Organization of Electronics Lab

Thread Starter

iceburnhex

Joined Jun 14, 2022
4
Greetings everyone,

I was working on setting up an electronics lab, or more so, organizing everything, so that as I have it grow with parts and equipment, it'll be easily findable not only for myself, but others.

Right now, there are many cardboard boxes with labels, spools on wire on top of shelves, and about the only thing that is well done so far, is the Power Supply Station which has everything mounted and able to be moved to anywhere in the room.

I was looking for some idea / brainstorming for how best to maximize space while also keeping things uniform. I've come across the ziploc bag design for resistors, and just labeling them, as well as the standard 64x64 bins you mount to the wall. Bolts, nuts, screws, resistors, caps, transistors, MCUs, power resistors, misc. parts, you name it, I have a little bit of everything at this point. What would also be great is something that could easily be used to group up projects parts, so if I needed spare parts for on the go, everything can be organized to keep them together. Maybe I'll have to lean one way or the other, and can't have the best of both worlds on that. But it's some thoughts going through my head.

Is there any specific style of setup you'd recommend, or something else that you've come across that works wonders and might not be widely known? Lets hear it. Any links to the parts you've used and recommend are also appreciated.

Budget is flexible, nothing over the top (like motorized and count tracking bins? lol) but willing to put some money behind a worth while setup.
 

Irving

Joined Jan 30, 2016
2,769
Our mechatronics lab has a rotating carousel of parts drawers, similar to the picture (may not be that one though); its a good way to get a lot of storage in a small footprint. Not lockable though, so not for expensive parts or where other departments can come pinching stuff after hours lol.

1655230712586.png

For hookup wire reel storage we got some 12mm tubing and fittings for hanging rails in wardrobes and 3D-printed some end supports. We fixed them under the lower shelves, sliding the reels onto the tube in approx 60cm section, with a locking collar on each section so you never need to remove more than 60cm. at a time to replenish empty reels. Its a lot cheaper than commercial reel management systems.

For projects I use a flip-top storage box -
1655232209804.png
This one (RS 851-7515) has 42 compartments, enough for most projects, and I use small resealable anti-static plastic wallets (eBay/Aliexpress) in each compartment to separate similar parts, eg a compartment for say "resistors < 50k" might have several bags. In general my projects rarely have 100s of values, maybe 150 parts, but from a palette of maybe 10 or 15 values in "resistors", even less in "capacitors", hardware like nuts & bolts and stand-offs take a surprising amount of space. I have another version of the box with fewer but larger compartments for bigger stuff like heatsinks, case parts, pcbs, etc., even assembled breadboards Basically I can carry most projects/prototypes around from lab-to-lab or lab-to-demo, etc in only a couple of easy to carry boxes - even my TS100 soldering pencil and a few tools (cutters/pliers/screwdriver set) goes in there...
 

Thread Starter

iceburnhex

Joined Jun 14, 2022
4
Our mechatronics lab has a rotating carousel of parts drawers, similar to the picture (may not be that one though); its a good way to get a lot of storage in a small footprint. Not lockable though, so not for expensive parts or where other departments can come pinching stuff after hours lol.

View attachment 269455

For hookup wire reel storage we got some 12mm tubing and fittings for hanging rails in wardrobes and 3D-printed some end supports. We fixed them under the lower shelves, sliding the reels onto the tube in approx 60cm section, with a locking collar on each section so you never need to remove more than 60cm. at a time to replenish empty reels. Its a lot cheaper than commercial reel management systems.

For projects I use a flip-top storage box -
View attachment 269458
This one (RS 851-7515) has 42 compartments, enough for most projects, and I use small resealable anti-static plastic wallets (eBay/Aliexpress) in each compartment to separate similar parts, eg a compartment for say "resistors < 50k" might have several bags. In general my projects rarely have 100s of values, maybe 150 parts, but from a palette of maybe 10 or 15 values in "resistors", even less in "capacitors", hardware like nuts & bolts and stand-offs take a surprising amount of space. I have another version of the box with fewer but larger compartments for bigger stuff like heatsinks, case parts, pcbs, etc., even assembled breadboards Basically I can carry most projects/prototypes around from lab-to-lab or lab-to-demo, etc in only a couple of easy to carry boxes - even my TS100 soldering pencil and a few tools (cutters/pliers/screwdriver set) goes in there...
Thanks for the ideas! I didn't even know they made rotating carousels like that. The 3d printed idea for the reels was probably what I was going to do, but wasn't sure if there was a random cheap but well done roll holder. I was thinking of something like the storage boxes, but yeah, that does make a lot of sense, and should hold pretty much everything for the projects we encounter. Thanks again for the ideas. Much appreciated!
 

abrsvc

Joined Jun 16, 2018
117
What I have used is a combination of coin envelopes and standard parts cabinets. For small quantities or extremely small parts, I place them into coin envelopes that are in 4x3x18" cardboard bins. Using transistors as an example, I have a coin envelope for each value and for values that have large quantities, I underline the value meaning that they are actually located in a parts bin. I have attached a picture of the shelf holding the bins and some of the parts bins in use.

Dan
 

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bassbindevil

Joined Jan 23, 2014
457
I use small plastic storage tubs for collections of things that are too big to fit in parts drawers, and in-progress projects. The best value in small bins were made by KIS (2.1 liter Omni Box) (sold in 4-packs at Dollarama). There's bound to be something similar at dollar stores. Larger tubs are mainly Sterilite brand, in a much more durable plastic.
And there's a stack of Plano 3620 Stowaway cases for stuff like hardware, heat shrink tubing, zip ties, crimp connectors; sturdy plastic, with removable dividers so it can be configured from 4-24 compartments. Found in the fishing department of outdoor and hardware stores.
https://www.walmart.ca/en/ip/plano-molding-2-3620-prolatch-stowaway/6000016951117
 

ApacheKid

Joined Jan 12, 2015
720
Greetings everyone,

I was working on setting up an electronics lab, or more so, organizing everything, so that as I have it grow with parts and equipment, it'll be easily findable not only for myself, but others.

