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Equipment for A Perfect General Lab? 70

wdhowellsr asks: "I am currently setting up a lab that will need to provide me with the ability to test equipment for electronic systems from low voltage DC to super high voltage AC. I'm currently getting a Fluke 43b meter to be the primary testing equipment and will be wiring the entire lab to every possible variation of AC and DC voltage. I've tried to find resources on the web that would give me information regarding this but have been unable to find anything. What equipment would you consider for the 'perfect' lab, not just for electronics but for computers, chemistry, and biology?"
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Equipment for A Perfect General Lab?

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  • Safety (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 2.7182 ( 819680 ) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @08:40AM (#17267734)
    Protective eyeware. Believe me, from personal experience.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Also from experience: read up on chemicals before you use them.
      • I just want to know what is the poster testing?
        I mean "the ability to test equipment for electronic systems from low voltage DC to super high voltage AC. " covers *everything*. What is the research and design target and maybe we can provide better equipment reccomendations.
        Electrical transmission
        sharks with laser beams on their heads?
    • I work with lasers - and everyone that I've met in this field has had exactly one accident with the laser and partially blinded themselves temporarily or permanently in some way.

      Myself, I shot myself in the eye with a 432nm (blue) pulse laser. After injections in the back of the eye, I was thank goodness okay a few days later.

  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @09:07AM (#17267858) Homepage Journal
    I'm available if you're seeking men to help you taking over the world.
  • A Jacob's Ladder is required equipment for any mad scientist's lab.
  • by Anonymous Coward
  • You will need the laboratory equivalent of the machine that goes 'ping'.

    I suggest the machine that goes zap, or the machine that goes boom.
    Get both if you budget runs to that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by MagusSlurpy ( 592575 )

      I suggest the machine that goes zap, or the machine that goes boom.
      You mean a laptop with a Sony battery?
  • by thomasdz ( 178114 ) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @09:53AM (#17268098)
    Note: this is assuming that you want to have some fun in your lab also...
    Jacobs ladders are fun (make sure you demonstrate the danger by putting something non-conductive in the path of the rising spark ... and have water standing by to put out the fire), but Marx generators are the better way to learn about high voltages. You can make a "small one" with parts from your local electronics hobbiest store [] and []
    You can also learn about the problems with scaling... once you get the small one working with 100,000 volts, you WILL get the urge to scale up and try for half a million but you will also learn how off-the-shelf parts can fail when pushed to the limit.
    Also, I echo the first poster's comment: get some good safety glasses
    when fooling around with high voltages, things explode.

    Does anyone know where to get good quality ANALOG meters anymore? Everyone seems to have gone digital and I don't like 'em.
  • typical teaching lab (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 16, 2006 @09:54AM (#17268100)
    Basically imagine your school science lab (you did have a science lab at school right?)

    I'd start with lots of electrical outlets, some at bench level, some at floor level - you don't want trailing cables everywhere.
    Then some good benches, something solid without plastic or metal, like a good oak surface. It won't collect static electricity
    and unless you're doing work with serious pathogens wood is actualy a good surface to stay safe from bacteria if you look after it.
    A fume cupboard - essential for chemistry, but even for destructive electrical tests that may release toxic vapour. And since you
    will want cooling water a couple of taps and sinks at each end of the benches is probably important.

    HV Electrical

    Power supplies. A high current variac transformer, and for high voltages a cockroft-walton tappable multiplier or tesla for very
    high voltages. Some very high voltage capacitors or Leyden jars for storing to do discharge tests, and a foil electrometer - because
    a normal meter cannot measure such very high voltages. Lots of cable - and you need many types including super flexible braided cores
    and probably some high current cable too. A neon field indicator or audiable field warning device (always approach *anything* in the lab holding this out in front of you, rubber gloves etc.

    LV Electrical
    At least two good bench multimeters, the old red LED digital kind are good to see from a distance. Lots of clips and test probes. A decent breadboarding system. An oscilloscope, dual beam with freeze. Clock source/oscillator or signal gens to cover the ranges you need
    0.001Hz - 1GHz probably. If you're doing digital then a logic analyser and PC set up entirely as a high speed bus analysis tool.
    An audio amplifier and loudspeaker. Wheatstone bridge and very flexible small voltage preamplifier with high and low impedence.

    Lots of glassware if you are doing chemistry obviously, plenty of round and conical flasks, some condensers, plenty of
    bungs and rubber tubing of various sizes, quick-fit adaptors, test tubes,a very good balance preferably in its own cupboard
    for weighing out reagents, a vacuum pump. An optical wavelength spectrometer would be nice but I'm guessing you can't afford
    anything fancy like a mass spectrometer. Thermometers and process control thermocouples, a good electrical heater rather than
    the old bunsen burners, an agitator (magnetic types are best), a very good freezer for ice, a basic collection of gas cylinders
    including hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and two inert ones, one heavy one light neon, helium. Retort stands, clamps, clips and
    things to arrange and secure your test rigs.

