Basic voltage and current measurements from a simple multimeter are adequate for DC electronics work, but when you deal with inductors, an LCR (inductance, capacitance, resistance) meter becomes essential. Siborg’s new Smart Tweezers combine an ergonomic design with a great feature set, targeted squarely at the surfacemount market.
Smart Tweezers combine the meter and both leads into one simple package. But unlike logic probes (which share the Tweezers’ handheld form factor), there’s no trailing wire to supply power — the whole meter is driven by internal LR44 button cells. Not only does that lead to a hassle-free design, it also means you can measure any point in the circuit regardless of its DC potential to ground. And if you’re just sorting junkbox parts, there’s no need to haul out a separate power supply.
The real magic, however, is in the software. The Smart Tweezers automatically figure out what kind of component they’re connected to, and select the appropriate measurement mode. Two readings appear: one for the component’s primary characteristic — capacitance for example — and one for its secondary (parasitic) component, like equivalent series resistance. With so many of today’s designs requiring low-ESR caps, this could be a major timesaver. There’s also an “analog” bargraph along the bottom of the display, and an “oscilloscope” mode, so you don’t have to watch rapidly changing numbers on the display to get an idea of what’s happening in an active circuit.
Smart Tweezers are at home in a surface-mount environment, though they’re useful for through-hole components too. (The capacitance range goes to 500µF, well beyond what you’ll find in SMT packages!) While they can be useful on live circuits, they’re only good up to 8 volts, so perhaps powering down that boost converter before testing would be a good idea.
Since the orientation of the probes is fixed with respect to the display, the polarity of diodes and voltages is displayed in an innovative way, by placing + and – symbols next to the probes — or showing a diode symbol on the display, flipped the appropriate direction. Also, since the probes’ electrical characteristics are known, there’s no need for expensive (and awkward!) Kelvin clips to get an accurate reading.
A set of Smart Tweeezers will lighten your wallet to the tune of US$300 — they’re made in Canada! — but that’s not unreasonable for a quality LCR meter. My wish list just got one item longer!