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Lab on a budget Part 3/3: Creating your own tools

Something that I think most hobbyist do either out of necessity or due to budgetary constraints is create custom tools. It can be something simple or something more complicated, but when you need something, sometimes the only option is to create it yourself. It’s also a great way to build up your lab on a budget.

Most recently in my hobby life, I made these little adapters for my FTDI board. I like to use the Arduino Pro Mini boards for my projects. They are SUPER cheap and have a ton of power. What’s also nice about them, is they don’t have an FTDI programmer on them. That keeps them small and cheap. I bought SparkFun’s little FTDI breakout board and use it program all my Pro Mini projects. My problem is that every project ends up using a different pin header on the Pro Mini. Sometimes is a right-angle male, sometimes right-angle female, straight male or female, sometimes is just wires or some other type of connector. So, rather than buying a bunch of FTDI boards at $15 each, or soldering/de-soldering pin headers all the time, I made some incredibly simple PCBs that allow me to make adapters to/from pretty much any pin header to pretty much any other pin header. Clearly, not fancy, and there are probably other ways around this, but for $5 I made 6 PCBs and now I can use one FTDI board on any of my projects regardless of the pin headers on the Arduino.

There are tons of tools you can make on your own that save you a ton of time and money. If you need the real thing, buy it, but for most things some low cost or free homemade gizmos will do the trick.



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