    An autoclave and UV or microwave sterilisation unit, petri dishes, decent microscopes and a good collection of stains.
    A chromatography tank, and perhaps a good disecting unit with pinboard, scalples, lancet etc.

    goggles, a decent lab coat, that means one flash tested to very high fireproof standards not a nylon fashion accesory, or
    consider getting specialised protective clothing suitable for the hazards you face. A gas detector at floor level is a good idea
    at least one to pick up alkanes, monoxide and common heavy gas hazards. Your electrical system should be multi fused with earth leakage
    circuit breakers.

    Im bored now .. we could go on all day. A real lab depends on the precise task at hand and unless you are teaching it's unlikely
    you need such flexibility.

    And if you're building this America? I hope you realise Science is now illegal.
    • by nightfire-unique ( 253895 ) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @11:40AM (#17268738)

      On a tangent.. it's funny how lawyers have become the new priests against progress.

      Some of the things you could NEVER realistically build and test legally, as a home scientist, in the united states (and to be fair, many other places):

      - The wright brothers' first plane
      - A (small scale) fission reactor
      - An experimental, home-built car
      - A high powered rocket
      - A radar
      - A high powered laser
      - A medical test lab

      I'm not saying it's good or bad... I'm just saying. We used to fear studying science because the religious guys would come burn us, or throw us down a well. Now we risk getting shot, imprisoned, sued, etc., by the state (not just by individuals who were harmed in the process).

      It sometimes saddens me to think how many Edisons, Einsteins, Teslas, or DiVincis have passed us by in the last 50 years, because, as you say, working on science is often illegal.

      • Uhm, people build and test their own cars all the time. Look up "kit cars", or even search around and find some homebuilt (unique, not from a kit) projects. Some even get them road registered. I don't understand what makes building your own car illegal or open to litigation (unless of course it careens out of control and knocks a house down, but that's your own fault). The Wright brothers replica seems to be the same thing, although you might have trouble getting it licensed (or whatever, don't know the exa
      • by kenb215 ( 984963 )
        - A (small scale) fission reactor
        One of these was built last month (see the article []), though with fusion instead of fission.
      • Build all the Wright replicas you like. That's what the Experimental category is for.
        Better pick a perfect day to test it though.,1282,61655, 00.html []

    • by Myself ( 57572 )

      At least two good bench multimeters, the old red LED digital kind are good to see from a distance.

      Clocks, too. A stable timebase with 1pps and 10MHz outputs is handy in a lot of situations. Get one that's GPS-disciplined if budget allows. It's a shame these weird ones [] were a limited-quantity deal, because the IRIG-B output would let you drive your human-readable clocks from the same sync source. Other such units are available but not at such a nice price. Telecom-style clocks with redundant oscillators and

    • Don't forget a gel electrophoresis apparatus/dyes/agar stuff and some UV lights/UV camera. It's essential, because there's no word more fun to say than "electrophoresis." Just say it. Electrophoresis. Electrophoresis. Electrophoresis.. (There's also no word that's more of a pain to type over and over again, I've discovered.)
    • This might be kind of on the "obvious" side, but for the Computer-side of things, I'd recommend:

      One or more computers for data acqusition...

      Also, make sure you have a good quality backup, or a bootable spare hard drive.
      Should the computer fail or something break, you've got a better chance of getting up-and-running quickly, without losing time on your projects.

      If you've got any vital data acquisition or oscilliscope systems or cards, I'd make sure you did not rely on one of any item. Try to have at least t
    • For low voltage one of the hardest things to do is to provide adequate shielding. The sensors in my lab go nuts from all the interference. We had to build a copper mesh Faraday cage to measure extremely low voltages.
  • A good quality bench power supply is essential. For testing stuff "out of the box"
  • Lasers. (Score:3, Funny)

    by benzzene ( 755902 ) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @09:56AM (#17268120)
    • Lasers are useful for chemistry and physics.
    • Some of the new diode lasers aren't too expensive.
    • Just saying "Quantum cascade laser" makes you sound cool.
    • With enough research you'll be able to build a doomsday laser.
    • ...
    • Chicks dig lasers.
    • by plopez ( 54068 )
      Don't forget the the ill-tempered sea bass to go with those.... :)
      • Ok, so frickin' sharks are extinct, and you can't get frickin' sharks with frickin' lasers. But now that we've done that, ...

        Here in Silicon Valley, the place to go for lasers is HSC, Halted {Supply?Systems?} company in Sunnyvale. Their online catalog doesn't have much laser stuff, but the store generally has a lot of random high-powered laser parts as well as lots of other obsolete, surplus, and generally classic electronics and tools, and in general, if you're going to build a LaBoraTory for anything

  • Chemistry (Score:4, Informative)

    by PatrickThomson ( 712694 ) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @09:57AM (#17268132)
    A fume hood. Trust me.

