DIY clamp helps with surface mount soldering

Hackaday writer [Gerrit Coetzee] built a simple clamp to aid in surface mount component soldering. This cheap, easily made device uses gravity to hold tiny components in place. The tip of the bolt is pointed, but gently like a ballpoint pen so as not to harm the components with a sharp tip. Roughly position your component, rest the tip of the clamp on its center, then nudge for final positioning. [Gerrit] also points out that this acts as a heat sink, helping to prevent damage to the component if you’re too lethargic with the soldering iron.

It seems like this device has been around in one form or another for quite a long time. But the best ideas do keep on popping up. Another nice tip to go along with this one is the use of a dowel when ironing during toner transfer for your PCBs.

Comments

  1. gantzim says:

    i thought it would be just as good for clamping circuit boards down with the washers so that you could solder easier just tighten down the nut and the board hovers in front of your face while you work

  2. Sariel says:

    this is pretty ingenious. great work.

    btw first

  3. Vaclav says:

    I did exactly same tool with pin on place of screw a long time ago. I am using it to clamp of scope or logic analyzer probe to desired place on PCB. Pin sits on PCB signal way and probe is clamped to pin. Maybe my idea will be useful for somebody too.

  4. addidis says:

    Nice idea, I generally use scotch tape. Tape the part to a piece of tape with a pin exposed align that with the pcb then tack that pin down , remove tape and finish.

  5. BiOzZ says:

    smart but not original … i have something fairly similar to this i got as part of an SMD soldering kit bit it comes in from the top almost like a desklamp in construction

    i can see this having slip problems because it has no grip and its on an angle

    personally i find soldering the board first than using a vacuum tweezer to place the components wile melting the solder to be the best method

  6. addidis says:

    hehehe i suppose this is also useful for thwarting the person who comes in the room screaming and startles you. (its also a mallet)

  7. Ekaj says:

    Why would you need a clamp to hold down an SMT component? This would take forever. You put solder on one pad, set the SMT component in place with tweezers, heat the pad with the pre-applied solder, remove the tweezers. Bam. If you are going to take the time to hold down each component with a clamp like this, I hope you’re either only soldering a few components, or you have a great deal of disposable time!

  8. slipp says:

    pretty cool.

    no slip and non-conductive tip idea:
    – get a fresh pencil (#2)
    – shape eraser into a point by erasing, sanding, or maybe even use a pencil sharpener
    – remove eraser holder (metal cylinder) from pencil while retaining the eraser
    – crimp the holder onto the end of the bolt
    ALT: use the pencil with sharpened eraser in lieu of the bolt

  9. jim says:

    Next time on Hackaday: how to hack wind with paperweights.

  10. Pete says:

    I made a similar device and use it quite often. In this picture it is holding an 8pin socked flush against perfboard upside down to allow for soldering. There are some other pics of tools I use often in the album too.

    http://picasaweb.google.com/mills.pete/Tools#5550239820094579298

  11. jim says:

    And surely there should be an LED and an Arduino hot glued on there, somewhere.

  12. Dave says:

    Useless. If you need to use this crap to solder some resistors and capacitors, you suck at soldering.
    Try using this “tool” to solder an 0402 element.

  13. macegr says:

    Sigh. All the cowboys dismissing this as “useless” must not do very much soldering. After doing ~700 PCBs by hand I’ll acknowledge any trick to make things easier. The setup shown in TFA makes sense because they are soldering a small component to really big pads…hard to keep things from moving around due to surface tension. Probably as easy to use a set of fine tipped tweezers if you add a little solder ahead of time.

    But the clamp method is most useful for IC rework. Fine pitch ICs are easy to solder on new PCB, especially if you have a paste stencil, but if you previously removed the IC it can be tough to balance it on top of all the little solder humps. Removing excess solder is a nice thing to do, but you never get all of it and solder wick sometimes lifts pads. With a clamp, you position the IC at your leisure and then hit it with the iron or hot air, and the constant pressure helps sink all the pins down to the PCB.

    It’s also really handy for large SMD components, like capacitors and inductors, that require a lot of heat to get soldered and are impossible to hold with fingers without burning yourself.

  14. BiOzZ says:

    @macegr
    i have soldered atleast $2,000 worth of SMD components in the past 6 months for various school projects
    this is useless as a simple pair of $15 air tweesers or even a $2 pair of regular tweesers so the job just fine

    if you find SMD soldering to be extremely difficult try
    1) getting a pair of magnifying glasses
    2) work on steady hand exercises
    3) get a hot air gun
    4) make a toaster oven reflow oven

    i find SMD soldering fun but than again im to geeky for my own good

  15. Ekaj says:

    @macegr
    I disagree with pretty much everything you said. Like BiOzZ, I am constantly soldering SMD, and I can tell you that I regularly (and repeatedly!) remove very fine pitch IC’s from boards and have never lifted a pad. It sounds like you are using way too much pressure or heat, or are going the wrong direction with the wick. If you must slide the wick on the pads, slide it in the direction of the trace, towards the dead end. Works great. I can replace a 48TSSOP maybe a minute, including solder removal.

