Portable SMT Lab for Hacker On The Go

smt-lab2

We admit it, we’re suckers for workbenches and toolboxes. [Jon] must feel the same way, because he built this portable surface mount electronics lab. It’s a beast of a project, which might be why it’s project #666 on Hackaday.io. [Jon] spends a lot of time working off site, and keeps finding himself without proper surface mount soldering tools. Ever tried to stack an 0603 resistor with a 40 watt pistol grip iron? Take our word for it, the results are not pretty.

[Jon] started with two cheap aluminum cases from Harbor Freight. He loaded them up with the typical lab supplies: soldering iron, oscilloscope, multimeter, dual lab supplies, and a good assortment of hand tools. He then added a few choice SMT tools: A hot air tool, a good LED light, and a stereo magnifier. Many of the tools are mounted on DIN rail along the rear of the cases.  All the low voltage equipment runs on  a common 12V bus.

We really like what [Jon] did with the tops of the cases. Each lid contains a plywood sheet. When the cases are opened, the plywood becomes a work surface. As an added bonus, the wood really strengthens the originally flimsy tool cases. The only thing we would add is a good portable anti-static mat.

The final build is really slick. Once the cases are open, four bolts act as feet. The microscope swings out, and the hot air gun hangs on the right side. Plug in power and you’ve gone from zero to SMT hero in under 1 minute.

Comments

  1. Ren says:

    I’d like a better picture please, this is too dark to make out half of the contents of the cases.

    • SOTB says:

      @Ren – Move your laptop screen down a little. The contrast and brightness changes a little and you can see the contents better.

      I’m just amazed that his oscope is so thin. I used to have a Radio Shack data probe that had oscope software for your PC. I still have the probe but I lost the 3.5″ diskette the software was on. I’m still working on my HaD wooden toolbox. Got most of the parts from Goodwill and Savers thrift stores. Needs some repairs but they are minor. It will have wooden shelves, drawers, and plywood work surface (painted dining place mat). Got to get a decent soldering iron. Bought a $9 soldering stand from Radio Shack recently. I also need to mount the small power strip neatly. I may Velcro everything to make it internally reconfigurable.

      It’s light blue which I think I like. Was thinking of painting it all black. Too goth? :-)

      • Ren says:

        What is the dark area above the O-scope? Empty space for the lamp and u-scope?
        What is the dark area on the right side of the right box? More storage space?

        • Jon says:

          You are correct. The space is for the microscope and LED lamp to swivel into. On the far right, there is a power strip and a bunch of coiled power cords. The original plan was to rewire everything with short AC cables, but this approach is more flexible.

          Next to that (still on the right) are the base-stations for the Hot Air and the Metal soldering iron.

          [Apologies on the pictures. Probably should have turned off the LED lamp]

      • Ren says:

        Are you talking about the Radio Shack ProbeScope? I have one of those in my garage.

      • Ren says:

        @SOTB, I was viewing the photo from my desktop PC at work, and changing the viewing angle to the 19 inch flat screen didn’t help. But here at home on my laptop, I do see the photo better!

    • supershwa says:

      So, I’m guessing you can’t see the social media icons in the right column? Always figured some people couldn’t. ;oP

  2. fartface says:

    Why a multimeter? the scope works just fine for that.

    • jan says:

      Ehm, ever tried to measure current with a scope? Or resistance/capacitance?
      Sure, you can do it using some adaptors/jigs (or current probes) and math, but why?

      Also, most scopes cannot handle higher voltages than about 50-100V without very expensive high voltage probes. What if you need to check some mains wiring in a PSU?

      Not to mention that a good multimeter is way more accurate (~order of magnitude) for measuring DC voltage than an average scope.

      Different tools for different purposes.

    • static says:

      I never use ,much less own a modern digital O’scope before I die so I don’t know much about there capabilities often it’s disirable to measure voltage and current concurrently, unless this scope do that with a digital display for those measurements, I can see why the DMM was included.

    • tekkieneet says:

      FYI: Regular scopes has 8-bit res (at best) vs the 10+bits resolution of a 3.5 digits DMM.

      Sometimes it is more useful to see the waveform of what you are measuring, so both have their places.

  3. DougL says:

    wow impressive.

  4. vonskippy says:

    Which case holds the truss?

    • Jon Guy says:

      The microscope truss? [had to google that term] The microscope support is made from 1/2″ metal conduit with 5/8″ nuts pressed into each end for mounting into the HF case. A second piece of conduit forms the horizontal arm. More details on my website blog. The microscope base and pole/truss that it came with were too large and heavy to use. The only issue with my approach is that it’s not as rigid as the standard configuration.

      I’ve decided that at less than $2 for 10-ft I need to find more uses for conduit!

      • vonskippy says:

        Just curious – how much does each case weigh? I always put together a kit, give it a heft or two in my shop and say that’s not bad, and then the first trip out decide I need to trim the weight by at least half if I’m going to lug it around any distance.

  5. Mike Szczys says:

    I love it that the lab is housed in two “money cases”. When Jonathan rolls in with one in each hand he must elicit visions from a bunch of different action movies.

  6. matt says:

    Put a bunch of a equipment in a case is now a hack? Really? Cases are meant to contain equipment, it is their sole design function. Whats next, a post about someone keeping a bunch of wrenches in a toolbox?

  7. Emmet says:

    Where does one acquire a quality stereo microscope cheaply (if it can be done)?

  8. Rollyn01 says:

    Would it be asking too much to put a spectrum analyzer in there? Aside from that, it’s a nice setup you got.

    • Rob says:

      I’d suggest going with a portable spectrum analyzer, like the ones from RF Explorer (http://rfexplorer.com/models/)… they’d fit perfectly into this kind of portable set-up. Depending upon the frequencies you’re interested in, they start at $130 and max at $290). I’ve got one on my short list…

      • Rollyn01 says:

        Those actually look nice. The only problem is that it doesn’t work with audio frequencies or lower. Then again, I guess you could always up-convert the signal to higher frequencies for analysis.

  9. tom says:

    very nice setup!!! I should try to build something similar for my Field Service duties…
    *thumbsup*

  10. Ed Minchau says:

    Take those two boxes and add this box and you’ve got a full prototyping workspace that you can throw in the trunk of the car and take anywhere. Just need a 3D printer in a case to complete the set.

    I had been inspired by a couple of other recent lab-in-a-box posts on Hackaday and started putting my own together. I picked up the exact same case that Jon used here about a week ago at Walmart for about 20 bucks. Most of the other stuff going in it is things I have scattered around or stuff I pick up at the dollar store.

  11. R.M. says:

    Excellent news to hear. Might I ask, however, which version of the demon summoning software does it come with?

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