PCB Workstation with Articulated Arms

Author: giufini, published on 2015-04-30

Click this button to get the 3D model


This “PCB Workstation” is the only tool that you really need to make precise and stable connections to the pins of the electronic components on your Printed Circuit Boards.


“PCB Workstation” in the TOP 8 CLEVER JIGS on MAKE MAGAZINE:

NEW UPDATE! (April 18th 2016):
For people who don’t own a 3D printer or quickly want to get a fully functional “PCB Workstation” with a large set of printed parts and hardware accessories, they are now available two ready to use High Quality Kits!



The new “LAB PROBES EDITION” kit is the perfect solution for your electronic laboratory when you need to perform complex analysis of electronic devices. It includes a full set of adapters for the most used laboratory probes. This kit does not include the probes that you might already have in your lab or you could buy from your preferred online vendors (Farnell, Digi-Key, RS-Online, Sparkfun, etc.).

Contact me at [email protected] for info about costs and availability.


The main piece of this project is the “Base Platform” that is equipped with 16 holes where you can insert the articulated arms. Among the printable “things” you will find multiple types of bases, so you can choose to print the one that better satisfy your needs. The central part of the base consists of 4 slides arranged in a cross where the PCB locking blocks can be moved and locked to firmly keep in place the electronic board. The PCB anchor blocks have two faces, one for straight sides, the other for the corners of a board. You can choose the right face simply turning the anchor block. These pieces are locked to the base by means of wing nuts (5 mm) and hex bolts (5 x 12 mm). On the lower face of the base there are 5 guidelines for the precise positioning of rubber bumpers.
The base should be printed upside-down, in this way it is not required the use of support structures to support the overhanging parts of the central slides.

The piece “Base_Extension.stl” can be used to allow the mounting of bigger PCBs that do not fit onto a base. This piece can be linked to each available base (except “Base_round16cm_12holes.stl”) using the appropriate “extension linkage” piece supplied in the archive “Extension_Linkages.zip”.

Using the piece “Bases_Linkage.stl” it is possible to connect two or even more bases together to allow working on big Printed Circuit Boards. This is an universal piece and it can be used with all the available bases except “Base_round16cm_12holes.stl”.

Recently I have added a smart “Vertical Arch” that can be mounted onto the base using two wing nuts and hex bolts. The arch can keep the PCB in place vertically, so allowing the access to both sides of the printed circuit board. It has 2 extra holes where you can insert more articulated arms.

Each articulated arm is composed of a first element to be inserted in a hole of the base. This piece has a slot to allow the passage of the electric cable without passing through the hole of the base, so it is very easy to insert, remove or change an articulated arm on the fly.

The articulated arms are then made assembling multiple ball and socket joints. Depending on the required length, an articulated arm may be formed of a variable number of ball and socket joints, however 18-20 elements should be enough to most of uses. Each articulated arm provides an internal duct in which an electric cable can run.

If you wish to make more rigid articulated arms, you can use the provided special ball and socket joints that have a slightly smaller ball to allow the application of a rubberized coating that improves the friction and the stability of the articulated arms. I suggest the use of a small piece of heat shrink wrap 8 mm (0,28 inches) long, 0,27 mm (270 micron) thick and 9 mm (0,4 inches) diameter.
Moreover, it has been recently added the new piece “B&S Joint (thick coated).stl” to allow the use of a thicker heat shrink tube.

The terminal elements of the articulated arms are designed to accommodate different types of accessories:

Alligator Clips

IC Hook Clip Grabbers

Micro SMD Grabber Test Clips

Micro Spring Probes

Micro Clip Probes

Zeroplus type Probes

Tektronix type Probes

There is also a terminal element that can accommodate a LED to illuminate a particular area of the PCB. I used a super bright white LED (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/531) connected to a 9V battery using a 220 Ohm resistor.

The proposed Alligator Clip is mounted on its terminal element using a screw that is mounted in the hole accessible from the spherical socket. Using Alligator Clips might be useful when you need to hold a circuit board having quite large electronic components that do not allow the mounting of the PCB between the anchor blocks of the base.

The terminal element designed for Micro Test Clips can keep up to two grabbers, one per side, so allowing the connection of multiple test clips to IC pins very close to each other.

Each part of this kit should be printed exactly as it appears in the preview image, in this way you get the best orientation of each piece with the minimal use of support structures.

HOT UPDATE! (April 18th 2016) Added two new printable accessories:

E-Z-Hook Probe Adapter (Holder_E-Z-Hook.stl)

50mm Magnifying Glass Adapter (Holder_Magnifying_Glass.stl)

License: Creative Commons – Attribution – Non-Commercial

Tags: Arms, Articulated, Ball_and_Socket, Electronics, Grabber, Hook, PCB_Holder, printed_circuit_board, Terminals, Test_Clip, third_hand