Your Robotics Workshop

I would be interested in hearing about your robotics workshop.

I am putting together a workshop that will be used for building robots and would like to incorporate any and all approaches that you have found helpful.

What type of hand tools do you use?

What power tools do you find helpful?

For electronics, what test instruments do you find useful?

How is your shop organized and why?

How is your workbench laid out?

What do you do to maximize storage space?

Any pictures or links would be helpful.



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Answers under headings below - remember, while my setup may sound expensive, significant amounts of it are second hand, and the whole thing was gradually put together over many years, not all at once - I find it's a waste of effort to try and predict what tools you're likely to need, you'll always end up buying a significant amount that never get used. I buy tools as I need them, as a rule, and borrow them when I can if I expect only to use them once. Over the course of a single project, you can accumulate quite a decent workshop. I started out working in the kitchen with nothing but a hacksaw, a hand-held electric drill, a set of drill bits and a small vise.

By FAR, the tool most often used is the hacksaw, followed by bastard files and needle files, socket-screwdriver (Reasonable selection of flat, phillips, posidriv, hex and torx heads), spanner set, adjustable spanner, and a tap & die set (I've got a tap wrench, die stock, and M4 die, taper and plug - I find M4 is a good general-purpose size to use, reasonably strong, yet small enough for delicate work, so I don't need to buy any other bits. Plus you can use dead cheap 3.75mm steel clout nails for threading instead of expensive 4mm engineering stock). I also got a trepanning-tool and an ancient carpenter's brace to use it, but they were for a special job and I rarely use them, though I find the brace is actually preferable to the crown-gear type of hand drill in many situations - I don't own a crown-gear drill. Also own a wooden mitre box, but haven't used it much since I got a band-facer.

I also use a centre punch & hammer, scriber for marking out metal, calipers, vernier calipers, and a steel rule with a right-angled block and spirit level built in.

Small, cheap multispeed pillar drill, absolutely essential after the hacksaw. Hand held power drill is useful for drilling pieces whilst still attached to larger work, which pillar drills obviously can't do, but not essential. If you get one that can be attached to a stand like the older black & decker models, obviously a proper pillar drill could be dispensed with.

A band facer is quite expensive and often needs replacement belts, and I made do without one for years, just using files and glasspaper for finishing metalwork, but if you expect to do a LOT of metalwork, especially structural work with lots of mitreing (sp?) on metal stock like angle or channel, it's a really good investment. Mine's actually designed for wood (a Clarke "woodworker", I think), but I work almost exclusively with aluminium, which seems soft enough for the machine to cope with without much trouble, though it probably wears the belts out faster.

Hand-held DMM, essential, both for testing work and measuring the values of salvaged components from scrap electronic stuff.

Stabilised variable power supply, essential if you do a lot of work on complicated circuits. If you only do occasional work on very simple circuits, you could probably get by on batteries, but a battery charger would be a good idea. Of course since you can use a stabilised supply as a charger if you're know what you're doing, you might want to spend that bit extra and save trouble later if you move to larger circuits. Decent test-leads with 4mm banana plugs on both ends and crocodile clips are also indispensable.

NB - most stabilised laboratory supplies are fine for even very large circuits, but useless for power electronics and driving mechanical components, eg motors, solenoids, etc. A lead-acid battery can source very large amounts of current, so if you anticipate a lot of high current work, keeping one of these on hand and charged up is useful - don't forget fuses or circuit breakers.

Oscilloscopes are useful for almost all circuit work, but very expensive, and you should only invest in one if you expect to do a lot of work that actually cannot be done without one, eg video processing, ultrasonic sensors, microprocessor bus design, etc.

If you're working primrily with digital logic, a logic-probe will also be handy, and cheaper than a scope.

Logic analysers are VERY expensive, and the two channels you get on a scope are often quite sufficient.

364 days a year, I do absolutely no tidying, organisation or sorting except removal of swarf and dust. Then one day I go nuts and tidy EVERYTHING, then repeat the process. Oh, that reminds me - MASSES AND MASSES of storage equipment is absolutely VITAL in addition to tools. I cannot stress this enough. Get a solid, robust and voluminous tool cabinet (put some silica gel or something in it to stop tools rusting), a large set of shelves with about 30-40cm clearance between shelves, and LOTS of boxes WITH LIDS, preferably ones that fit onto the shelves neatly. Get a thick, permanent black marker pen to label all the boxes. You can absolutely never have too much storage space or too many boxes (If you can't get the door open, this is a sign you need a bigger lab, not less boxes ;-) )

Clear primary workspace in the centre, with oscilloscope on the left, power supplies & battery charger at the back, pillar drill and band facer bolted to the desk on the right. Writing-table on the opposite side of the room, so I can turn around from the workspace and use the writing table straight away - nothing gets in the way better than papers, so I try to keep them away from the work area.

