Test & Measurement World, July/August 2012

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TESTVOICES W Cluttered Bench Syndrome ithout looking, can you recall the color of your workbench's top surface? No? You're likely suffering from Cluttered Bench Syndrome (CBS), an insidious syndrome that's endemic to any electronics work environment regardless of size. I could serve as the CBS poster child; in no particular order, here's what's currently cluttering my bench: • Test equipment: oscilloscope and probes; spectrum analyzer; digital multimeters (handheld and bench); power supply; semiconductor tester; component impedance bridge; test leads. • Hardware: assorted screws and nuts in various thread pitches; washers; unused cable ties. • Sleeving: miscellaneous cutoffs (see wire, above). • Solder & solder flux: three partially used spools (different gauges, all of non-RoHS compliant tin/lead composition); two flavors of flux. short to respool, too long to discard and thus awaiting future reuse). • Components: unused (leftovers awaiting restocking in cabinets); used (leads long enough for reuse); defective (removed from equipment, awaiting failure analysis). • Coffee cups: one (ceramic, used, sludged). • Breadboards: audio-filter prototype; software-defined radio. • Work in process: 1930s-vintage table radio; smoked power supply. • Paper: schematics; data-sheet printouts; random scribbles. A few simple steps can go a long way toward reducing workbench clutter and thus saving time and money. An interrupt-driven environ- ment routinely pushes housekeeping chores to the bottom of the priority stack, so schedule a mandatory Friday-afternoon bench cleanup. If you must leave an instrument in a partially disassembled state, minimize orphaned parts by returning fasteners to their places. Create—and label— temporary storage containers for work-in-progress, and include a brief up-to-date status memo. Tag items awaiting parts with their expected delivery dates. And do keep the cat off your workbench. (Note: The price for the Valon Technology Model 5007 was originally misstated as $29 in the June 2012 column.The correct price is $295.) T&MW To read past Test Voices columns, go to Test & Measurement World | JULY/AUGUST 2012 | –11– • Tools: side cutters (three types); scissors; needle nose pliers (two types); hemostats (three sizes); battery-powered drills (two); wire strippers (two styles); desoldering tool; soldering iron; SMT hot-air rework station; stereo dissecting microscope; magnifier with halo lighting fixture; assorted screwdriver bits. • Wire: miscellaneous cutoffs in assorted gauges (lengths too CATS ON WORKBENCHES Cats love to get attention by occupying workspaces, but an electronics work- bench is no place for your lab's feline mascot. Flakes of solder and bits of in- sulation get trapped in a cat's fur and paws and ingested when Kitty cleans herself with her tongue. Heavy metals and wire fragments aren't good for a cat's digestive system. The same considerations apply to hu- mans who snack at the workbench, so discard that dropped doughnut and the coffee with the half-submerged resistor. Better yet, don't eat at your bench! FAMOUSLY-CLUTTERED SPACES Jim Williams' bench: Bob Pease's office: TOOLS FOR DECLUTTERING Sorting through the contents of stray hardware in a coffee can be slow and tedious. As an alternative, consider the under-$5.00 Easy Sorter Funnel Tray— pour in mixed hardware, pick out what you need, and pour the rest back into the can: Multidrawer small-parts cabinets such as those made by Akro-Mills offer convenient storage for frequently-used static-resistant components: Brother International Corporation offers an inexpensive range of labeling sys- tems that can help you identify work-in- progress and storage containers: Tossed casually onto a benchtop, test leads have a penchant for tying them- selves in knots. Use available wall space and cable hangers such "The Claw" by Middle Atlantic Products to sort and suspend expensive and fragile test leads: CONTRIBUTING TECHNICAL EDITOR BRAD THOMPSON

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