New to Hardware - What Tools do I Need/Want?


16 posts
by mind-blight » Wed Dec 05, 2012 5:06 am
I just got my Raspberry Pi model B. I've spent the last few evenings installing an OS, getting it and my laptop to communicate, and making a few customizations to the system. Now I want to start making gadgets, but I'm not entirely sure where to start.

I've been looking up soldering stations, breadboards, Gertboards (whenever those are available again, I'm buying one), resistors, transistors, LCD/LED displays, humidity sensors, etc., and I have no idea where to begin.

I'm wondering if there are any major Dos and Dont's when buying equipment for gadget design? (e.g. I saw someone mention getting a solder gun with too high wattage could burn out a chip.)
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by cnt » Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:40 am
Don't buy a solder gun. Get an pencil style soldering iron, if any.

Best thing to do is decide what you want to do first, and then buy what you need to get it done. Trust me, just doing that much will cause a major accumulation of parts after a few project ;)

Also start small and build up and don't be afraid to scrap a project once you're done and reuse parts for other things!

Edit: also don't say "wattage". The proper term is power. You don't say cupage for volume poundage for weight (it is confusing because we do say things like mileage (meaning miles per gallon not distance) and square footage). Sorry that's just a pet peeve of mine, but it will make you sound more intelligent when talking to engineers.
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by techpaul » Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:22 am
First and most important tool before you solder anything get a cheap digital multimeter, you will need it probably before you do any soldering. Make sure it has ranges for
  • Voltage AC
  • Voltage DC
  • Current
  • Resistance
Make sure it can measure
  • AC Voltages including mains
  • DC voltages 10mV to 100V
  • Current 10mA to 2A
  • Resistance ranges upto 1mega ohm
You may get a cheap one that can do more than this, which is good.

Other functions are more a matter of preference, and often rarely used.

Some people like continuity buzzers and diode test.
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by joan » Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:45 am
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by Burngate » Wed Dec 05, 2012 11:46 am
Breadboards: useful for messing / learning. You'll need wires to connect things up, best with pins & sockets ready-made
But having made small circuits on that, you'll want to go bigger, and strip-board is better for more complex things.

Soldering iron: don't stint yourself, spend reasonable money. Temperature control is a must. Several different bit sizes, they're consumables.

Meter: again don't go too cheap.

A bench vice: you'll be needing a third hand.

Illuminated magnifyer

Paper & pencil: work out what you're going to do before you do it

There's another thread might help: http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=23476
Last edited by Burngate on Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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by techpaul » Wed Dec 05, 2012 11:54 am
Burngate wrote:Paper & pencil: work out what you're going to do before you do it

The thing nearly everybody forgets :lol:
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by Ravenous » Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:10 pm
Yeah I'd go for the breadboard first, too. The kits of special wires with pins on the end are much easier then trying to push plain wire in the holes. Have a look around here for some projects here for interfacing switches and LEDs. I'd get the soldering stuff later.

Look again at Techpaul's comment about a multimeter. I think I have around three, all cheap and cheerful.

Warning: it is possible to short things out on a breadboard if you're not careful. (Last week I was tinkering with some synthesiser stuff on a breadboard and managed to kill a few of my LM13700 chips. I suspect it was because I had a lot of resistors very close together and managed to short some of their leads - just be careful and you won't "fry your pi".)
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by techpaul » Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:29 pm
Forgot to say on meters get 3.5 digit meter over 2.5 digit meter that means readings on any range are 0 to +/-1.999 as opposed to +/-1.99
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by Wasp_Box » Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:06 pm


Spooky... I've been getting some bits and bobs to start (well, restart) basic electronics and interfacing with the Pi and these were the exact first things I bought. I would recommend the Mallinson Project kit (the one above) as well. Also a multimeter (mine was very cheap and seems to work just fine) and decent set of needle nose pliars. I find my "helping hands" with magnification lens handy as the old eyesight isn't what it was. My plan is to build up my kitbox as I try new things rather than try and predict too much in advance.
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by mind-blight » Thu Dec 06, 2012 7:54 pm
Thanks everyone! I live in the states, so the kits joan suggested cost more for shipping than the actual product. I ordered something that looks pretty similar from Nebraska, so hopefully it works out.

Does anyone have a favorite starter project? My eventual goal is to hook up a thermostat, humidity sensor, and some sort of cheap display to the pi and have it print readouts. After that, I want to get the pi to control a fan and make changes based on the readings.

I'm very comfortable with software development and Linux, so projects involving a bit of software hacking shouldn't be a problem.
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by AndyMallinson » Fri Dec 07, 2012 6:30 pm
I work at Mallinson Electrical. We have started producing a simple lead to breakout of the RPi to a breadboard using the GPIO pins.
Selling on eBay, your comments appreciated
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Raspberry-Pi- ... 1c2e295059
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by Steven Boelens » Fri Dec 07, 2012 9:00 pm
I haven't done any hardware stuff for around 20 years now. Before I am going to try soldering my RPi to some extensions I have first done a relatively easy starter project just to get the hang of soldering electronics again.

Just for practice I did the Velleman Riding Santa kit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjhPRNQi0kQ (also nice for this time of year). Not my project on YouTube but mine works just as well.

If you have never soldered anything before I recommend doing some simple practice work like Santa first.

Steven.
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by toxibunny » Fri Dec 07, 2012 11:50 pm
I've recently went on an ebay splurge, because I bought some cheap RGB LED strips and didn't have anything to make them go. I've ended up getting:

RGB LED strips,
2x TLC5940 LED controller chips,
Breadboard,
Gas soldering iron,
Solder,
LED 12 volt power supply
Breadboard 5v/3.3v power supply
20 MOSFET transistors
2 Atmega 328p chips, like the ones in arduino.
Soldering iron brass wool cleaner
One of those 16*2 character LCDs
This component starter pack here: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/160861821528? ... 1497.l2649
2 CD4050 logic level converter chips,
a USB AVR programmer,
and various other bits and bobs.

I've went a bit mental, actually... I started off just wanting to pick up a few christmas prezzies online, but then I saw the cheap interesting hobby electrical components from the chinese sellers, and just couldn't resist... :oops:
note: I may or may not know what I'm talking about...
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by malakai » Fri Dec 07, 2012 11:58 pm
AndyMallinson wrote:I work at Mallinson Electrical. We have started producing a simple lead to breakout of the RPi to a breadboard using the GPIO pins.
Selling on eBay, your comments appreciated
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Raspberry-Pi- ... 1c2e295059


Is there any chance you can post some pics of the Breakout portion connector and such I was writing up the various types but it's hard to describe from the eBay pics. Thanks looks interesting. Also any plans selling from the store outside of eBay.
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by Beat Scientist » Wed Dec 26, 2012 4:06 am
I suggest you check out design spark pcb (free),its a program that will allow you to test/emulate your circuts before you solder/buy the components.

if nothing else it will save you paper & ink :)
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http://www.PureSynthesis.co.uk
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by ShiftPlusOne » Wed Dec 26, 2012 4:44 am
I think for hardware, an arduino is the better choice for beginners.

That's not to say you can't start with the raspberry pi. Get a breadboard, decide what you want to do and start reading tutorials and datasheets. Browse websites like hackaday.com for ideas and inspiration.

Learn basic theory like kirchoffs voltage and current laws and understand nodal analysis. Learn to use microcontrollers and pspice.

Great resource for basic theory:
http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/

You don't need to learn the theory, but it will help you understand how electricity works, because it's not always intuitive.

After that it's just a matter of experience.
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