When you're starting out it's all too easy to spend a lot of money on equipment that you find out either doesn't work for you or was a waste. Assembled here is a collection of items that represent either what I am using myself every day, or that which has been found to be most useful by others in the same industry.
The boardview software used by Louis Rossmann, FlexBV which additionally couples with PDF Schematics to provide substantial productivity improvements when trying to track down faults on boards.
USB-C power meters are now very useful tools. With so many things using USB-C, or having cables that can source from USB-C, having a solid meter that won't fall apart each day and can send data to the PC for detecting those fast transient looping spikes is an absolute must.
The PLD USB-C meter is designed and built right here in our workshop; many versions before this before finally settling down to one that seems "just right".
After years of using the AmScope 144 LED "high end" offering for Barlow mounted ring light, I had enough when it started to flicker on me, along with a chronic frustration of having to hold the iron or hot-air at very low angles to fit under/around the light assembly itself and the strain of the glare and bright-but-dark feeling light... so I designed and made one that solved the issues I was having.
The PLD Microscope Ring light delivers quality diffused light from 28 chip LEDs with very high colour-rendering-index (CRI) of 95+, combined with a modern LED controller that doesn't flicker at lower brightness levels, narrow body so you can actually bring your hot-air wand in close and a simple swappable 3D printed mount system for the typical 48mm barlow lenses.

The new "preferred hot air station" for rework, the Quick 861DW. An excellent balance of features and cost.

UnionRepair (220V)

For microsoldering work, the Hakko FX-951 is an excellent piece of equipment that'll get you through a lot of jobs. Couple it with the JS02 tip (T15 for US, or T12 for Asia/AU) and jobs are a lot easier under the microscope.
(Australian version here)

A must have item! - Finally in mid 2020, Wera released a useful collection of 25 drivers that you'll most definitely want to keep on hand. No more needing to buy the individual drivers. Best of all, the handles are at last colour coded and a clearer description on the side. So good, I ended up getting two sets.

Working at such small scales it's useful to have solder that's also very fine. This Kester 63/37 blend is only 0.38mm (0.015") diameter so you have a decent chance of getting solder to the join under the microscope.

Techspray wick is one that I've found to be very useful to dealing with sopping up excess solder from BGA pads, especially using the hot-air wicking method. Buy the 25' rolls so that you don't constantly run out, and buy two so you've got a spare when you do eventually run out!

Unlike the 'old days', you really need a good flux now to do any sort of reworking. Tried and true is the Amtech series of fluxes. Strongly suggest buying it from Rossmann Repair Group to avoid picking up a tube of Vasaline.
Buy from Rossmann Repair

Finally there's now a power supply that provides what you need for macbook repairs (0-30V, 5A) and also has a data interface so you can record it on your system without needing another camera. The OWON P4305 ( or Multicomp Pro MP710086 ) is an affordable but functional unit that'll cover your needs.

This is my primary multimeter on the workbench currently. The GDM-8341 provides the resolution and accuracy more than ample for repairing equipment that shows up in this workshop. The USB data interface is a lot more usable with modern equipment as well. Linux based OSD/control application source code available at github.

  • Mains powered, never worry about batteries again
  • Fast continuity mode, just remember to push up the sampling rate.

For a budget level benchtop meter, the VICI VC8145 is an item that covers the needs for board level repair at a sane price. While it's no Fluke or Agilent, and it's not something you'd want to use for high voltage or precision & accuracy, it does fit the needs of board repair quite well and there's a program written for it already for linux so you can use it with OBS (or just on your desktop), available at Github

  • Mains powered, never worry about batteries again
  • RS232 interface, strongly recommended you use a proper serial port on the PC, USB-RS232 adaptors seem to have issues with data corruption
  • Very fast continuity mode, combined with diode mode
  • Capacitance mode is reasonable (though limited to 100uF)
  • Software for OBS on linux at Github

Getting on the thermal camera bandwagon; I've personally tested the FLIR One PRO and found it to be perfectly good for Macbook boards, though I'm still waiting to try it on iPhones (might need a macro lens).

Extension lead that I use to connect the FLIR One Pro to a PC. You can also add a USB C to A converter if you require.

Latest preferred budget hand-held multimeter. The BSIDE ADM20 has a lot of ticks in the right boxes;

  • NOTE - Seems they've stopped selling as the BSIDE ADM20, now appear as HYELEC MS8236
  • 4 x AA batteries, plenty of life span
  • Sturdy stand, doesn't roll over when changing modes
  • USB-mini data connector at the top of the meter
  • Fast 5~10 updates/sec with serial data
  • Software for OBS on Windows and linux at Github

Available at BangGood

Diagnose your macbook boards one step beyond just a fan spin; use the Chipmunk USB tester and get a greater insight as to what your board is doing, including if it has CPU/data activity. Well worth the purchase!

Chipmunk USB Tester

AmScope SM-4TP-144. Without a scope, you cannot do a lot of the work required with modern phones and computers. This AmScope gives 7x~45x magnifcation and the stand along with the 144-LED adjustable light make a good combination. NOTE: there's no Barlow lens on this configuration, but I do strongly recomment the use of the 0.7X reducer to give you more working room without sacraficing maximum magnification too much.

0.7X Barlow lens to suit the SM-4TP-144 microscope combination.

For getting a good quality audio, without breaking the bank too much (since you probably have with the camera/microscope), you'll be pleased to know that you can get decent wireless audio results using the SAMSON XPD1. Very simple to use and works with macOS and Linux under OBS with no trouble at all.

Set the trimmer gain to about 80%, macOS mic gain to max, linux PulseAudio input gain to about 6dB, keep the mic just away from your face at about your lip-crease. Another note, keep at least 2m distance between the transmitter and the USB receiver, else you'll get odd artifacts)

For getting good quality video footage for YouTube videos, the SONY sensor equipped 1080PHA from RisingCam does a very nice job. As a bonus, it'll let you record via USB if you do not yet have HDMI capture/encoding hardware

Buy from AliExpress

To complement the above HD microscope camera to your AmScope SM series head, you need the right adaptor (toss away the AmScope one!). To obtain maximum FOV (Field Of View) with the 1/2.8" sensor, use a 0.35X reducer. This reducer from RisingCam matches perfectly with the SONY camera and the new AmScope trinocular heads with the smooth-bore mount. It is expensive, but it makes things compact and easy.

Buy from AliExpress
Having gone through a few video capture options, I'm currently utilising the BlackMagic Design DeckLink Quad HDMI card. BlackMagic HDMI Capture Card

Logitech C922 USB2 1080p@60fps webcam makes an excellent companion to the microscope camera. This webcam works without any trouble on macOS, Linux and Windows with OBS.

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