Fail of the Week: Oil Expeller and Hasty PCB Layout


This Fail of the Week is a twofer. On the left we have an attempt to heat the output of an oil expeller. After a bountiful crop of sunflower seeds [Mark] picked up the oil expeller to make is own cooking oil. He tried to use the soldering gun as a heat source but after just a couple of minutes of on-time it melted the soldering iron’s plastic case. He’s looking for an alternate heat source but we wonder why he can’t just ditch the plastic and bolt this to a heat sink?

To the right is the product of hasty PCB layout. [Andrew] needed a USB to GPIO converter to use with his Android stick. He had built several of these before, etching the PCBs himself. But now he didn’t have the time to do his own etching and figured he could lay out a revision of the board and have it fabbed. Turns out this isn’t the time saver he had hoped. Problems with the location of silk screen labels aren’t a huge deal, but the ‘V’ in the board where his USB connector is located blocked any cable he tried to plug in. A bit of cutting solved that but he also had to deal with spring terminals whose leads wouldn’t fit the diameter of holes drilled in the board. We always print out the Gerbers and compare the footprints to our parts before submitting to the fab house. But we’re not sure we would have caught the USB cable clearance issue doing it that way. What checklists do you use before submitting your own boards?

2013-09-05-Hackaday-Fail-tips-tileFail of the Week is a Hackaday column which runs every Wednesday. Help keep the fun rolling by writing about your past failures and sending us a link to the story – or sending in links to fail write ups you find in your Internet travels.

Fubarino Contest: Hackaday In Your Soldering Iron


Besides a coffee pot, the most important tool on the electronic tinkerer’s workbench is the soldering iron. Surprisingly, though, we haven’t seen many people build their own soldering stations. [Pjkim] did, and went so far as to include an easter egg for our Fubarino contest.

A few years ago, [Pjkim] received a free Soldering Iron Driver from Dangerous Prototypes. This awesome kit provides everything you could want out of a soldering iron – USB and serial data logging, a 2×16 display, compatibility with a whole bunch of solder tips, and it’s completely reprogrammable.

[Pjkim]‘s task for the Fubarino contest was to put an easter egg somewhere in the soldering iron. He did that by having the Hackaday URL display when the iron is ready for use. This isn’t the only firmware modification, either: the new firmware also debounces the button presses and adds auto repeat.

If you’re looking for some code, [Pjkim] put everything up on the Hackaday forums. There’s also a video showing off the easter egg available below.

This is an entry in the Fubarino Contest for a chance at one of the 20 Fubarino SD boards which Microchip has put up as prizes!

[Read more...]

Under-bench timed outlets won’t let you leave the iron on

When we used to use firesticks (the pen style plug-in soldering irons) it was always a worry that we might leave them on. But now we use a base unit which has an indicator light to serve as a reminder. Still, [FoxxTexx] isn’t taking any chances and instead built this timer-based outlet which kills the power automatically.

The parts are all pretty common. The timer itself is the same form factor as a light switch and is commonly used for heat lamps or hot tub jets. It feeds the outlet next to it by way of the indicator switches to the right. We like the use of the switches but since mains voltage is still running through them we would suggest using a three-gang box and mounting them on the cover plate so that all the wiring is contained. If done this way you could just have the electrical box siting on your bench, but it is a nice touch to have it mounted this way.

We’ve long been proponents of a timer system. Back when we put together our Hacker’s Soldering Station we just used a plug-in timer unit.

DIY battery powered soldering iron

When it’s time to get started on a project and put our irons in the fire, we usually reach for a nice Weller or Hakko soldering iron. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible when we’re soldering something away from a wall outlet. Portable soldering irons usually range from slightly to completely terrible, and [Adam] thought he could do better. He put together an Instructable for a portable battery-powered soldering iron that’s extremely easy to build.

[Adam]‘s project mounts a standard Radio Shack soldering iron tip in an E-10 flashlight bulb socket. Power is provided by 6 Volts of AA batteries, with a small switch added for the obvious safety concerns. Although [Adam] could have added a small project box, he chose to build his entire project around a piece of wood. This is an excellent choice in our humble opinion; wood doesn’t melt, has very low thermal conductivity, and anyone using this iron should be smart enough to turn it off if the handle starts smoking.

While this isn’t the best possible portable soldering iron (we’re partial to the disposable-lighter-fueled torches with a soldering iron attachment), it’s much better than the ColdHeat soldering iron that received consistently bad reviews.

Edit: [Adam] updated his build to be a little safer after this story was posted. We changed the original title pic to reflect this; here’s the old one.

Hackaday Links: September 15, 2011

Open-source Mars rover

[Seth King] wasn’t satisfied with current robotics platforms that don’t work well outdoors. He started the Open Rover Kickstarter with the end goal of having a 6-wheel robot with a rocker-bogie suspension just like the Mars landers. We’re sure it’ll be an interesting platform.

Adding a Flash to a key fob video camera

[doctormord] picked up a key fob “spycam” and was surprised that there wasn’t any onboard illumination. Then again, that would probably defeat the purpose of the “spycam.” A transistor, LED and resistor later (translation), he had a camera with a light. Pics here.

Automated WEP cracking

This is a video of [Elliott] using his autocrack script to crack a WEP wi-fi network. It took [Elliott] less than a minute to crack a network he set up. Lesson: don’t use WEP.

Adding wi-fi to a laptop the fast way

This laptop used to have a broken Mini-PCIe wi-fi adapter. [Mikko] fixed the wireless by taking out the old card and hooking up a USB wi-fi adapter. He soldered the USB leads directly to the back of an internal USB port and used hot glue “to prevent bad things from happening.” A very easy, fast, and cheap way of fixing a broken wireless adapter.

Han Solo’s soldering iron

When [Craig] was 15, he broke the Bakelite casing of his father’s soldering iron. Being a good son, he fixed it by gutting his original Star Wars Han Solo blaster. Nice, but not as great as Starsong from My Little Pony.

DIY vaporizer

Here’s a DIY vaporizer build. It uses a 30 watt Radio Shack soldering iron as a heat source that is regulated with a common dimmer switch. This is done by removing the soldering tip and replacing it with threaded rod attached to a brass pipe fitting assembly. This is housed inside of a Mason jar with a copper pipe for air intake and another for output. Not surprisingly the creator tipped us off anonymously, saying that this a “smoking accessory”. A bit of searching and we came across this Wikipedia article about a Volcano Vaporizer which sheds light on what one is used for.

We don’t condone using illicit substances. But even more so, we’re skeptical about breathing through this thing because of the warning that [Anon] included about noxious vapors put off by the epoxy putty when it heats up. Still, it’s an interesting build so we though we’d share.

Solder station hack adds temperature control

Take that cheap fire stick you call a soldering iron and turn it into a real tool. [Giorgos Lazaridis] turned his 30 watt soldering iron into a temperature controlled soldering station by adding a thermistor just above the tip to monitor how hot things are getting. A MAX6675 takes care of the thermocouple and shoots a digital temperature value off to the PIC 16F88 which controls the unit by taking user input from a potentiometer and displaying the settings on an HD44780 character display. His use of a dissected ‘wall wort’ inside of the ATX power supply carcass used as the case for the station is a clever hack. See it melt some metal in the clip after the break.

This makes a nice upgrade to our solder station guide, which had a temperature controlled iron but lacked the sensor and automation seen here. [Read more...]