Acrylic electronics bench top

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by strantor, Apr 22, 2014.

  1. strantor

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    I'm building my new lab bench and I thought it would be cool to put clear acrylic panels on the bench top to make a uniform flat surface that's see-through, and I can slide cheat sheets/formulas/data tables/etc under it for quick reference. Just don't know if that's a recipe for ESD disaster or not. What's better, bare plywood or acrylic?
     
  2. djsfantasi

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    Two problems with acrylic besides ESD, is a) it won't be clear long and b) don't drop your soldering iron on it. Toxic fumes may result. Also, solder splashes burn into the acrylic and become semi-permanent.
     
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  3. crutschow

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    Wood is better than acrylic from an ESD viewpoint. Best is an ESD mat.
     
  4. #12

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    I once built a circuit that was so sensitive that I had to put a piece of glass on top of my old wood work bench, but for Dog's sake, NO! Do not use a plastic surface!

    It won't dissipate charges and it won't look good for very long.

    My painted plywood doesn't look good at nearly 40 years old, but it never pretended to be pretty. Gnarly wood has character. Ruined plastic just looks...well...ruined.

    That's my 2 cents.
     
  5. MaxHeadRoom

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    My choice has been good quality Linoleum.
    Max.
     
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  6. ErnieM

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    I find it interesting #12 has experience showing glass is a good surface.

    My Dad had a small workbench for electronic projects and he laid down the front glass from an old TV from the days when they all had a safety glass front over the CRT tube itself for safety.

    Kept his paperwork intact and right there to read.

    Makes me happy to think his method is still viable.
     
  7. alfacliff

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    I use (at home) a couple of cabinets about the size of two drawer file cabinets with a door on top for a bench. inside doors (hollow core) are cheap and on sale often.
     
  8. atferrari

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    No, I would not use any plastic.

    My brother as a modelist he uses glass on top of the table permanently and keeps sketches and drawings visible. It works well for him.

    For a big surface that means EXTRA weight.

    I use MDF boards as table tops. One of them is disintegrating little by little on the exposed surface but couldn't decide what to do yet. I know what Formica is, but burning it with a soldering iron seems easy, right?
     
  9. mcgyvr

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  10. #12

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    Confirming. Formica does char. I had to put a stainless steel heat shield next to my kitchen stove because somebody built a cabinet too close to it and the Formica swelled toward the heat and then charred a little bit.

    I have also experimented with electro-conductive coatings. Excellent results. You only need a little conductivity to dissipate charges. Something around a meg per inch is plenty.

    My trick? Spray graphite intended for locks. One squirt in each plastic drawer, wash off the oil residue with detergent, and you have a nice anti-static coating. It won't survive constant contact, but it will stay inside a parts drawer.
     
  11. wayneh

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    I wouldn't use acrylic, for the reasons already mentioned. It's soft, scratches easily, melts, cracks, makes static easily, and so on.

    Formica on MDF makes a great surface for a workbench. I'm just now building a router table that way and it's awesome. Not as durable as phenolic or aluminum, but you can get scraps of it free from a local counter-top maker.

    I have a piece of "tile" board over plywood on my workbench and it has lasted for years. Smooth, white surface and easy to clean. Maybe not as easy to char as formica, but don't quote me on that. Cheap, too. I use scrap pieces of glass when I need to keep things up off the tile board.

    I'd use glass if I wanted a see-through surface. Keep an eye on craigslist and you can probably find all you need for free.
     
  12. crutschow

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    If you are working with ESD sensitive parts, such as high speed CMOS logic or microprocessors, you may not want to use glass as a bench surface. This shows how much static voltage can be generated on a glass surface by various materials.
     
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  13. strantor

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    Oh, heck yes. Those prices are MUCH better than Home Depot! Thanks for the lead; next time I need some, that's where I'm going. But not this time; I've decided against putting anything over the plywood. So far this bench has cost me nothing; made totally of scrap, even the screws are recycled from demo'd projects. I plan to line the back wall with pegboard and install a light/outlet strip and that's all I really want to spend on it.
     
  14. GopherT

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    Good to hear. Soldering iron and acrylic are a bad combination. Acrylic will de-polymerize at soldering iron temps and make flammable methyl methacrylate vapor. Once it take off, it is self heating and the whole surface can engulf. At that point, there is no need to worry about ESD.

    Glass can accumulate static charge but you have to find the right substrate to rub on it. That is, don't wear your 1970's silk shirts with long cuffs that drag on the glass. Silk and glass were the first static-producing combination reported by Stephen Smith (Newton Era - late 1600s/early 1700s). Very difficult to build charge in wood.
     
  15. atferrari

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    Cats are also good for that but much more expensive...!
     
  16. ErnieM

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    Cats may be had free from many sources. Best to acquire the little ones in the spring, the older ones tend to fight for their freedom.

    Do be prepared: while the acquisition costs may be nil the upkeep does run into serious monies.
     
  17. THE_RB

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    I use glass plates. They are very flat and heat proof, and solderflux redidue can be scraped off with or without solvent.

    Glass is also better than many materials for ESD.

    Small glass plates can be moved around or lifted on a box to be closer to your eyes for SMD work.

    I ordered some A4 (paper) sized glass plates in sturdy 1/4" thickness, froma glass shop. They have been wonderful.
     
  18. SgtWookie

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    One trick I use to prevent static buildup is fabric softener in the form of dry sheets; just give the surface a good wipe down occasionally. This comes in real handy when handloading ammunition, where even a tiny spark could have disastrous results.

    I am considering using shower liner material for the next large benchtop; it's about 1/8" thick Masonite (very dense MDF) that is gloss white on one side; it's about $12 for a 4x8 sheet at Lowes. As I age, it gets harder to focus on small items; a gloss white background will help me to focus by shrinking my pupil apertures.
     
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  19. GopherT

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    You can also go to the local pharmacy and pick up a pair of cheap bifocals - bribing along an op amp and find a pair that lets you read the part number. Then by a chain like your librarian had in elementary school. What an improvement for me. I may as well admit to being old than act like I cannot see and let everyone else figure it out (and feel obligated to let me know I need glasses because I am getting old).
     
  20. #12

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    I keep a pair of the highest magnification drugstore glasses on my work bench and think of them as my soldering glasses. Put them on in addition to my regular glasses and I get the benefit of both.
     
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