Tools, parts and kits for starting in IoT
As you might know, I’ve been shifting my career focus from software engineering to hardware design and manufacturing. Specifically designing, prototyping, testing and manufacturing of connected devices. During the last two years I’ve been purchasing various tools, micro controllers, electronic parts and kits to help me design and prototype the hardware as I imagine it.
This blog post will highlight some of those tools, parts and kits so that anybody interested in IoT can take a look and decide if they want to get these products that have been researched by me.
I’ll break down the list in the following categories:
- Soldering irons, soldering stations and soldering supplies, AKA Soldering Station Starter Kit
- Electronic components, prototyping supplies
- Arduino – compatible boards (with and without WiFi), kits and accessories
- Various measurement tools and screwdrivers
- Raspberry Pi modules, kits and accessories
- CNC machines (3D printers, CNC mills and laser cutters)
- 3D printer plastics
Let’s start with everything related to soldering. If you’ve never held a soldering iron (but now want to), you have quite a journey ahead of you and since I’ve been soldering for 20 years, I wanted to share some of my recommendations.
Soldering Station Starter Kit:
For more than 6 years I was able to get by with a soldering iron from the dollar store (!!!) by filing down the tip in a special way. It’s hard to believe, but I was able to solder even smallest and most intricate components with it. Case in point, 0201 SMD components on a micro airplane: https://maxoffsky.com/hobby-blog/rc-micro-spitfire-airplane-build-log/. Nowadays I wouldn’t dare to try the same soldering iron simply because there are much better options available. To set up a basic soldering station, I would recommend the following:
- Soldering iron and a stand for the iron
- Soldering iron tips (to replace the default tips when they’re worn out)
- Soldering iron tip cleaner (to be used in between soldering)
- Soldering mat (to not burn up your table / desk and keep things organized)
- Solder, flux and a small brush
- Tweezers (to be able to grab small electronic parts)
- Wire stripper / cutter
As far as specific products that I used for my soldering station, here are the ones I recommend:
- Soldering iron: Valstar 60W Soldering Iron Kit.
- Soldering iron tips: Baitaihem Soldering Iron tips.
- Soldering iron tip cleaner: Gold Cleaning Wire
- Soldering Mat: Heat resistant Silicone mat with compartments.
- Solder: Rosin core solder wire
- Flux: No Clean Flux paste or Rosin Soldering flux paste
- Tweezers: Mudder 6 piece ESD kit with storage bag
- Files: 10 piece Diamond File Set
- Wire stripper: Stanley 6 inch wire stripper
Here’s a more convenient way to see most of these products listed:
Now that you have an idea of what soldering supplies are good to have, let’s talk about basic electronics prototyping tools and must-haves.
Necessary tools to get started in Electronics:
To prototype electronic circuits you need quite a few tools, wires and parts. A basic prototyping setup requires to have a breadboard which is a special piece of plastic with a bunch of holes in it. You can insert wires, jumpers and electronic components into the holes on the breadboard to quickly assemble an electronic circuit. Prototyping everything on the breadboard before you start doing any soldering is highly recommended because you can build and tear circuits apart very quickly and without reservation. After many years of prototyping circuits, I would recommend the following:
- Jumper wires
- Power supply
- Basic electronic components (resistors, LEDs, capacitors, etc)
- Wires of different gauges
- Lots and lots of extra jumper wires (male / male, male / female and female / female)
It turns out that Amazon has a product that combines all of these in a nice little kit that might be worth checking out: Elegoo electronics Fun Kit.
Also, get these extra jumper wires as these will come handy at some point: 120 Pcs multicolored wire kit (male to female, male to male, female to female).
If you are planning to solder anything using wires, consider getting this assorted hook up wire: 30 AWG flexible silicone wire.
Now that you have the basic soldering and prototyping tools, let’s get into microcontrollers. I’ll start with Arduino – compatible boards that are easy to get and are well – documented.
Arduino – compatible micro controllers, kits and accessories:
For the past year and a half I’ve been building internet – connected devices, mainly using ESP8266 platform. For those that haven’t heard about it, ESP8266 is a tiny, sub-dollar chip that is compatible with Arduino and has WiFi connectivity on board. The number of things you can do with this chip is so big that there are entire books and big communities revolving around this chip. What’s cool is that most of the Arduino libraries are compatible with this chip, allowing you to reuse existing code and prototype the functionality of your device quicker.
You can get a kit containing some sensors, buttons, LED displays, potentiometers and lots more goodies that you can then use with the ESP8266 – based boards or with any other micro controller. Here are the products that I highly recommend if you’re starting out with IoT without much prior supply of sensors and tools:
- ESP8266 – based board, WeMos D1 – $4
- ESP32 board (wifi and bluetooth in one) – $7
- Uno R3 Basic Starter learning kit containing Arduino Uno clone – $24, this kit contains a lot of sensors, buttons and other inputs that you can try out with the ESP modules or Raspberry Pi computers
I wanted to highlight some of the common sensors that can be used with Arduino compatible boards, specifically:
Whew! Even though there is so much available out there, these basic products are what I have been using to get started in IoT and have refined by now so that you can find them with confidence.
I’ll be continuing this post when I get some more time and will write about Raspberry Pi, CNC Machines and supplies for them. Stay tuned!