Robot Building and Multimeters: Recommended Features

Previously, I wrote about the required features of multimeters for robot building. In this article, I will cover other nice-to-have recommended features that are worth paying the extra for. However, if you’re budget is limited, you can stick with a more basic multimeter. The recommended features make the task of robot building easier and more efficient.


Capacitance is an indication of how many electrons can be stored, and is measured in farads. For robotic purposes, it is recommended to have a capacitance range of 0.000000000020 f to 0.01 F. Although most multimeters do have the capacitance feature, most do not have as wide a range.


Diode mode being used to determine LED color

The diode mode is an indication as to how much electrical pressure is needed to turn a semiconductor on, and is measured in volts. For robotic purposes, the diode mode is critical since it can aid us in identifying different types of diodes, and identifying and testing transistors.


Continuity is an indication as to whether or not there is an electrical connection between two different points, and is meas

Using continuity to test electrical connection

ured in ohms. The continuity feature comes in two forms–audible and inaudible. Audible continuity means that a beep is sounded when an electrical connection exists between two points. Inaudible continuity means that you will have to use the resistance setting, in which you must look at the display instead of listening for a beep.


Frequency measurement

Frequency is an indication as to how many times something is happening every second, and is measured in hertz. For robotic purposes, it is recommended to have a frequency range of 0.1 Hz to 50,000,000 Hz. Although some multimeters do have a frequency feature, most do not have as wide a range.

Duty Cycle

Duty cycle is an indication as to how frequently a measurement is high as compared to how frequently a measurement is low, and is measured in percentages. For robotics, the duty cycle measurement is crucial for pulse-width modulation. This feature is usually accessed in the frequency mode. Most multimeters do not have the duty cycle feature.


Transistor test sockets

The transistor mode gives an indication as to the amount of amplification of a transistor by measuring the hFE. By inserting a transistor into the socket holes, you can determine its bipolar nature, whether npn or pnp. If your multimeter does not have a transistor mode, you can use the diode feature to determine the bipolar nature of a transistor.

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