Hire a skip (dumpster) and ruthlessly throw away anything I can't see an immediate use for. Keep anything that will be used but not immediately in a box or other container.

Sorry, can't help with that. But hope my descriptions have been helpful!

Reply to
Tom McEwan

Totally concur with this - seems like a bit of an extravagence when you have hand or electric drills, but it makes things a lot easier and quicker and more accurate IME. In the UK you can get a fairly decent desktop one for about £30. In comparison a decent little vice for it was £10!

Reply to
Matt Dibb

I find the following tools useful.

14x36 lathe, you need all the tools, cutters, and consumables too 5x12 lathe table top drill press floor stand drill press table top micro drill press 16" horizontal milling machine 60 pound large table vise 25 pound small table vise gas arcwelder for welding aliminum and other things gas acetelene welder gas propane torch is very handy too large hand press, for pressing in bushings etc. small hand press more taps and dies than one could ever possibly need, you never know when you need things like 5-48 tap drills, and never enough machining tools for cutting and machine parts with A vertical tapping tool jig is worth it's weight in gold Very importnt, you need a veritable conocopia of hand tools, screwdrivers, wrenches etc. Small and medium brass hammers are very valuable.

40w adjustable soldering iron

100w adjustable soldering iron SMD hot airworkstation two dual trace scopes, one works good, but I have run into occasions where another one is handy. regular 5amp dual adjustable lab power supply special 30amp adjustable heavy duty power supply to test bigger motors with PC and adapters and programmers for programming your favorite MCU's Don't forget your chosen programming langiage compiler(s) head mount binocular magnifier PCB layout and schematic software for the PC liquid flux, solder, etc.

Parts, parts, parts, besides buying mountains of electronics parts, devices, etc. You need things like motors, gears, drive chains, belts, pulleys, servos, and so on. Wheels, shafts, bearings tires etc. Save all the little screws and nuts you can get buy or scavenge they ae worth their weight in gold at 10:00PM when you need one and all the stores are closed. Then there are IR sensors, ultrasound sensors, gyros, accelerometers, and so on too. Scavenging parts from old printers and scanners is very popular too. The hot air workstation allows you to salvage a lot of the IC's and stuff from the PCBs too. But steer away from the SMD caps as unless you have a capacitor tester you can't determine their capacitance values.

A picture of my workshop? Nah, too messy and cluttered.

Reply to
Earl Bollinger

Now that's a BIG list of equipment! Are you an amateur experimenter, or are you mass producing an entire army of sentient cyborgs???

I'm going to sit and quietly envy your set up for several hours now...


Reply to
Tom McEwan

Take all the parts/tools/anything you don't anticipate using anytime within the next six months, and throw them into stacking Rubbermaid storage containers.

I keep a lot of spare containers around, of various sizes, for this purpose. They nest when not in use, so the extras don't take up much space.

Use plastic Ziploc storage bags to keep identical/small parts together. Punch a tiny hole in the bags to let air out, they'll pack tighter under the weight of other items you throw on top. All items that aren't immediately identifiable by sight, attach a label or add a slip of paper to the bag.

Give each container a label with a name or number. Keep a list on your computer of the contents, including quantities and accurate descriptions, and updated it each time you take something out or add something else.

Sorting certain types of items into separate containers can be useful. I keep a container just for magnetic items, which is kept separate from other containers which might contain magnetically sensitive items. I try to separate non-temperature sensitive items from sensitive ones, so the non-sensitive ones can be stored further out of the way in the attic or shed. I also separate sturdy/heavy items from fragile ones, so that I don't accidentally crush something fragile by throwing something heavy on top of it. I include this information on the container's label.

By removing all the items you don't use often from your workspace, it makes it easier to find the items you do. Yet with the computerized list you can still find a stored item with a minimum of effort.


Reply to
Chris Crochet

I have a swiss army knife.

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A little bit of everything. Originally, I got stuff so I could make small steam engines and my own RC model airplane engines. It just grew from there. It actually takes about 20 years to accumulate everything. Unless you have a lot of money. Amazingly enough, the first thing I had to make when I got the milling machine, was new special offset hinges for the screen door to the house. Of course I have been in electronics from way back in the dinosaur age of computers. Everytime I get a sentient robot going, it decides to go off on it's own, and leaves me. Bummer.

Reply to
Earl Bollinger

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