Right now, there are many cardboard boxes with labels, spools on wire on top of shelves, and about the only thing that is well done so far, is the Power Supply Station which has everything mounted and able to be moved to anywhere in the room.

I was looking for some idea / brainstorming for how best to maximize space while also keeping things uniform. I've come across the ziploc bag design for resistors, and just labeling them, as well as the standard 64x64 bins you mount to the wall. Bolts, nuts, screws, resistors, caps, transistors, MCUs, power resistors, misc. parts, you name it, I have a little bit of everything at this point. What would also be great is something that could easily be used to group up projects parts, so if I needed spare parts for on the go, everything can be organized to keep them together. Maybe I'll have to lean one way or the other, and can't have the best of both worlds on that. But it's some thoughts going through my head.

Is there any specific style of setup you'd recommend, or something else that you've come across that works wonders and might not be widely known? Lets hear it. Any links to the parts you've used and recommend are also appreciated.

Budget is flexible, nothing over the top (like motorized and count tracking bins? lol) but willing to put some money behind a worth while setup.
Get some numbers down on paper. How many kinds of components? do you mean just electronic components or connectors, test leads, breadboard wire and so on?

I have been setting up my own workshop and so face the same question.

I have separated electronic components from mechanical components, wood screws from metal screws, and so on.

I have a wall that has:

A computer desk in a corner, next to that a rectangular desk for electronics with these kinds of cabinets on the desk against the wall mostly with various components. (I have several large boxes of resistors from years ago, huge, like a hundred of every value so these are not yet organized)

1655415923845.png

Next to that desk I have a tool chest like this one:

1655415510951.png

To the right of that I have a different workbench like this:

1655415600739.png

So as I scan my eyes from left to right around the room we go from passive desk with PC and so on, desk with room for breadboarding, assembly with shelves directly above that with test equipment, signal gen, PSU and so on, then the red tool chest for stuff like pliers, cutters, drill bits, socket sets, wrenches, screwdrivers, all the drawers let me organize most of my smaller tools. Finally next I have the workbench (to which I added a vice) for heavier work, hammering, banging and so on with bigger power tools and stuff on that bottom wire rack shelf.

So each area is dedicated to a particular kind of work.
 
Last edited:

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
26,485
This is a perpetual problem. Eventually you will have thousands of components. You need to know what you have, how many you have, and where you put them.

The only solution that I can offer is a computerized database. I enter everything I have into a spreadsheet and where it is located. It would be nice to put most of the discrete components in the small parts drawer in some form of organized fashion. For example, all resistors and capacitors stored by value. However sometimes this is not possible.

Sometimes a new item comes along and all the drawers have to shifted along to accommodate a new drawer. Having a number on each drawer either simplifies or compounds the problem depending on your perspective.
 

abrsvc

Joined Jun 16, 2018
117
Mr Chips you are correct. Since I was providing repair services for a number of music stores, I found that storing parts was much more space efficient than storing units for repair. To that end, I purchased a number of 60-drawer parts cabinets. Using resistors as an example, I assigned 1 drawer for each standard value (78 values from 1 ohm to 2.2Meg) The thought as that speed of access was more important than space. Similarly with capacitors (roughly 30 values in 6 voltages ranging from 16V-100V). Transistors are in coin envelopes with larger quantities in individual drawers of a 60 drawer unit (1 value per drawer). Misc parts are stored in similar drawer units but 18 drawers per unit. Other small parts are in envelopes and marked. In the photos included above, photo 1 shows the envelopes in 4" wide bins that are 18" deep with labels on the front. Photo 2 shows the 60/18 drawer units on a shelf built with 2x6 lumber. In total, I have about 60 of the drawer units total with a smaller number of the white drawered units shown on the shelves that contain salvage parts and other misc items like motors.

A lot will depend upon what you plan on doing. For smaller operations, the coin envelope and 4" wide cardboard bins are perhaps the most flexible. Even SMD components are easily kept in these envelopes.

As far as cost, the drawered units cost me about $10 each at the time, but sticking to the 1 value per drawer easily save me more than that in labor costs (time). This also makes it easy to determine if supplies are getting low. Yes, initial setup can be a little costly, but overall this will be recovered. For example, getting the resistors in place cost me around $400, BUT that was purchasing a quantity of 1000 per value ($4.75 each value plus shipping). Since in the service world parts like this are charged at $1 per unit in repairs (this also covers fluids and things that are not billed directly), it doesn't take long to cover this cost. The other alternative would be to buy 100 at a time at a higher cost per unit AND time to order/receive etc.

For me at least, few repairs need to wait for parts as most are in stock. Yes, parts that are specific to certain models need to be ordered, but that is the exception for many of the repairs I see. For a design lab as was initially posted, there are design kits that can be purchased that will contain many standard values that already come in divided containers.

Many options are available, just chose what makes sense for you.
 

Irving

Joined Jan 30, 2016
2,769
For a design lab as was initially posted, there are design kits that can be purchased that will contain many standard values that already come in divided containers.
Good point - all my initial prototyping is done with leaded parts but pre-prod boards are either hand-soldered/reflowed on hot-plate from stock bought specifically for the project or assembled by pcb manufacturer so I don't keep a large stock of SMD parts in drawers & what I do have is in 5 or 6 books (design kits)
 
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