time. They are also modular: you can buy more pieces to extend them (adding shelves, etc.), or alter the height of shelves if necessary. Most of the pieces are on wheels (with locks) which is perfect for a workspace with constantly changing projects (need the wiring station in another room? Just roll it there.). You can also buy power bars that integrate directly to the Anthro desks/tables, so that all your equipment stays plugged in but is easy to move around. Many of the models also have adjustable-height work surfaces, which is great for adjusting keyboard height or moving the work surface as needed...

      No, I don't work for them. Just a happy customer. The downsides are the cost and that assembly takes longer than other furniture (because they use things like actual screws instead of crappy quick-connect pieces).
      • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

        AnthroCart / AnthroBench are certainly the cadillacs of that kind of thing.

        Don't bother with the integrated power bars (though the other accessories are quite nice). Just ziptie a cheap TrippLite 12 or 20-port power strip to the back of the thing.

        If you want something (much) cheaper, I'd also recommend the "Mayline eLAN" IT workbenches, which don't give you quite as much flexibility, but stack high and are very solid. []

        Whatever you do, put them on casters so it's ea

    • by dogsend ( 568967 )
      Some additions from a decade in my labs...

      Power points - you cannot have enough, but plan them.

      • Don't place them too low to the benchtop. Many devices these days run off plugpacks and they need more clearance than the standard plug.
      • Use a combination of narrowly spaced and widely spaced sockets (plug packs again)

      LAN - at least some access is a must.

      • A desktop switch is just as convenient as multiple sockets, requires less patching further afield, and allows for you to isolate the lab when necessary.
  • by theheadlessrabbit ( 1022587 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @05:03PM (#34506554) Homepage Journal

    I would advise against having hardware and software sharing the same space.

    do people really want to code between a bandsaw and stick welder?

    what kind of work are you thinking about doing in this hackerspace? its hard to say what you will need when we don't know what you will build.

    this is what i find helpful for my purposes:

    numerous soldering stations
    those grippy tables with 2 arms and a magnifying glass.
    lots of reverse tweezers. (most useful tool ever.)
    proper wire cutters. the huge ones that hammer down and pull apart. save tons of time.
    fish tank for holding etching acid
    heat press for iron on transfers
    rotary tools
    small metal lathe
    hand drill
    drill press
    band saw
    a good vice
    various clamps

    optional: safety goggles

    oh, and try to get a plasma cutter! I've never actually used one for anything useful, but it's fun as hell to play with.

    • "optional: safety goggles"

      Not optional if you value your vision. Face shields such as those made by Jackson for weldors are IMO more comfortable and much less likely to fog up. Face shield (some are tinted, spec what you need) and headgear are sold separately. Your local welding supplier will have them.

    • Adding to this since it is the best suggestion so far....I'm not sure I'd use etching stuff rather than a standard pegboard piece if I'm just hacking... if I'm finished then order one to be printed. Not sure about a couple of the bigger tools but it all depends on the project (could also go to manual tools if they wont be used much).

      wall of drawers with millions of little compartments for components.
      wire stripper
      proper multimeter, capacitance meter
      lots of wire!
      Variable power supply
      Scope/logic tester
    • I doubt you'll get permission to have a welder or plasma cutter in a building that (based on the limited description) is office space. Hot work carries a lot of baggage, safety wise; and, the welder or plasma cutter may trip any IR sensors in the fire alarm system.
    • I'd like to second the suggestion to do software elsewhere.

      Of course, keep some network drops in the room. They'll be handy when you bring in your laptop to make a minor change. Nobody wants to write code in a room that smells like burned plastic and solder flux.

      You're in a cramped space, don't waste it on a desk and computer that will never be used in the way they were intended.

      Use one workbench for fabrication/assembly and the other for electronics.

  • Supply a piice of decent electronic equip(a nice scope), and be sure all the tools are the cheapest you can find. There going to go missing anyways, so longevity isn't a major concern here.

    Let the enthusiastic bring stuff in if they want more.

    Oh, and a library of basic electronic books.

    The most important things is a welcoming attitude. Even the most bone headed nooob should be comfortable coming in and participating..a 'don't say no' attitude towards people wanting to participate.

  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @05:13PM (#34506670) Homepage Journal

    Surely the budget is relevant. Otherwise, I'd go 9x15xvertical worth of gold ingots and a lousy security system you know how to beat.

  • You don't say what your budget is, but good, sturdy workbenches (like these []) with plenty of outlets for power supplies, scopes, meters, etc. as well as built in drawers and cabinet space.

