[GuShH] wrote a guide for making your own rosin-based solder flux. According to [Stephen] — who sent in the tip and tried this method himself — is works well, it’s cheap, but you will need to clean up a bit after using it on a PCB.
Only two ingredients are necessary to make your own liquid or paste flux: rosin and a solvent. The rosin being weighed in the image above, can be found from several sources. We looked in on the same method quite recently where flux was sourced from a music store. But [GuShH] suggests that if you can find some from a hardware store it is better because the music store variety tends to be ‘molten’ and doesn’t work quite as well.
Proportions are listed on his guide for light, medium, and heavy concoctions. He recommends isopropyl alcohol as the solvent, and has stored the flux in a clear dropper bottle. We’re fans of needle bottles and asked about sourcing them in a previous post (linked in the paragraph above) so check that comments section if you don’t know where to get one.
One of the really cool things about the Nintendo Wii when it was first introduced was the ability to play GameCube games on it. This made it a no-brainer for a lot of folks to upgrade. But as the heyday of legacy systems fades into history, Nintendo decided this was no longer a selling point and stopped populating those components. The good new is, if you don’t mind a lot of PCB soldering you can add your GameCube bits to a modern Wii motherboard.
[Deadlyfoez] launched a raffle to raise enough money to buy a new version of the hardware (we guess the raffle prize is the modded console). He then proceeded to solder on four GameCube controller ports and a memory card reader. There are also a number of passive surface mount components that need to be added. But as the video after the break shows, once in place the functionality reappears on the software side.
Continue reading “Grab your iron and add GameCube back to the Wii”
Kids learn better if they’re engaged in the topic at hand. [Todd] found something that has his son just begging to practice his spelling words each night. He converts them all to Morse code and taps each out on the Morse code practice station they built together. To start off Todd connected the keyer to his Fluke 87 meter, using the continuity tester to sound a beep each time the key is depressed. But this is just a temporary setup until [Todd] could help guide his young one through some circuit design and assembly.
The replacement is based on a 555 timer. They grabbed an electronics project book and found the schematic along with a Morse code primer. With parts in hand [Todd] films as his son hones his soldering skills with each connection. The finished project uses the timer chip to produce the audio frequency heard from the on-board speaker. If you’ve never had the joy of teaching a kid how to solder, you’re going to love seeing the video.
Continue reading “You might be a geeky dad if: your kids practice spelling in Morse code”
[rue_mohr] is building a hexapod robot, and that meant he needed to tin a whole bunch of ribbon cables with solder. Using a soldering iron for this task would take far too long, so he built a homebrew solder pot to tin all those wires quickly. While [rue] was able to get solder on all those wires quickly, we need to question his method – he used a halogen light and reflector to melt all that solder.
The build began with a recycled halogen light fixture. After taking apart the entire assembly, [rue] reassembled it into something resembling a solder pot; a concave reflector and halogen light bulb sit perfectly flat on the table, ready to accept pieces of solder.
After throwing the switch and putting a few bits of solder in the reflector, the solder pot surprisingly worked. [rue] was able to quickly tin his ribbon cables, and the halogen bulb and reflector didn’t break yet.
This is one of the least safe solder pots we’ve ever seen – the bulb could easily explode, and melted solder could come pouring out of the reflector at any time. [rue] is aware of the safety implications and make sure to wear a pair of goggles. If it works though, we really can’t complain.
Check out the video of [rue]’s solder pot (with an awesome temperature indicator light right in the middle of a pool of solder) in action after the break.
Continue reading “Homebrew solder pot is too dangerous even for us”
We’re kind of surprised we haven’t covered this concept before since it only uses techniques that are commonly avaialable for home PCB fabrication. [Ray] made this solder paste stencil out of a sheet of copper using the same etching techniques you would for a circuit board. He designed and printed a resist pattern, with toner everywhere except the places where there should be holes in the stencil. He transferred the toner to the copper using an iron.
The difference here should be obvious; this a thin copper sheet with no substrate. Because of that, you must protect the copper surface before etching. he covered the entire thing, both sides, in packing tape. After that it’s into the Cupric Chloride bath to dissolve the exposed parts. Once the tape and toner has been removed you can scree a precise amount of solder paste onto your boards.
This isn’t for everyone, but if you’re assembling many boards it’s not a bad approach. If the stencil is no longer used it can be recycled, but we do wonder how corrosion on the copper will affect the stencil’s performance.
The idea for this technique came to [Ray] from a guide that’s been around for years.
[Eberhard] wanted his own reflow oven but didn’t really want to mess around with the internals that control the heating element. He put his microcontroller programming experience to work and came up with an add-on module that controls the oven by switching the mains power.
The image above shows a board in the midst of the reflow process. If you’re not familiar, solder paste usually comes with a recommended heat curve for properly melting the slurry. [Eberhard] managed to fit three of these temperature profiles into his firmware.
The ATtiny45 which makes up the controller samples oven temperature via the thermistor seen next to the board. A PID algorithm is used to calculate when to switch mains power on and off via a relay. One button and one LED make up the controller’s user interface for scrolling through the three preprogrammed temperature profiles.
It looks like it works great, see for yourself in the clip after the break.
Continue reading “Toaster oven reflow control without modifying the oven”
[Jack Gassett] is developing a new breakout board for an FPGA. The chip comes in a ball grid array (BGA) package which is notoriously difficult to solder reliably. Since he’s still in development, the test boards are being assembled in his basement. Of the first lot of four boards, only one is functional. So he’s setting out to rework the bad boards and we came along for the ride.
To reflow the surface mount components he picked up a cheap pancake griddle. The first thing [Jack] does is to heat up the board for about two minutes, then pluck off the FPGA and the FTDI chips using a vacuum tweezers. Next, the board gets a good cleaning with the help of a flux pen, some solder wick, and a regular soldering iron. Once clean, he hits the pads with solder paste from a syringe and begins the soldering process. BGA packages and the solder paste itself usually have manufacturer recommended time and temperature guidelines. [Jack] is following these profiles using the griddle’s temperature controller knob and the timer on an Android phone. In the video after the break you can see that he adjusts the timing based on gut reaction to what is going on with the solder. After cleaning up some solder bridges on the FTDI chip he tested it again and it works!
Continue reading “Reworking Ball Grid Array circuit board components at home”