100$ Electronics Workbench Challenge

Disclaimer: This is a Tongue-In-Cheek streaming video series done on my own time and not affiliated with any organization. The material and information contained on this webpage is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a basis for making any legal, business or life-critical decisions. The following features are performed by a borderline professional and under no proper supervision.

The 100$ Electronics Workbench Challenge

Welcome to the $100 Electronics Workbench Challenge, the goal is to create a fully functional and useful electronics workbench with a Soldering Iron, Oscilloscope, Multimeter, Function Generator, Breadboard, Wires, Components all for a total cost of under $100 (much less than some of the textbooks I use to purchase). With all the crazy in our world today, now more than ever we should put some effort into purchasing, making, using and learning some electronics test equipment so we can become better engineers in the privacy of our own homes, trouble shoot our designs, and overall just become better people =) The following 4 live sessions are for us to do just that. These sessions will be recorded and preserved for all of eternity, or at least until youtube shuts down. We will probably fry some chips (not Doritos chips but the Integrated Circuit variety) , maybe get a soldering iron burn or two, but we will absolutely have some fun and learn some things about electronics and ourselves in the process. No purchase of anything is required unless you would like to follow along and perform the same miracles that I will be doing, I do not endorse nor un-endorse any brands nor products…. Who am I kidding of course I will be endorsing brands. I will do my best to provide links to items and give my highly opinionated and subjective response to items that I consider to be junk, although some might be borderline acceptable junk but many will be just plain and simple junk…

Livestream Sessions


Session 1 – Soldering a $10 Function Generator Kit with Oscilloscope Demo.

Scheduled for 9/18 3PM via Zoom – Recorded

This session will be learning how to solder a useful piece of test equipment called a function generator. We will focus on good soldering techniques, soldering practice, and introducing function generators and oscilloscopes. This Function Generator is based off of a XR2206 Integrated Circuit and will be able to generate Sine, Square, and Triangle waves from 1Hz to 1Mhz. This function generator will then serve as our first piece of test equipment for our $100 Electronics Workbench. This function generator can be used to measure and test components as we will see in a future installment. It can also provide a stimulus to a circuit under test  or provide an input to a data acquisition system consisting of an Analog-to-Digital converter and a Microcontroller or FPGA. It only costs $10 so why not build this low quality cost bit of kit =) There is a big improvement that I will be constructing for this Function Generator that consists of one 1uF Capacitor and one 10K Potentiometer (adjustable resistor) that greatly improves the functionality and versatility for us as computer engineers

Supplies Used:

Minimum to Follow: XR2206 Function Generator Kit ($10 or less) and a Soldering Iron Kit ($15 or less).

Extras: An oscilloscope (20$ to $50 See Bottom of Page) to view the waveform would be really nice and ideal but not necessary, I will be streaming video of mine. In a future installment we will be addressing the all mighty oscilloscope. In this session, we will also be improving this kit by adding a DC Bias Circuit (this is the only lacking feature on this Function Generator kit that I feel is necessary). I don’t have the DC Bias Circuit finalized but it will probably consist of a capacitor, potentiometer, a resistor or 2, and possibly an Opamp like the LM358.

As always supplies are only needed to follow along and are not needed to join and watch the livestream!

Session 2 – Benchtop Power Supply and Multimeters

Scheduled for 10/2 3PM via Zoom – Recorded

Session 2 BenchtopPSU DMM Comparison 10 2 20

Zoom Link – Click Here to Join During the Date and Time

The goal in this session is to create a Benchtop Power Supply that can be used for powering our projects, devices and circuits. We have several options from free to a few dollars. We can use this as a platform to create variable voltages and current supplies.  I will be going over some options and providing demos of these as well as going over some of the lower cost multimeters that will fit our budget in this challenge.

 

Supplies: 

Minimum to Follow: Old Desktop PC ATX Power Supply (Free or $25, but it is easy to find these for free), PSU Power Board Expander ($6), Any Multimeter (Varied Cost $5 to $25).

Extras: Additional mayhem can be created with DC-DC Boost/Buck converters with LCDs displaying Voltage and Current. Supplies are only needed to follow along and are not needed to join the livestream!

Session 3 – Cheapest Oscilloscope Shootout

The goal is to compare different extremely low cost oscilloscope options. We will concentrate on options from $20 to $50 but I will concentrate on not pulling out the remaining hair on my head. If by the time you read this, I have relinquished myself to always wearing a hat then this video will serve as the explanation. As far as price goes, the sky is the limit on this one. A quality benchtop oscilloscope with full features that will work for a lifetime can currently be had for $250 to $350, this is an amazingly low price for what you get, but this one item shatters the budget for the entire series. We will have to make some concessions, get creative, and learn some acceptance on this one. Keep in mind that my goal in this whole series is to only spend $100 so my focus is on the best bang for your buck that keeps us around this total price but still lets us do everything in the electronics world that we want.

Session 4 –

 

All Products Being Demoed and Used

All parts and supplies can be found on Amazon, Ebay or Aliexpress at varying prices and shipping times. Keep in mind the my goal is to stay under $100 and to do this is may be necessary to scrounge around for old parts (like the ATX PSU Power Supply) or to order from ebay with multiple week shipping times from oversees. I am not planning on providing amazon links for everything, it’s up to you to search and have a look around at the options. Please don’t worry if the amazon link doesn’t work, just look around and there is guaranteed to be other buying options on Amazon, Ebay or Aliexpress. I don’t plan on maintaining these links for the rest of my natural life. These items are common, subject to change and there will always be a source.