    If you are looking for suggestions on equipment, power supplies like the Topward 6000D [] series or similar (multiple output, adjustable, current limiting supplies) are invaluable. Good o-scope, handheld multimeter, etc. if you don't already have that stuff.

  • Lots of "extra hands" ("third hand"), clamps /stands that can be moved quickly and easily but stay in place when needed to hold things when Bob is not handy to hold something for you. []*vhM9FU/14Solderingsetup.jpg?width=721 [] []

  • Not sure what you're really doing but...
    signal generator
    discrete power supply
    General toolbox (seriously you'll need a hammer at some point)
    Multiple workstations with serial ports obviously
    parts bins
    Lable Maker (for the parts bins)

    If it's a tall room... tall shelfs and one of those ladders on wheels.
  • Order it from the Japanese, if you need it to play guitar or make a car,
    or from that company that makes the disturbing headless-horse military robot.
    They know what they're doing.

    I mean seriously. What do you want a robot for?

    Sounds like its to satisfy a tinkering itch.

    My advice is don't build any hardware til you have the entire thing
    functioning perfectly in a software sim. And even then, don't build
    any hardware. The silly mechanical problems and non-linear force
    issues will defeat you and eat all your time.

  • Two thoughts... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @05:51PM (#34507208) Homepage Journal

    1) Wheels on stuff is cool. Make sure at least 2 of 4 wheels lock, and get the biggest diameter wheels you can stand. Rolling a workbench with 600+lbs on it will shred those plastic casters.

    2) If you're going vertical, get a Little Giant-like ladder that splits into two a-frames, other brands work very well. Handy to be able to a-frame it, stretch it out and store vertically in a corner, use with planks as a third workbench, and of course lend out under constant supervision when someone else needs one.

    There is little else as much fun as establishing a new shopspace. I've done three big ones, and it's a riot. Just be glad you're not working on portable tape recorders, and have to explain the $400 P.O. for screws. Having a 1x1.2mm screw when you need one; priceless. Sony made great stuff back then, man.

  • by plcurechax ( 247883 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @06:18PM (#34507470) Homepage

    Many amateurs or hobbyists have faced this dilemma in their own personal (and professional) work spaces for centuries nows. Two groups I know a little about are wood [] workers [] and machinists, who have written dozens of books and articles about this subject, in both the general and specific case.

    0. Safety equipment: dust masks, goggles, safety glasses [] (with side protection), gloves (nitrile, latax, neoprene), hearing protection (ear muffs, ear plugs), and as needed!
    1. Tools
    2. Storage / management of those tools
    3. Hard copy (dead-tree) documentation, it is being rapidly moved online thanks to cheap and compact computers and laptops, but much older reference material is still in old-school paper form (which can be handy) (example references to collect: ARRL Handbook [], Art of Electronics [], Machinery's Handbook [], Woodworking Basics [], Understanding Wood [], Wiring Simplified [])
    4. Commonly used materials (lumber, hoses, holes clamps, fabric, sheet metal, dowels, nuts & bolts, wood and metal screws, etc.)
    5. Parts (in anti-static containers for any static sensitive parts like CMOS ICs)
    6. Labelling tools
    7. Log [] / Lab notebooks [] . These should be paper-based, though can be complimented with online documents, a honest to goodness hard copy lab book is essential.
    8. Chemicals []
    9. Large, easy to read clock
    10. Test equipment: rulers, tape measures, calipers [], digital multi-meter []
    11. Plenty of AC mains circuits and outlets. Preferably with a separate circuit for lighting versus wall outlets. - Avoid extended use of extension cables, and excessive use of power bars.

    And time.

  • by pz ( 113803 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @06:20PM (#34507494) Journal

    It depends greatly what you are building or fixing.

    For basic electronics stuff, soldering irons, those boxes of little drawers (filled with components), good chairs, a magnifying lamp, lots and lots of storage for this-and-that, heat gun, lots of shrink tube, wire in a handful of gauges and insulation colors (all teflon, if your budget allows) in solid and stranded. A variac. An oscilloscope (I have found that there are exactly two good places for a 'scope: on a cart, or in a 19-inch rack). Hand tools, and save some budget for extra hand tools as they have a high vapor pressure. Good hand tools, at that. Basic metal / wood working tools (files, hand saws, drills). Drill bits: buy good ones and you'll thank me later, buy cheap ones and you'll end up buying good ones anyway. A small drill press (one of THE most valuable bits of kit around). One of those massively heavy vises that gets bolted to the work surface (and do, indeed, bolt it in place). I've found an end-sander is really useful too. Epoxy, lots of epoxy. A set of precision screwdrivers (keep them under lock and key). A cordless drill (minimum a DeWalt). Fluke hand-held meters. A very high quality 6 or 8-inch L-square, and a decent quality 12-24 inch one. Good lighting. Lots of electrical outlets. A handful of ethernet drops.

