Pipe Dream: No Price Limit Lab


Shooting the breeze with some engineers recently, asking hypothetical questions like “what would you do if you won a billion dollars in a lottery?” This led to discussing what would be a perfect one-man lab for prototyping and experimenting. Unencumbered by the thought process, I put forth the following assertion: with the various modern equipment available these days, and with a not-so-crazy expenditure, one could equip a home lab that is capable of building things almost as complex as a smartphone. Do you agree, or was the soju (a Korean traditional alcohol drink) going to my head?

What equipment would you put in such a dream lab?

The inspiration for my statement, besides the soju, was a couple of business trips I had in 1999 to a small Danish company. Their electronics lab was operated by one technician, but was extremely well equipped with amazingly compact SMD and machining equipment. This one guy made a wide variety of industrial and military grade circuit board modules, all in-house and quicker than the ordinary outsourcing times of the day. While I think he did the PCBs out of house, his did everything else in-house, pick and place, reflow, testing, and computerized milling machines to make enclosures. Like my hypothetical super-lab, this guy’s lab was an ordinary sized company lab, not a whole building or wing.

Note: clearly, with a billion dollars you could build factories to have at your disposal. Instead, I’m talking about a modestly sized home lab, say a large room or basement, at what I believe could assembled at less-than-a-millionaire budgets.