Function Generator Kit:

Price: $5-10 – XR2206 Function Generator, You can find these that are already soldered or that come as a kit. I have seen them as low as $5 on ebay but may have a long shipping time. I’ll provide the amazon link for a kit version that is in the $10 range.

Amazon Link: Amazon – XR2206 Function Generator Kit

Soldering Kit:

Price: $15-20 – There are many different kits available and I’m sure the links will change over time. I personally bought this one because I wanted the cheapest kit that cam with flush side cutters.

The minimum basics that are needs: Soldering Iron, Stand, Solder

Added extras that are useful: Tweezers, Flush Side Cutters, Desoldering Pump, Solder Braid/Wick, Flux

Amazon Link: Amazon – Soldering Kit

Oscilloscopes:

$20-$50 All of these little inexpensive oscilloscopes have pros and cons. That will be the subject of session 3. Any oscilloscope is better than none and every engineer in computer and electrical engineering will tell you that the oscilloscope is one of the most useful, necessary and fundamental tools in our trade. I own several different types of oscilloscopes I’ve collected over the years. Let me pose a question, if I’m creating a PWM signal from some embedded device (this is something I end up doing weekly if not daily, how on earth am I supposed to know if the frequencies and duty cycles are correct??? Oscilloscope… It’s the only way. That might be just one example, but seriously, I can give 1000 examples of daily oscilloscope use and if you take your career seriously, you’ll get at least something that can view a waveform. Given our current cheap market, it’s as easy as it has ever been.


DSO-138

Amazon Link: Amazon-JyeTech-DSO-138

Approx $20 – I think it’s ok, but I found it to be a little more of something to tinker with that came with older firmware that needed to be updated and a change of one resistor to really get it to perform well. That being said, I much preferred the interface and performance of the DSO-150 down below, it came with much more recent firmware and out of the box did a superior job even though the DSO-138 and 150 are essentially based off of the same processor and open source software.


DSO-150

Amazon Link: Amazon-JyeTech-DSO-150_by_Nooelec

or Amazon-JyeTech-DSO-150_by_Etepon (I tried this one, but the above Nooelec version might be better, they are clones)

Approx $30 – The interface on this one was my favorite out of all of these. The one thing I didn’t like was the response of the rotary encoder. With some settings like the trigger, the rotary encoder was pretty slow to update the position. If I had to suggest one, this would be it. For $30, out of the box it’s capable of every kind of project you would encounter as a computer engineering major and doesn’t require any modification.


ADS2050h

Amazon Link: Amazon-Yeapook-ADS2050h

Approx $50 – The screen on this one was my favorite and produced the most stable waveform. It has a built in battery unlike the DSO-138/150, I found this to be very convenient as I didn’t have an extra power cable getting in the way while using it. The Bandwidth on this one was the best, stated as 5Mhz I was easily able to trigger on and easily measure sine/square wave up to 2Mhz. The most attractive feature about this scope is that it has an autoset button. As much as I don’t approve of using the autoset button I do have to admit that it is convenient. Autoset is a crutch for not knowing how to adjust the timebase and vertical. Once it’s pressed, the scope tries it’s best to appropriately set the timebase, vertical and trigger. If the signal of interest is reasonably simple, autoset generally works pretty well. The one thing I didn’t like was that in certain trigger modes it was incapable of re-positioning waveforms along the x-axis (this is known as trigger hold-off).


LHT00SU1

Aliexpress Link: LHT00SU1

Approx $20 The LHT00SU1 USB Based Oscilloscope and Logic Analyzer – I’m still waiting on mine to ship in so I can test the thing and see if it’s useful or even works for that matter. This one uses software running on a PC to display the waveforms. It’s the only one on this list that has a logic analyzer built in. It claims to have 2 analog channels as opposed to the other ones above that only have 1 channel but on some forums I have read that only 1 channel is useable. I’ll have to wait to find out.

Multimeters:

Approx $20 I have a dedicated page to Multimeters with my opinions and links on several options. But the new one I will be testing during the benchtop and multimeter session 2 if the following one. The Crenova MS8233D.

Amazon Link: Amazon – Crenova MS8233D

For general Multimeter recommendations and discussion, please check out my dedicated Multimeter page.

MultiMeters

Power Supply and Accessories:

Approx Free to $25 – Old Desktop PC ATX Power Supply (Free or $25, but it is easy to find these for free)

Approx $7 – PSU Power Board Expander

Amazon Link: Amazon – Power Board $12 for 2 of them, you can also search on amazon for singles or on ebay for a cheaper price.

Approx $10 to $20 – DC-DC Module

Ebay Link: Ebay – DC-DC Module

I’m not sure whether I would recommend this one or not, there are numerous other options ranging from $10 to $20 with what appears to be better looking LCD display interfaces and features. But this is the one I bought so I’ll be testing this one during the Benchtop Power Supply and Multimeter Session 2.

Basic Electronics Kit:

Amazon Link: Amazon – Basic Electronics and Breadboard Kit

Other Miscellaneous Parts:

Wire Strippers

Flush Cut Wire Cutter

My Recommended $100 Workbench

Multimeter ($23) – Crenova MS8233D

Oscilloscope ($31) – DSO-150

Function Generator ($10) – KR2206 Kit

Benchtop Power Supply ($17) – Free ATX PSU with Power Board and DC-DC Adjustable Voltage

Soldering Iron Kit ($17)

Total: $98

This leaves us with $2 remaining for misc. tools and a basic parts kit. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.  Alright, I admit we are just barely over budget, but in all sincerity, I challenge anyone to beat the value and performance of this setup for less money =)