  • by mirix ( 1649853 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @06:25PM (#34507552)

    Which is sadly under utilized these days (too much real work unfortunately)

    Several voltmeters - I like the old Fluke bench units... LED displays you can see across the room, and the batteries are never dead because there are none.
    Several scopes - tek is king here.
    Drill press - bloody essential for anything mechanical at all.
    Logic analyzer, i'm partial to the HP ones
    Spectrum analyzer - pricy, but a godsend for RF work (if you'll be doing any) - HP, again.
    Power supply - hp made good ones again. you can never have too many it seems. I have some homebrew ones too - ATX supplies and random ebay SMPS units can be handy and dirt cheap, but not adjustable (you can add an external reg easily though..)
    Freq counter - hp, but fluke made decent ones. more for RF, but can be handy for digital, clocking and stuff...
    Freq gen, whether you need a lower freq audio one or one that does RF depends on what you're planning on.

    For soldering irons im partial to the hakko ones, '936' is the model, and there are plenty of knockoffs available on ebay. The genuine model isn't crazy expensive though.

    Then a PC, a few programmers, depending on what you want. I'm partial to Atmel's AVR, but PIC is big, some folks are still stuck with moto 6800 derivatives for some unknown reason, likewise with 8051's... For the money ARM is really the way to go, but I havent played with them much yet. Some sort of JTAG unit will be handy for random programming also. I usually use a linux box with avr-gcc, but some tools are win32 only, so might want to have a windows box or virtualbox around - not to mention some schematic / board layout stuff is win only too.

    For dev boards, I have a few from atmel, but some of them are pretty pricy. these guys [] make some nice dev boards, but I'm not crazy about their compiler. The IDE looks nice enough, but I'm used to gcc and my own editor. I have one of their AVR boards, and I use a GPL'd AVR based AVR programmer (chicken and egg if you dont already have one ;) ) with it, because their built in programmers (which work well, mind you) are windows only.

    • I'd like to add some stuff from my experience of working with and partially managing three big lab spaces chock-full of electrical engineers.

      1. It's a well-known generalization that the more people you have sharing a space, the less care each person takes of equipment and of keeping the area tidy. Don't buy anything that's going to make you cringe when it gets dropped or has coffee spilled into it. An organizational scheme I learned from renovating a bathroom whilst living with a nice woman who had a st

  • by starfishsystems ( 834319 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @06:26PM (#34507562) Homepage
    It's a sad fact that most people who will want to borrow tools from your lab will not have any concept of returning them, much less of signing them out. I managed a robotics research lab for 12 years, so I know something about how this works.

    It's extremely frustrating to someone in the middle of an elaborate assembly or repair project to reach for an essential tool and discover that it has walked away with some unknown person.

    Therefore you pretty much have to keep tool cabinets locked, particularly the ones where the more popular hand tools are stored. Invest in cabinets with lots of separately-keyed doors and drawers. Always buy essential hand tools in pairs, and keep the backup set somewhere else.

    It also doesn't hurt to keep an open bin in the lab for storing cheap multibit drivers and the like. Buy lots of these, and restock as necessary. That way, people who drop by the lab to borrow something and never return it will go away happy, without causing frustration for your legitimate lab users. It's good politics, as well as allowing you to run an effective lab for the people who really need it.
    • by daid303 ( 843777 )

      Small tip, try to buy tools in awful colors. Almost nobody steals a pink screwdriver.

      We used to be losing quite a few scope probes now and then. But the last scope we got came with these really bright gay colored probes, and they are awesome, nobody dares to steal them.

  • 1. Have your own tools, lock them up, lend them to no one, ever, period.
    2. Good technicians have their own tools.
    3. Good technicians keep their workplaces neat & well stocked
    4. Idiots "borrow" tools, because idiots have no respect for nor do they own any tools, they will leave them scattered everywhere and lose all of them within days of seeing them for the first time! If the company buys tools, let'em, you can't control what you don't pay for, make it clear to your manager that you think all tools sho

  • The most important thing you need is every copy of the keys to that space. Don't even let the janitor have one.

    If people have keys to it, eventually someone will open the door when they're doing a building inspection, and think, "Man, this is a great place for a closet. Clear all this random junk (read: your in progress project) out of here, and we'll be able to claim X amount of square feet back on the management floor, where it clearly goes to better use."