  16. strider_mt2k says:

    I have yet to need one of these when doing SMD.

    I’ll let you know when it happens.

  17. This tool comes in handy for a lot of tasks other than just SMD. It can hold down tabs of weird parts like batteries, stranded wire, unbalanced smd parts (like antennas or switches). It’s also good for holding things together while you glue them. You can also hold a corner of some paper in place if you are trying to align a toner transfer or decal. One advantage of these is that you can tap things into perfect alignment. I dunno, I’ve used tweezers, and I often have to on double sided boards (since these don’t always work when the board wont lay flat). It really doesn’t get easier than this though, especially when it comes to alignment of fine pitch parts.

    Also, if you want a beginner to never ever be afraid of SMD parts, let them use one of these. They can move onto tweezers and steady hands later if they need to. This really makes it stupid easy. Especially for fine pitch. I used to be terrified of SMD and was vehement in my devotion to DIP until the research engineer upstairs let me with one of these.

    If you soldering method requires meditation,steady hand exercises, and a sensei to guide your heart down the one true path it may be above the head of a beginner.

    Also, I just noticed it, but I drew the connection between the small dowel and the large dowel completely wrong. It bothers me. Haha.

  18. tim says:

    Genius !

    Where can i buy one ?

  19. swighton says:

    Careful relying on this to act as a heat sink – the small point touching the plastic case will sink a negligible amount of energy compared to what you’re putting in with the iron.

  20. @swighton, good advice.

  21. macegr says:

    Ekaj: I do a lot of rework on TSSOP and QFN, and while it’s extremely rare that I lift a pad, it only needs to happen once to ruin your day, on a PCB that otherwise has $80 worth of good components. I can solder 0603 freehand all day with no magnifier but it’s dumb not to use simple tricks if they work. It’s not a freaking set of training wheels.

  22. I’ve seen a lot of pads lift even with the right temperature just due to constant soldering/re-soldering. It’s not often that your prototype board works the first time. Sometimes you gotta replace a part or solder a trace wire to a pad far too many times for the copper to remain bonded to the silicon properly. It’s not always due to bad technique.

  23. robomonkey says:

    As a Marylander, I applaud the idea, but he destroyed a crab mallet in the process…..WAH!

  24. Fallen says:

    I do a fair bit of SMT work to. I can see this being handy for DIY stuff…but it’s definitely not the ‘right’ way of doing it. Let’s face it, it takes skill to solder very fine pitch/small SMT parts with tweezers and an iron. I would have found this useful working on the unit gain amplifiers for radar. As there is no solder mask, no pads, just gold plated copper everywhere. and it was a read PITA soldering the parts across the traces(well more like conductive patterns). :P But after a while you develop a nack for it. And if I did use this, I really doubt I could have done the boards as fast as I can now. But for someone doing a project at home, I think it’s a good tool.

  25. Dave says:

    macegr, if you lift pads with wick, that means you don’t know how to use it. The important thing while wicking is to always keep the wick hot and fluxed. If you don’t have flux, solder will have a hard time sticking, if it’s not hot enough, solder won’t melt. And the worst thing ever to do while wicking is to place it onto the pad, heating it with the iron, removing the iron and then pulling on the semi-solidified solder. You will lose some pads along the way.

  26. V_T says:

    Why is it that so many people who are skilled at something seem to think that the same task should be just as easy for everyone? Of course it’s easy for you, you’ve been doing it for a long time or maybe just have an easier time learning that skill than others. Elitist attitudes neither help nor impress anyone.

    Sure, there may be better ways IF you have the experience and skill to utilize those methods. But for beginners, or even veterans who just don’t have the dexterity, tools like this can be a great help.

  27. ch says:

    this might be helpful for beginners, but you can easily work without it.

    when some extra help is needed e.g. to tack the first pad or two, a blunted toothpick and an iron with a tiny bit of extra tinning is much, much faster.

  28. George Johnson says:

    I have to agree with Ekaj and a couple of others here. I made dozens of SMD boards at Siemens, prototypes for computer controlled equipment. Many of which had fine pitch, small parts and high density.

    And ALL you need is some tweezers, and maybe a magnifier.

    I honestly can NOT see using this device. YOu simply grab a part with the tweezers (yes, including chips) and hold it on the pads, one of which has a small dot of solder already added. heat the solder and the let it cool, and the part is held in place.

    No “nudging” or anything is needed. For chips, I add solder “dots” to two opposing corners of the chip, like pin 1 and pin 8 of a 14 pin chip. Then hold the chip in place best you can, solder one pin, then the other, going back and fourth to the soldered pins to adjust as needed.

    Works great, it’s fast, and you get good looking boards.

    Things like this are just silly. Really guys, SMD is NOT that hard!!!

  29. dcj2 says:

    geez people, its a tool. you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to. the fact that *you* don’t find it handy doesn’t invalidate it. get over yourselves already.

  30. I made a similar (if a bit over-engineered!) tool ages ago for exactly this purpose and have found it invaluable –

    http://www.imajeenyus.com/electronics/20080628_pcb_soldering_arm/index.shtml

    It lets me position the part exactly, and leaves both hands free for soldering.

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