PCBite: Probes that hold themselves

November 14, 2019 | 08:27
A few weeks ago, we presented in these columns an invention worth of interest for any electronicist only has two hands, but lots of measurements to make on a board being tested. We called this tool “The missing link between crocodile clip and contact point”.

No mechanical attachment

For the electronicist, the idea of not having to hold his test probes is attractive, but he will rightly question the quality of the electrical contacts. This last point is already a known issue with crocodile clips and wire-grabbers. What would you say to even more mechanical attachment? Can an electromechanical contact device be both flexible and stable? Immobilising a board on a workbench is easy with the aid of a “third hand”. This is another pair of arms that holds measuring probes firmly, but without restraint. The idea of a “fourth” hand which, with precision, holds the measuring probes against test points without attachment or losing contact, is very clever, but the seasoned electronicist, with furrowed brow, will want to see it working first.

Nothing in the hands, nothing in the mouth

This is where Roger, one of our faithful readers, comes in. He bought a PCBite in the Elektor shop. Without hiding his initial skepticism, he tests these gooseneck arm probe holders for Kainka Labs. He films the immobilization of the spring-loaded probe tips held in place against the pin being tested. And then he measures.
Will the stiffness of the flexible arms holding the probe tip be enough to hold it in place and make a reliable contact? Will the magnetic force that holds the base of the arms and determines the force applied be enough to resist the pressuer of the contact springs? Is the whole assembly that holds the board to be tested, the probes and the base really stable?

Is the PCBite really worth its price?

These questions are very justified and are answered in this video, which I recommend watching. It’s not long, and starts off with Roger replying to more questions no less thorny than the aforementioned ones: given the price of this accessory, is it really worth it?

Mastech MS8911 Tester

You will also find in this video a demonstration of another accessory recommended by Elektor, the Mastech MS8911 tester. The success of this SMD tester has regrettably caused it to go out of stock. At the time of writing (mid-March 2019), the delivery time of the Mastech Tester is abnormally long. This delay does not however affect the availability of the PCBite, which is normal.
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