    Seriously. Keys. Everything else is nice, but you

  • Years ago, in my first job out of college, i was tasked to do just this - I spent a day wandering around town looking in hardware stores - a lot of the old guys behind the counter would snigger and make a smart comment - it wasn't until the end of the day I realised that "do you have any small vices" might have another meaning ....

    Just last month I found myself at the local big box hardware store looking for - you guessed it - looking for a small vice .... with a wonderfuil sense of deja-vu I got to pop t

  • Nobody has mentioned a Tesla coil. *Every* true hackerspace must have a Tesla coil; the bigger the better. Just because.
  • A desktop CNC can be equipped with a plastic extruder so it could function as a 3d printer, plus it can mill circuit boards, wood, aluminum panels, enclosures, etc, etc.

    I've done a lot of reading on the subject lately and the easiest and cheapest way to get one without spending a ton of time doing your own work is: []

    For $400 (if they reach their goal) you will be able to get a complete CNC kit including spindle.

    Alternately if that falls through the next cheapest option is a Zen Toolworks k

  • by KingAlanI ( 1270538 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @09:21PM (#34509622) Homepage Journal

    Some side areas of the Innovation Center on the RIT campus are dedicated to that purpose.
    Sometimes separate walled-off rooms, sometimes an open area on the edge of the big room.
    While walking around, I've noticed:
    The tables were trapezoidal and on wheels (easily reconfigurable arrangement)
    * They seemed to be relatively normal tables; not sure fi what you're doing would require ones that could handle a lot of weight under them.

    Probably could use more outlets and Ethernet ports than we already have.

    Small personal lockers in addition to the storage racks for tools

    [These particular hackerspaces seemed more suited to software AFAIK; not sure if hardware stuff would require more space.]

    Do you want to play around with oldschool equipment, or focus on up-to-date stuff?

  • by jimmyswimmy ( 749153 ) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @09:43PM (#34509860)
    IAAEE and I do design work; I'm in my lab daily and helped design the current lab. My lab has two separate spaces, one for mech work and the other for EE work. The mech lab has a bandsaw, drill press, grinder, lathe and milling machine. For the space you have I'd say get the mill. You can use it to drill, cut and face a small workpiece. Look at Grizzly tools (basically Harbor Freight) for decent deals and ok quality equipment.

    The EE lab has a lot of kit. You need at least one dual power supply for each station where you'll do electrical work (look at BK, they have several value items), as well as a soldering iron. For irons the near-instant heat types are truly awesome and IMO well worth the cost. We like Weller but as long as they get hot they'll work fine. One piece of advice - however many soldering stations you intend to have, you should buy them all at one time. Weller loves to keep redesigning the tips so I have to stock five different families of tips in my lab. Don't waste money on benchtop multimeters, for the cost of one great Agilent we got four Fluke 77's - sufficient for most work and more easily portable. You need at least two multimeters per EE station. You should also invest in scopes if you do anything analog. You must have at least one good scope in the lab for every two EE's, and you should also have a bad scope. We have some cheap Teks as well as one awesome MSO4000 series which has a 16 channel mini-LA - expensive but worth every penny. If you do much digital look at the USBee for a cheap LA. Also at least one good function generator is very useful; look at Agilent and SRS for good ones. You may need a spectrum analyzer depending on what you're doing, too.

    Back to the basics, though. You can fit two 6' benches on each 15' wall with space between. Global Industries sells these at reasonable cost but Costco might have some near you for ~$150. A good bench will have a hutch shelf with a row of outlets on it (outlets you can see are really important, but you can also get a 6' industrial power strip instead if you need). I'd get two, and a stand for the mill, as well as storage. A good rolling tool rack (with ball bearing slides! don't skimp on that!) and a cabinet will use most of the other wall. Look at a good shelving cabinet like Akro Mills make if you will stock small parts. Expensive but an excellent way to store and organize your SMT parts or hardware. And think about how/where you'll store your scrap mechanical stock - you might still have room for a good open vertical shelf.

    You will want all the storage you can fit in there. Think about a layer of shelves at 6.5' off the ground all the way around the room for rarely-used equipment. And your lab needs power and data. You should have a dedicated power circuit (or two) for the lab and more ethernet ports than usual (preferably two per work station or more). Finally since you are short on space you should try to get a laptop dedicated to lab use, and preferably one with a real db-9 serial port on it (or a base station with one).

    That would be my Christmas list for your lab. Hope it helps.
  • This is only related because it was said in my hackerspace [], this morning:

    Q: How many hackers does it take to... do anything?
    A: Three. Two to watch and one to demonstrate.

    P.S.: If you happen to be in Luxembourg, we're selling chocolate keyboards [] this weekend.

Some people manage by the book, even though they don't know who wrote the book or even what book.