    If you're paranoid, you might also want a small closable metal closet to keep chemicals in, maybe fireproof.

    Of course, in these days of rampant terrorism, any interest in chemistry will get you flagged on a watchlist, so you might just do without
    • Of course, in these days of rampant terrorism, any interest in chemistry will get you flagged on a watchlist, so you might just do without

      That has been going on for MANY years due to the War On Drugs. Just ordering chemical glassware can get you on a drug-making suspect list.

      OTOH, the book "Building Scientific Apparatus" has a chapter on blowing your own glass, as well as much other useful info.
  • Just play it online []

  • I'm currently getting a Fluke 43b meter to be the primary testing equipment and will be wiring the entire lab to every possible variation of AC and DC voltage.

    A knowlegeable person in the field would likely not have said this. This sentance implies to me that you're not old enough and mature enough to work with dangerous voltage & currents. Knowlege in electronics is a noble persuit. Be aware that it can be lethal.

    • This sentance implies to me that you're not old enough and mature enough to work with dangerous voltage & currents.

      It implies nothing of the kind. Perhaps your own need to be a nanny it what's at work here.
      • by Temkin ( 112574 )

        If you say so... The OP said "will be wiring the entire lab to every possible variation of AC and DC voltage". I'm pretty sure as tough as a Fluke 43b is, it will not handle common 250Kv 60hz A/C. That part of the sentance made it look like it was written by a kid that needs a nanny, or at least a ham "elmer".

    • I'm currently getting a Fluke 43b meter to be the primary testing equipment and will be wiring the entire lab to every possible variation of AC and DC voltage.

      A knowlegeable person in the field would likely not have said this. This sentance implies to me that you're not old enough and mature enough to work with dangerous voltage & currents. Knowlege in electronics is a noble persuit. Be aware that it can be lethal.

      Yes everyone knows the pros use the Fluke 211g. Makes the 43b look like a toaster
  • A few things:

    -if you're working with microelectonics, definitely a static strap of some sort - you can get a wrist strap that'll hook to your bench, or a heel strap that wraps around your foot.

    -at least two multimeters, you're gonna need more than one.

    -an oscilloscope

    -a water-tight cabinet with some sort of dehumidifier - good for sensitive electronics, water-sensitive chemicals, and some biological material.

    -a refrigerator. Good for lunch and bacterial cultures.

    -possibly a centrifuge?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by plopez ( 54068 )
      a refrigerator. Good for lunch and bacterial cultures.

      Ummmm, no. Get 2 fridges, one with a lock for the lab for chemicals and/or cultures.

      Keep the fridge for the food in a seperate area. Don't mix them up. You don't want to poison yourself, do you?
      • :-) Remember that Far Side comic? "What the?.. This is lemonade! Where's my culture of amoebic dysentery?"

        I still maintain that Gary Larson was the best comic strip author ever.
  • The lab wish list... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Myself ( 57572 ) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @10:50AM (#17268402) Journal
    You can't go wrong with a Bitscope [], USBee [], or DigiView [], three computer-based logic analyzers with various extra features.

    Consider using genderless Anderson PowerPole [] connectors in lieu of, or in addition to, banana plugs on your test leads. It's nice to be able to just mix and match 'gator clips, micrograbbers, screw terminals, and what-have-you into custom test leads. You can do this with stacking banana plugs too, but they leave the male plug exposed when you're done. You could cover it with a plastic "screw protector" cover, but PowerPoles are cooler. Powerwerx also sells the "floppy noodle" rubber-insulated test lead wire, if you're like me and prefer to just build your own.

    Run a big tinned-copper-braid ground strap across the back of the bench. Get the kind with grommets in it so you have easy attachment points for anything, plus the fine braid means it performs better than a busbar at high frequencies.

    I've collected a pile of fun links in [], which might also give you some project ideas. Read the Toolmonger [] archives if you're bored, and post some of your favorite finds using the "submit a tool" form.

    As for test gear, you'll always find a reason to have a PC on the bench, and not just so you can run your bitscope. Hell, you'll probably want to play some tunes in the lab, so include some speakers in the plan. Anyway, look at swing-arm monitor mounts, most of which are modifiable to hold a whole laptop. Getting it up off the bench will save a lot of space and discourage clutter. Get an older machine, or a Toughbook, since you'll want a real hardware parallel port for some projects.

    If you do RF work, get a Unidapt [] kit. Mix and match connectors between BNC, N, SMA, TNC, UHF, and so on. They now offer "wifi" connectors like RP-TNC, MMCX, RP-SMA, etc. Thus proving that the FCC's "nonstandard connector" mandate doesn't really stop anyone, it just forces a proliferation of unnecessary "standards". Bastards.

