What Are the Best Tips for Making a DIY Oscilloscope?

L.S. Ware

Oscilloscopes are utilized in many fields, such as engineering and telecommunications, to observe electrical signals and their specific wavelengths. When considering making a DIY oscilloscope, a few things should be taken into account. The intended uses, portability issues, and sample rate desired will assist with choosing a DIY oscilloscope design. The level of comfort with assembling assorted components, like soldering parts to a circuit board, will be relevant in choosing a design to build.

Some people may find it easier to build a DIY oscilloscope from one of the numerous kits available.
Some people may find it easier to build a DIY oscilloscope from one of the numerous kits available.

A number of tutorials on building a DIY oscilloscope are available on the Internet. There are different varieties available, including some barely functional designs meant more as a novelty, LCD stand-alone designs, and designs based on personal computers (PCs). Most DIY oscilloscope designs are digital rather than analog and require computational power of some sort to run the controlling software. It is also possible to build an LCD stand-alone DIY oscilloscope. Kits can be found that compile most, if not all, of the required parts necessary for any of these designs.

A PC-based design is often the cheapest and simplest variety, generally requiring less knowledge, skills, and expertise to build. It is important to find or come up with a design that will provide the necessary level of performance, does not go over budget, and does not exceed the hobbyist's skill level. Determine the parts list, ensure that all components can be acquired, and meet all required specifications.

Some of the components used in building a DIY oscilloscope, especially chips, can be gotten from the manufacturer free, as samples. If required, many software programs are freely available. All designs have some standard parts, such as resistors, diodes, and capacitors. Each component in any design will have very specific parameters to meet and straying from the recommended list is inadvisable.

The scope can be built upon a variety of boards. Some designers will prefer a breadboard, or solderless protoboard, to allow for simpler construction. Others utilize various forms of circuit board, such as a stripboard, which is blank, or a predefined printed circuit board.

When preparing to assemble a DIY oscilloscope, the typical tools required will include at minimum a soldering iron and a small screwdriver. Preparing all of the materials and tools in advance will help to ensure that the construction goes smoothly. It is advisable to read through the instructions and verify that everything is correct and ready for assembly. If there are any questions regarding any of the parts or how to assemble the pieces, make sure they are answered prior to beginning the project.

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