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2017 Holiday Gifts for Engineers

Dec. 14, 2017
The holidays are coming, and here are some great gifts you may want to add to your list. (And be sure to sign up for a chance to win one of these great gifts!)

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Here are some gift suggestions for engineers, though it’s likely even non-engineers would appreciate many of them as well. And if you’ve been good this year and you’re feeling lucky, you can enter a contest to win one of these gifts!

Locomotive and Tender Kit

The Locomotive and Tender model from UGears consists of 443 laser-cut wooden parts that go to together without glue. There’s also a 12-band rubber-band motor that can push the train about 15 ft. Several parts also go into motion when the train moves, including the asynchronous pistons and valves, spinning wheels and gears, and a series of moving rods, linkages, and cranks. The cab is also fully detailed with a retractable ladder, boiler trim, instrument panel, and an opening coal tender. The locomotive measures 12.3 in. long, the tender is 6.3 in. long, and they come with about 2 ft. of track The manufacturer says the train kit can be completed in one sitting but notes that the kit is not for really young children; it is recommended for those ages 14 and up. This one-time Kicksarter project now retails for about $80.

Fluke 3000 FC Digital Multimeter

This lightweight (12 oz.) digital mutlimeter from Fluke Corp. gives true-RMS voltage and current measurements, 6,000-count resolution, manual and automatic ranging, and provides frequency, capacitance, resistance, continuity, and diode measurements. In addition, the Fluke 3000 FC provides 0.09% basic accuracy, a digital display showing up to three secondary measurements from remote modules, and a bright white backlight. The handheld unit has been independently tested as safe for use in CAT IV 600V/CAT III 1000 V environments, and it has all the features needed to troubleshoot and repair many problems in electrical and electronic devices. The meter works with Fluke’s Connect system. This means the meter can serve as a mobile hub, displaying and recording readings from up to three measurement modules up to 69 ft. away. The Fluke 3000 measures ac voltage (from 0-to-600 mV to 0-to-1,000 V), dc voltage from 0-to-600 mV to 0-to-1,000 V, resistance 0-to-600 Ω to 0-to-50 MΩ), and capacitance 0-to-1,000-nF to 0-to-9,999 µF), ac and dc current (from 0-to-60 mA to 0-to-400 mA), and frequency (0-to-99.99 Hz to 0-to 99.99-kHz). It retails for about $270.

Bosch GLM 35 Laser Tape Measure

This device from Bosch takes some of the hassle out of taking measurements. A laser is used to measure distance (length) as well as area and volume since the laser can be sent in two or three orthogonal directions. It can handle ranges from 6 in. to up to 120 ft. and is accurate to within 1/16th of an inch. Measurements can be added to or subtracted from. It will also do continuous measurement, letting users move the device while taking readings. It can take and give readings in inches only, feet only, inches and feet, or meters. The device is powered by a pair of AAA batteries (included) and its backlit LCD display is said to be easy to read and will last up to four hours on a new set of batteries. It will shut itself off after five minutes if no controls are activated. It carries an IP54 rating, meaning it can withstand dust and splashing water.

Motorola T605 H2O Two-Way Radios

These two radios from Motorola are waterproof and let users talk and listen to someone up to 35 miles away over 22 distinct channels. There are also 121 privacy codes to keep conversations confidential. They are programmed with 11 built-in weather channels (seven are NOAA), and will notify users with an auditory or vibrating weather alert when that option is selected. The units pick up and transmit in the UHF band (462 to 476 MHz) and can be switched to hands-free operation. Each has a water-activated white LED flashlight—and the units float—as well as a red light for use at night so that users don’t lose their night vision. The walkie talkies will work with three rechargeable AAA alkaline batteries or rechargeable NiMH batteries (included, along with a USB charging cable that works off car power outlets and a cable charging adaptor with a duel micro USB connectors).

eTrex Touch 35t Garmin

This GPS/GLoNASS-based navigator from Garmin includes a three-axis tilt-compensated compass and a barometric barometer, so there are no excuses for getting lost. GLONASS is the Russian version of GPS but is said to lock onto a user’s position faster than GPS. The handheld unit also features a 2.6-in. 65K color TFT sunlight-readable touchscreen and preloaded TOPO 100K maps. It has a microSD card slot, 8GB of internal memory, and will work with TOPO 24K maps, BlueChart g2 preloaded cards, and City Navigator NT map data. Users can share waypoints, tracks, and routes with other Garmin users wirelessly, as well as get notifications of emails and texts from Bluetooth Smart cell phones. And if you like treasure hunting, the 35t comes loaded with 250,000 geocaches from, you just have to upload the GPX file. Free BaseCamp software lets adventurers plan out hikes using 2D or 3D topographic maps. The 5.6-oz. device takes two AA batteries (not included), which lets the device work for up to 176 hours. It will also get you from here to there in your car as it maps the turns and roads for you. It retails for about $350.