    Whatever you're doing, you'll find a use for a Panavise []. You'll want several heads, I'd suggest starting with the standard 303 head and the extra-wide 376. Get two bases instead of swapping heads into one base, it'll give you more versatility.

    I can't believe I survived so long on five-dollar pencil soldering irons. I recently picked up a refurbished Edsyn soldering station from EAE Sales [] and the difference just blew me away. Not only does it work more easily, which I expected, but it warms up in no time flat, since it has a big honkin' heating element that it normally runs at a very low duty cycle. If I'm heating something large, it simply runs more, which means this little featherweight iron is actually capable of much bigger jobs than the clunky Radio Shack unit it replaced. I've relegated the cheapies to toolbox duty, and the Edsyn perches proudly in the center of my workspace.

    Speaking of soldering, consider ventilation. Another poster mentioned a fume hood, and that's a fine idea. Look into a flexible-arm fume extractor [] too. Actually, just get the whole catalog from Lab Safety Supply and order one of everything. :)

    Ergonomics are important if you're spending a lot of time in the lab. Look at rubber floor mats, with whatever level of chemical resistance you feel is appropriate. Jigsaw-style interlockable sections make it easy to replace worn or damaged pieces, though they can allow spills to reach the base layer. Consider sound absorbing walls too, if you'll have blowers or other noise-generating equipment running a l
  • A monacle, white lab coat, and a faux German accent.
  • Surplus (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I have had good luck with the local university. They auction off the old equipment. I didn't get the electron microscope, but I did get a hood, laser, and even the cabinets and glassware. Most the stuff goes fairly cheap, I've never bid over $100. It's not just chemistry and biology. They have lots of computers and electronics by the pallet, but you'll need a large basement:) Good luck.
  • A Cadex C7000 battery analyzer []
    An SB-5 Carbon Pile load tester []
    An infrared thermometer []
    A spot welder
    UV and infrared lighting equipment, maybe a couple of booths and a couple of handhelds
    • by Myself ( 57572 )
      Ooh, good call on the Cadex! I'm cheap, so I'm settling for the LaCrosse BC-900 [] battery analyzer, which has completely changed the way I think about my batteries. Using rechargeables without one of these is like driving without a gas gauge or speedometer.

      I dropped my dad's Raytek IR thermometer a year back, and replaced it with a Tempgun PE-2 [] for half the price. I picked up a PE-1 for myself at the same time, and it's addictive. Being non-contact, I use it in the kitchen all the time, but the more important
    • I almost forgot... about 50 HELPING HANDS []

      I use these all day every day.
  • You cannot have a basic lab equipped for everything that you can imagine. You would not have the room for that, and even if money is no problem, it would be the most stupid investment you ever made if you have no plans to use it now. It would be much more enlighting if you told us who and why.
    Just buy the stuff you need for now, and buy the other stuff when you actually have a need for it. what they all share is things like a good bench, high stools to sit on, lots of shelves to store your chemicals and gea
  • The biology part of the lab definitely needs equipment to run gel electrophoresis. Um...ok, so I can't think of anything witty to say, but everybody loves running gels! Besides, how else are you going to be able to do cheap and easy DNA analysis?
  • Visiting M5 Industries [] in San Francisco to see what Jamie and Adam have kicking around...
    • a fire extinguisher (a model approved for use over mains-connected equipments)
    • a first-aid kit
    • a big wall-mounted red button for turning mains voltage off
    Other suggestions can be found here [].
  • "test equipment for electronic systems from low voltage DC to super high voltage AC."

    Test for what? Normal operation? Electric shock hazards? RF emission? Noise sensitivity? The requirements for each are totally different.

    "Super High Voltage" in the power transmission industry means upwards of 300,000 volts. That's for long-haul power lines. Three Gorges Dam power is going out at 750,000 volts. Do you really need those voltage levels? You don't work with voltages like that on a lab bench.

  • 42" flat screen HDTV, your console(s) of choice, and a subscription to the spice channel....for all those long nights in the lab :P
  • For a good instrumentation electronics lab you need: an oscilloscope, a spectrum analyzer, and a wave generator. Fortunately, these can be found for really cheap via You'll probably pay more for pickup and shipping than the equipment itself, unless you are close enough to pick them up yourself.
  • Female

    Blonde (not necessarily natural)

    Long legs

    Large Breasts (not necessarily natural)

  • Is this you?
  • May I suggest 'Pocket Ref' by Thomas J Glover. It's one of the most compact and useful reference books out there. It will fit on any shelf, bench, in a drawer, or literally in your pocket. But it contains useful charts, conversions, and other general information about more topics than I can list here. p/1885071337/ []
    Or go down to your local hardware store, most of them stock it too.
  • Or if you have the funds rats and monkeys. And sharks.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.