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I am setting up a new electronics lab for embedded systems related work. We need four or five workbenches/workstations, a soldering station, enough storage space for all the essential electronics supplies, and maybe some other useful equipments. We already have quite some equipments available such as oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, large cabinets, etc. But we need a storage solution for all those electronics components.

I see there's already a SE question (Best way to get components for a new electronics lab). But that one is about getting components while I am thinking about the higher level things including lab layout, workbench design, flooring & lighting etc. I would like it to be a bright, modern, and safe lab environment.

I guess I need some professional help here. I could quickly google some lab outfitting companies and contact them directly. But I would like to hear some recommendations from you, my fellow engineers. Thanks.

Update 1: this is for a commercial company. There will be multiple projects going on in this lab.

Update 2: To make this post less "opinion based", I would appreciate some suggestions on which firms offer this kind of consultant service. I don't have a lot of time to figure out all things myself. I just want some help to set up a good looking and functional lab quickly.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Olin Lathrop, Marcus Müller, Voltage Spike, DoxyLover, Wesley Lee Mar 2 '17 at 23:34

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I would personally go for a large island with storage at the edges of the room, but in the end it's mostly about aesthetics. \$\endgroup\$ – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Mar 2 '17 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this in a commercial or educational context? In any case, this question is very broad and also mostly opinion-based, and will probably be closed soon unless you can narrow it down to a few key issues. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed Mar 2 '17 at 20:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ "A" soldering station? \$\endgroup\$ – Trevor_G Mar 2 '17 at 20:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ And your question is? \$\endgroup\$ – Bort Mar 2 '17 at 20:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trevor: Yes I am thinking of only one, which will stock plenty of supplies. I don't think there will be multiple soldering activities at the same time. \$\endgroup\$ – Penghe Geng Mar 2 '17 at 21:41
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Consider how workbenches are used. Perhaps a workstation requires long periods of sitting, requiring a comfortable chair with back support.
But more often a workbench requires constant mobility with short sitting duration. A bar-type (high) workbench with bar stools is more appropriate. A deep workbench is needed if test equipment is large and deep...you still need a half-meter of space from front-of-equipment to front edge-of-bench. And you need more power outlets than you imagine.
Embedded systems require static protection at workstations, and everywhere else they may go (powered or unpowered).
Floors should be plain colour, glossy smooth so that you can find small parts that fall.
Consider a good and fair way to store cables, cable adapters so that they are equally available to all workers. This is a big problem in shared work areas.
Consider electrical noise sources (drills, LED lighting, switching power supplies) and keep them away from critical low-signal-level work areas.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Agree. The current carpet needs to be replaced :) Thanks for pointing out the impact of electrical noise sources. \$\endgroup\$ – Penghe Geng Mar 2 '17 at 21:46
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Wood, or conductive flooring, and wood or conductive work tops are crucial to prevent static. A PC and an oscilloscope (or PC-based Pico) is crucial for understanding.

Development kits are crucial. These can be shared.

Heavy duty draughtsman's chairs are required.

Breadboards and jumper wires should be supplied by/to students/developers so that they can have some continuity if they cannot complete a project in one session. They can use food/cellphone lockers or shoe boxes to store these. (Shoe boxes are static safe :-)

Brainstorm and design this with stakeholders. Sign off the conceptial design before proceeding. (How many students in the long term, etc.)

For serious development an editor/gate keeper is required to ensure that the documentation is in step with the devolopment.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You assume a school environment. Why? \$\endgroup\$ – JRE Mar 2 '17 at 20:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Same principals, school, university or small business... \$\endgroup\$ – skvery Mar 2 '17 at 20:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, but if my boss tells me to bring in my own breadboards or other tools, that ain't gonna go well. Employees and students are different things. \$\endgroup\$ – JRE Mar 2 '17 at 20:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Pico-think should be a non starter. There's nothing in the original question indicating that hobby grade gear should be of interest. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Mar 2 '17 at 20:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Answer updated student/developer. Pico or not depends on the startup capital available. \$\endgroup\$ – skvery Mar 2 '17 at 20:51
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Storing electronic components depends on type and size. Some need to be stored in electrostatic safe containers.

Suitable drawer systems are available for this. You can use the cheaper variety for things like resistors and capacitors and other non ESD sensitive devices.

Larger items should be stored in bins.

All drawers and bins should be organised appropriately and labelled.

You should also keep all your parts in lockable cabinets. Component inventory is not cheap and parts will walk if not supervised and locked up. And metal cabinets make a lot of noise when someone tries to sneak into them.

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Another thing you need to seriously think about is that you need a curator for all that. Someone has to be in charge of organizing and keeping those shelves properly arranged and re-stocked. Just filling the cabinets with parts and hoping for the best will not do.

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I have discovered by chance that the format of a DigiKey/Mouser component bag is almost the same as a 4x6" (10x15cm) photograph.

Plastic sleeve photo albums/binders are AMAZING to slip these component bags in! I number the pages and keep inventory in a spreadsheet.

Finding a part is as easy as Ctrl-F, which gives the album and page number, then grabbing the album and flipping to the proper page.

This is so much more practical than a pile of bags inside a shoe box!

For passives, I use plastic boxes, shoe box size. I put the bags in, sorted by value. Between each value, I put a piece of card, cut to size, with the value written on it. So, if I need a 100µF aluminium capacitor, I flip through the values, which are in order, and pull the bag out. It's quick and much more practical than drawers, because values can be added at any time, and the mess remains sorted in value order, therefore easier to search.

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