Portable SMT Lab for Hacker On The Go

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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.

A quick tour of my workbench

Whenever I release a hackaday video, I invariably get comments and emails about my workbench. Some people are telling me to clean up, others are asking me about things they see in the background.

This isn’t just a set that I film on. Obviously my videos aren’t high enough quality for people to assume that either. This is my actual workbench, made and used by my grandfather.  I do enjoy keeping it decorated though. I try to keep a piece of as many past projects as possible hanging on my bench to serve not only as inspiration to me, but also as an interesting backdrop for the videos.

I make no attempts to hide my upcoming projects when I shoot videos. If you pay close enough attention, you can sometimes see projects appear on my bench in videos before the actual project video hits youtube.

I love my workbench. You should love yours too. Hey, maybe you could do a tour of it and post it on youtube for us to admire! Just try not to say “workbench” as many times in a row as I did.

A respectable electronics bench that’s not a pain to move

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Apartment dwellers who are living the nomadic lifestyle take note. You don’t need to live your tinkering lifestyle out of a toolbox. Here is a great example of a respectable electronics bench which breaks down when it’s time to move (translated). We’re sure you already belong to your local hackerspace for the big projects, but this corner office will let you take some of your creations home for continued tweaking.

The bench uses slotted aluminum rails as the support structure. The slots accept small nuts, which have a spring-loaded ball bearing to keep them from sliding freely ([Nerick] mentions this is especially nice for working with the vertical runs). These fasteners ended up being the most costly component.  The desktop itself is the largest solid piece. It was machined using a CNC mill (we already mentioned having a hackerspace membership) so that the mounting screws are countersunk to leave a perfectly flat surface. It’s clean, has a small footprint, and gives you a place to dump all of your gear. What else could you ask for?

A mobile electronics lab for all your projects

When [Nisker]’s son got a very, very loud and annoying toy, he did what any good maker parent would do: instead of removing the batteries, he sought a way to lower the volume instead. This, of course, meant cracking open the toy and going at the circuit board with a soldering iron. Not having a permanent electronics workbench meant [Nisker] needed to dig out his Weller from a bag full of tools. Surely there must be an easier way to be a tinkerer with a small workspace.

[Nisker]’s solution was to build a mobile electronics workbench. The resulting wooden box has more than enough space to hold a signal generator, power supply, soldering iron, multimeter, and a bunch of other tools required for making or modding electronics projects.

The case was designed in Google Sketchup and constructed out of 12mm plywood for the sides and 6mm ply for the shelves. All the pieces were cut out with a circular saw and pieced together with screws and glue.

Now [Nisker] has a very compact – 16.9 x 7.9 x 22 inches – electronics lab he can carry just about anywhere. Not a bad project if you’re limited by your current space, and classy enough to keep around once you finally set up a proper workshop.

Putting a workshop on your bike rack

As a member of the Repair Cafe in Maastricht, [Bertoa] sometimes needs to take a few tools out into the field to repair mechanical and electronic devices. His previous solution to the problem was a toolbox in the trunk of his car, but he knew he could come up with a more environmentally friendly solution. He created a portable workbench that fits right on his bike rack that is able to transport all the tools needed for light repairs using only a bike.

[Bertoa]’s portable workbench is made up of two parts; each side has one small slide drawer perfect for storing screwdrivers and wrenches, as well as a second tilting drawer able to hold heavier items such as an electric drill.

The work surface joins the two sides of the workbench together and is able to fold out with the help of a piano hinge and a few brackets. The workbench is removable from the bike rack and is able to stand on its own (stowable) legs made of aluminum tubes.

Even though the portable workbench only weighs about 10kg, it’s able to support [Bertoa]’s full body weight; a wonderful addition to any maker’s bicycle and a great solution to working on projects in the field.

Workbench overhead camera boom made from PVC

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It looks like [Dino] is getting settled into his new digs, and while the moving process has kept him pretty busy, he’s slowly but surely getting his workshop area set up. One thing that he really wanted from his new bench was a better way to record video, for both his Hack a Week series as well as broadcasting over Ustream.

He bought a nice little Hi-Def web cam for making videos and set out to build a camera boom for his bench. The boom is constructed mostly from PVC piping along with some other odds and ends for mounting. In the video below, he walks through the construction step by step, making it easy for anyone to follow along and build one of their own.

The boom looks like it works very well, and is a bargain at under $40. It articulates every which way giving him complete coverage of his workbench, and makes it easy to film whatever he’s working on – big or small.

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How to take a travelling electronics lab on the road with you

If you’re a frequent traveler, or if you don’t have a garage or basement and find your kitchen table is doomed to serve most of its life as an electronics bench this hack is for you. [Robovergne] came up with a mobile electronics lab (translated) in order to help preserve the Wife Acceptance Factor for his hobby.

The project comes in two parts. On the right you see the pair of component storage cabinets. These are high-quality examples that fully enclose each drawer (cheaper cabinets are open at the back). This way, [Robovergne] was able to connect two of them together with a piano hinge, and add some carrying handles to the top.

The second half of the project is the bench itself. It features a lab supply, soldering iron transformer and holder, and some breadboards for good measure. The base of the unit houses a drawer which carries the bulk of his tools. Now he can pack up and clear out the living room in one single trip.