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Getting the Right Tools for Your Arduino Project

Part of the Arduino For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When you start to build your Arduino project, it’s hard to know what tools and equipment to buy. Following is the recommended equipment for solder-less prototyping, which is a good way to start. Next is a list of equipment for soldering, which help you to toughen up your prototype for the real world. Note: Consider buying tools as you need them. You never know what you’ll need next, and tools can get expensive.

What you need for solder-less prototyping

  • Breadboard: This allows you to prototype a circuit without permanently fixing anything in place.

  • Jump wires: These are tiny lengths of wire that are ideal for building circuits on a breadboard.

  • Needle-nosed pliers: These have a pointed nose to allow you to hold tiny objects with great precision. They’ll save you a lot of swearing!

  • Multimeter: A good meter can measure volts, amps, resistance and continuity amongst other things.

  • Power supply: Similar to the power supplies for laptops. A 12V DC power supply with a 2.1mm jack is good for many small applications — just make sure that it supplies enough current!

What you need for soldering

  • Soldering iron: Comes as fixed-temperature, temperature-controlled, gas-powered, or a solder station. Getting a temperature-controlled iron will set you back about $30 (£20) and is a good investment until you can justify getting a nice solder station, such as those made by Weller.

  • Solder: Buying lead-free solder is a good idea for your health and the environment.

  • Third hand: Also known as a helping hand, this tool is good for holding boards and components in place.

  • Adhesive putty: Cheaper than a helping hand and often more reliable for arranging your circuit and components for soldering.

  • Wire cutters: A good set of wire cutters will have a pointed nose for precision clipping.

  • Wire strippers: Can be manual or mechanical. If you can, try them out in a shop to find your preference for the wire you are intending to strip.

  • Solder sucker: This is a vacuum tube that’s useful for undoing soldering mistakes.

  • Solder wick: Another way to undo mistakes is to melt excess solder into a piece of solder wick.

  • Equipment wire: Buying a few short reels or multicore equipment wire in various colors is always a good idea.

This equipment is most easily available from online retailers such as Adafruit and Sparkfun as well as their worldwide distributors and many other electronics retailers such as RadioShack (U.S.) and Maplin (U.K.).

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