Skilsaw Sidewinder Circular Saw

This Skilsaw plug-in circular saw features all-magnesium construction for lightweight (8.8 lb.) and improved cooling. The dual-field 15-A motor spins the blade at up to 5,300 rpm and can make a 2.44-inch cut when cutting at 90 deg. and a 1.5-inch cut when working at 45 deg. Users can adjust cut depth on this right-handed tool. The blade can be tilted a maximum of 56 deg. The motor also has dual blowers to ensure sawdust is kept clear of the cutting area for safety and boasts best-in-class torque for faster cuts. The saw comes with a 24-tooth Diablo blade and a multi-function wrench. It retails for about $100.

Coast Dual-Powered Flashlight

The Coast A22R flashlight runs on either an AA battery (included), or on a same-size rechargeable battery contained in a cylinder along with a micro-USB charger. Two rechargeables are included so one can be recharging while the other powers the light. You can also recharge a battery inside the 5-in. flashlight through a micro-USB port hidden behind a sliding, locking rear collar. The flashlight’s lens collar slides to change its focus, which can be locked in anywhere from a spot to a beam. There’s also on/off and brightness controls, letting it go from a high of 340 lumens for 195 minutes down to 36 lumens for 10 hours. It comes with ac and dc chargers, belt clip, sheath and wall mount. Even when off, the smooth, easy-to-clean stainless-steel case of this deluxe LED flashlight draws attention. The flashlight sells for $140.

CyberPower Surge Box

The hardcover book shape of the CyberPower B6010MGY Essential Surge Protector is a tasteful departure from the usual surge strips. It features a row of five tightly spaced protected outlets along its top-front edge, a row of three transformer-spaced outlets on the top-rear edge, and a lighted 15-A breaker switch between. It boasts 900 J of MOV surge protection, EMI/RFI filtering, protection of the breaker against abrupt power-line events, and a durable metal. It’s backed by a $50,000 Connected Equipment Guarantee. Keyhole slots on its broad bottom face let users easily quasi-permanently mount it anywhere within its 10-ft. power cord’s reach. It puts power protection at the bench, behind the desk, or anywhere near your gear without the usual elongated footprint. It sells for about $29.

Grundig Executive Traveler World Radio

Inside the craftsman-stitched leather cover, about the size of a paperback mystery novel, the compact Grundig Executive Traveler radio brings you AM (520 to 1710 KHz), FM (87.5 to 108 MHz), longwave (150 to 285 KHz) and shortwave (3150 to 21950 KHz) radio signals from around the world. It has a bright orange display with both manual and automatic digital tuning and enough memory to hold up to 500 stations. A flip-out panel shows the time zones across a world map and gives you access to a 24-position time-zone selector switch. You can listen through headphones or its built-in speaker. Power comes from four AA cells or its micro USP port. It also offers a sleep timer and a radio or buzzer alarm. A telescoping antenna helps tune in FM stations and the display shows RDS data on the station’s call letters, style of music, song title, artist, and more. It costs about $90.

iKeyp Pro Digital Safe

There are both mechanical and electronic features of interest in the portable iKeyp Pro digital safe. A pair of wings driven by a hidden rack and gear mechanism you control from inside the safe extend from either side of the safe. They let wary owners jam it into tight spaces in a medicine chest or shelf to make it difficult to remove. A front keypad accepts user-programmed combinations and it comes with a cylindrical metal security key as a backup. You can remotely unlock it for others, but only if they first press any key on the safe’s keypad to wake it up. The chamber can hold a passport, car keys, money, jewelry, a pistol, several hard drives, prescription medications. or other valuables. It sells for about $150.

Ridgid Cordless Palm Driver

This quarter-inch Ridgid Cordless Palm Impact Driver is shaped dramatically differently from other power screwdrivers and quickly justifies its differences. Without the long, quasi-cylindrical “salami” geometry of conventional drivers, there’s less torque on the operator’s hands. Instead, a sculpted palm grip makes for more comfortable operation for longer periods. And there’s no trigger. Pressure on the tip activates the motor and the amount of pressure determines its speed. In addition to a rotational drive, it’s also an impact driver and can apply up to 400 in.-lb. of torque at its bit. A front white LED headlight ably illuminates its work target. It can work from any of several Ridgid 12V Li-ion batteries. Even the bit holder is a tool-less quick-load design. In short, it does more work and leaves you less tired. It is priced at about $100.

Weller Digital Soldering Station

Modern components are raising the need for precise, predictable performance in soldering equipment both in business and for hobbyists. The Weller WX1010N Soldering Station comes with a slender 120-W soldering pencil but supports all Weller WX-series soldering pencils, giving you the option of bringing in substitutes when you need them. The ESD-safe digital control station delivers up to 200 W for precisely proscribed tip temperatures of 150° to 850°F with good accuracy and great stability. Its main display is a chemical-resistant and temperature-resistant capacitive LCD touchscreen with a wide viewing angle. The soldering pencil rest stand also holds a brass tip cleaner in an easily accessible compartment. It lists for about $615.

