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where to get all of your “robotics
resources” for the best prices!
Setting Up Your
Own Robotics Workbench
With the right tools, you can
make just about anything.
That certainly goes for the
fine art of robot building. With
proper tools, your robots are more
dependable and accurate, and they'll
probably look better, too.
In past installments of Robotics
Resources, we've looked at tools used
to construct robot bodies (see April
and November 2008 issues); in this
column, we'll take a look at tools used
to build the electronic sub-systems of
your robot: soldering irons, testing
meters, logic probes, and oscilloscopes
are among the contenders. As usual,
we provide a list of online sources
that you can use to further your
the soldering pencil in a safe and
upright position), an assortment of
soldering tips of various sizes for small
and medium gauge wire, a spool of
solder, and a sponge (for keeping the
soldering tip clean while you solder).
Additional supplies for a
well-rounded soldering kit are: a
clip-on heat sink for drawing away
the excess heat from sensitive
components; a desoldering vacuum
tool to soak up molten solder; dental
picks for scraping, cutting, forming,
and gouging into the work; and a vise
or "third hand" to hold parts while
A volt-ohm meter — also called a
multitester — is used to test voltage
levels and the resistance of circuits.
This is a moderately priced tool and is
the basic requirement for working
with electronic circuits of any kind.
There are many volt-ohm meters on
the market today. For work on
robotics, you don't want a cheap
model and you don't need an expensive one. A meter of intermediate
quality is sufficient and does the job
admirably. The price for such a meter
is between $20 and $50. Shop around
All Electronics offers a convenient online store and a regularly updated printed catalog.
If you're doing any kind of
custom electronics or wiring on your
robot, one of the first tools you'll
need is a soldering iron. For the most
flexibility, invest in a modular soldering
pencil — the kind that lets you
change the heating element. For
routine electronic work, you should
get a 25 to 30 watt heating element.
Anything higher may damage
electronic components. A 40 or 50
watt element can be used for wiring
switches, relays, and power
transistors. Stay away from "instant
on" soldering irons as they put out
too much heat.
Supplement your soldering iron
with a soldering stand (for keeping