Recently as part of a group at Cisco we had to help decide on inventory for a brand new center. We wanted to create a more open, rapid prototyping lab.
It’s interesting to know what hardware people use when building out their labs. This post was intended to highlight some decisions we made. Hopefully it can help those who are looking to do a similar thing, or to suggest alternatives.
We wanted a lab that employees, customers and partners would be free to visit as desired, to work on their projects. Another requirement was that the lab should provide access to a lot of diverse technologies that could be useful for the specific verticals we were interested in.
We wanted to be able to allow employees to freely borrow equipment so they can continue development at home.
And we wanted the lab to encourage productivity in a creative yet relaxed environment, so a suitable room was selected with comfy furnishings right outside – very important! And we wanted people to have fun while working.
There are some other great offices and we got some inspiration from here:
One part of building a lab is deciding what tools should be available. Another aspect is determining what component inventory to stock. This post provides some insight into just a few of the parts we selected.
Wire and Cables
For general prototyping, 10/0.1 wire (i.e. 10 strands of 0.1mm) is about right, and comes in enough colors, so we purchased 11 colors for color-coding purposes (e.g. a data bus for example). If tinned (or gently inserted just twisted), it will fit breadboard easily.
10/0.1mm wire colors:
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, , , , ,
Another wire absolutely of importance with surface mount component prototyping is Kynar wire in 30AWG size. Again, many colors were selected because this wire will be used heavily. You can see the size of it here in comparison to a small component on the Raspberry Pi.
Kynar wire 30AWG:
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We selected the because we'd had some experience with it and it is absolutely great. It is reasonably low cost, and gives a high quality wire strip with absolutely no nicks every time. Bad wire strippers are an irritating thing we didn't want for the lab.
Here is a video of it in operation:
It also works with different wire thicknesses with no adjustment. In terms of price-performance it is unlikely to be beaten. There are cheaper copycat models that look similar on ebay, but it is inadvisable to buy them, because the blades on the IDEAL one press together flush with the needed sub-millimeter accuracy.
There is a higher end version from IDEAL, which would be more suited for production work.
It’s a little thing, but this is quite necessary for scrubbing boards clean.
We went with the MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer (5th Generation Model). There will be more to report when we try it! (Photo from Makerbot site until it arrives)
For rapid prototyping, nothing beats pre-built boards if they exist.
We plan to keep a healthy stock of Linux platforms including the RIoTboard, BeagleBone Black (BBB) and Raspberry Pi (RPI) as well as microcontroller boards such as Arduino variants including Uno, Micro and Yun so that people can quickly try things out on the platform they are already familiar with.
For higher-end board requirement compared to the Arduino, FRDM boards will be available for people to use.
Arduino: , ,
FRDM boards: , ,
We plan to keep as well as (also E24 range).
For RF use, a will be kept. A will also be kept. General purpose ceramic and electrolytic kits will be kept too.
For inductors, the tiny Murata LQG series will be kept, as well as lots of Coilcraft kits of inductors.
Just a few basic transistors will be kept, including , , and .
Some of the diodes will be , , , and .
A small selection of linear voltage regulators and op amps will also be available and of course plenty of 555 chips ( which is low-voltage capable) since they are so useful.
A _lot_ of wireless, including ISM band, 802.11, 802,.15.4, 3G, GPS modules will be stocked in the lab – several thousand dollars of such wireless boards will be kept for experimentation.
The is a great way of being able to prototype solutions using sensors at low cost, as well as TI’s . A lot of Freescale and TI sensors were selected to be stocked in the lab.
We went for several models of oscilloscopes across a range from the Tektronix up to the . The TBS1052B will be particularly handy for employees to take home to continue working on their projects. The MDO3104 it is hoped will greatly increase productivity; we’ll soon know.
We also went for several low-cost USB test tools for quick non-critical mobile troubleshooting or simple demonstrations.
are great. These ones are ESD safe and are robust.
For SMD resistors and capacitors, the is the most cost-effective and convenient storage method we’ve found. These containers are tiny, perfect for 0603 sized parts.
They come in a tray:
For SMD transistors and diodes, the is perfect. It contains drawers with 250 anti-static round containers as shown here.
Small handwritten or printed self-adhesive permanent labels from a stationary store are required for these storage methods.
This is an important part of the lab. Several team members have earned their pilot wings already.
Squadron Leader and Air Commodore adjusting the Chief Engineer’s work:
It is good to have a fun platform for trying out new technologies, and a quadrocopter allows us to do that for now.
What are we building?
The lab will initially be used for lots of interesting projects; one that I am able to report on is an IoT demo platform. More information in future posts!