Ralph Isaak is a Pocking, Germany-based design engineer interested in industrial diesel engines, Raspberry Pi, AVRs, and much more. His neat and tidy electronics workspace — or “hobby lab,” as he refers to it — features a variety of test and measurement equipment, as well as a handy drilling machine. Read on to learn about his garage-turned-lab. 
A workspace for a design engineer
Ralph Isaak can get a lot done in his workspace. Soldering, prototyping, and testing electronics are all possible.
What do you do for work?
I am an electric design engineer, working on electric/electronic parts on industrial diesel engines.
You’ve had your workspace for 15 years. Where is it located?
In a separate building. A former car garage modified as a workshop.
When you built your workspace, what were your requirements and goals?
A drilling machine and a workbench to repair electronics and electric hand-held machines.
What interests you? What sort of projects have you worked on in your workspace?
My former projects: MIDI switch to split data stream onto several synthesizers.  Lights controller with MIDI interface, because I'm a hobby musician. Digital I/O expansion (I2C) for Raspberry Pi. Analog input board (SPI) for Raspberry Pi. Home automation controller with ATmega32, because I like all that microcontroller stuff. And a nixie clock with Bluetooth interface. (I saved some Nixies.) My current project is CAN-bus-to-Wi-Fi gateway with ESP8266/ESP32. It’s something that’s related to my profession/work.
Tell us about the tools and equipment you have in your workspace.
I have the following: a Weller WECP 20 Soldering Station (30 years old); a power supply and function generator (built when I was a trainee 30 years ago); a digital multimeter; double power supply (self-made); a SmartScope combined with EXOPC Tablet (XUBUNTU Linux); Goldstar 20-MHz oscilloscope (25 years, barely used now); and a drilling and turntable machine for mechanical parts.
What do you consider to be your most important piece of equipment or tool?
The most important, of course, is the soldering station. Most appreciated is the drilling machine, for creating display frames and consoles.
Anything you really want or need for your workspace?
I'm dreaming of a 3-D printer. 
Isaak's milling machine
A drilling machine is a nice addition to a home lab.
Do you have a favorite electronics-related project?
I read an article in Elektor about Annex Toolkit/Basic for ESP8266/32. I jumped on that train immediately because I'm an 80s 8-bit guy who grew up with basic programming. In the last 10 years, I have worked a lot with AVR microcontrollers, improved my knowledge, and built some engine simulators at my job.
Can you share any details about what you are currently working on?
A low-cost basic diagnostic system for CAN bus-capable (J1939) engine controllers. It is a CAN-WiFi bridge showing engine data and faults on the smartphone. Like OBD devices for cars, but for off-highway engines. It's a project that's closely related to my job.
Do you have a specific project that you would love to take on?
A voice-controlled robot with omnidirectional gear and a webcam. It's for my little nephew. He's a robot fan. We had a Raspberry Pi-powered proto (without voice control), but we crushed the gear.
Any advice or words of encouragement for other engineers or makers?
Open your mind. The rest will follow.
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