Yamaha Keyboard

The portable, battery-operated (eight AAA cells) Yamaha PSRE-253 keyboard offers 61 full-size keys. It supports 32-note polyphony; this means, among other things, that playing a new note won’t cut off notes or chords you’d like to sustain. It boasts 385 voices, letting it mimic a grand piano, a drum-kit of percussion instruments, or any of hundreds of other musical sounds. You can bring in band backing tracks in any of 100 auto-accompaniment styles. Four special effects are available. It has an adjustable metronome and a sheet-music stand. It plays in stereo to a headphone, through jacks, or through its 2.5 W/channel stereo amplifier driving its pair of 4.7-in. speakers. It lists for around $200.

Apple iPad mini 4

This Apple iPad mini 4, which is being supplied by PI (Physik Instrumente), runs iOS 11, said to be one of the most advanced, intuitive, and secure mobile operating systems in the world. It features enhanced apps and features like the new Dock, Drag and Drop, multitasking, Slide Over, Split View, and Picture in Picture. Its 7.9-in. retina display boasts 2048 x 1535 resolution at 326 ppi. It connects to fast Wi-Fi and cellular networks, so you can download content, browse the web, and share documents from virtually anywhere. It also uses Touch ID technology that turns your fingerprint into a password you can’t forget. It lets users unlock the device with just a touch and keeps personal data secure even if the iPad is shared. It can also be used for some serious engineering. Check out the video below of an iPad controlling a PI (Physik Instrumente) hexapod, or more accurately, a six-axis parallel positioning device, the Stewart Platform 6-DoF Motion System


For Engineers Only

Here are some gift suggestions that would likely appeal only to engineers, though a home-repair or maker maven might also appreciate one of them as well.

Prestolite DC Motor

This totally enclosed 12 Vdc, 4.5-in. motor from AMETEK (MUE-6302) spins at 1,700 to 4,600 hp and generates 3.4 hp (2,540 W). It is a series-wound four-pole motor with dual bearings permanently lubed with a high-temperature grease. The motor can be unidirectional or bidirectional for pumps and traction applications. It features an IP54 enclosed frame, the housing is covered with powder-coat paint, and it can be face- or foot-mounted. It is UL listed and carries Class F insulation. The motor is typically used in car and passenger lifts, snow plows, agricultural equipment, pumps and powerpacks, and aerial work platforms. The motor retails for about $220.

Lamb Brushed Vacuum Motor

This 120-V (50/60Hz) two-stage Lamb vacuum motor from AMETEK features through-flow discharge and can generate a vacuum of 100 in. of water. The fan housing measures 5.7 in. while its overall height is 6.25 in. It has a maximum current rating of 10 A and maximum air power of 447 W. Air flow goes through a 2-in. orifice at up to 122 cubic ft. per minute. The motor has typically been used in central vacuum systems, as well as backpack, utility, and other vacuums. It is also said to fit some Tristar and Meile vacuums. The vacuum motor lists for $70.

Nautilair Brushless Blower

The 7.6-in. Nautilair variable speed blower (150145-50) runs on 110 to 240 Vac. The brushless motor is compact and quiet. Speed is adjusted with a dc control (0 to 10 V) that actively varies blower performance (eliminating a need for complex air intake damper systems), internal electronics convert ac input to dc, and blowers typically operate in excess of 20,000 hours virtually maintenance-free. The brushless dc blowers can be used to deliver a measured air/fuel mixture to gas-fired burners for optimized combustion and reduced nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide emissions. They can also be used in commercial and residential boilers, foodservice equipment, kilns, and fuel cells, or serve as alternatives to conventional and two-speed blowers, intake dampers on fixed-speed blowers, and inverter-driven variable-speed blowers. The blower retails for about $1,330.

The Selection of High Precision Drives

This book from the maxon academy is intended to provide readers with a practical approach to solving basic micro-drive problems. The text includes numerous examples of fundamental drive problems and solutions ranging from diaphragm pumps to lead-screw drives and their associated controls.

This book was published because permanent-magnet dc motors play an ever-increasing role in the push toward miniaturization. New designs demand higher performance and more functions in increasingly smaller packages. Selecting individual drive components is becoming more complex as a result of these criteria.  More and more OEM designers are being presented with system integration issues unfamiliar to even the most seasoned design engineers. This book attempts to familiarize them with those issues.

Onyx One 3D Printer

The Onyx One 3D printer from Markforged lets users manufacture parts out of onyx, a mix of chopped carbon fiber with nylon that has twice the strength and stiffness of pure plastic. Parts printed out of onyx can have carbon-black finishes that need little or no processing. The build volume is 320 × 132 × 154 mm and it comes with an 800-cc spool of onyx and Eiger software for importing drawings of devices to be built and slicing them for high-strength printing. There’s also a built in touchscreen that lets users connect to WiFi, start prints, and manage the queue. The machine has resolutions down to µ100 in the Z axis. The machine only takes about 15 minutes to set up, then users can start printing. It has standard controls for selecting options on layer height, in-fill pattern (a choice of triangular, hexagonal, or rectangular), and wall thickness options, as well as a range of editing tools. There’s also an “Internal View” feature that lets users adjust these settings to add material where needed or remove it where it isn’t. The Onyx One can be upgraded to an Onyx Pro, which lets users add fiberglass reinforcements to parts. The One costs $3,500.

And remember, if you’ve been good this year and you’re feeling lucky, you can enter our contest to win one of these gifts!

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