Introducing The Solder Sucker 9000

Solder Sucking the Easy Way

Using a regular plunger style solder sucker is tedious at best, and usually not that effective. If you’re trying to salvage components off a PCB, sometimes it can take longer than it’s worth to do — short of reflowing the entire board that is! But what if you had something to desolder individual components faster?

After getting fed up with his cheap plunger-based solder sucker, [electro1622] decided to try a different tactic. He reuses components from old PCBs all the time, so he tried something a bit unorthodox to remove them. Compressed air.

Now let’s just preface this with it will be messy, so you might want to set up a box to catch the removed solder. Simply use your iron of choice to heat up the solder globs holding back your components, and then blast it with compressed air out of a small nozzle. Way faster than a solder sucker.

And if you happen to have an industrial vacuum pump you can take this a step further — with no cleanup required.

[Thanks for the tip Morris!]

73 thoughts on “Introducing The Solder Sucker 9000

  1. my first thought was maybe i could get away with using some of that aerosol style compressed “air” in a can? but then i remembered that’s not air at all and is probably flammable. although soldering irons don’t really spark. still this is a great idea, wish i had a compressor.

          1. there is some horrible entity out there waiting in the shadows, its made up of socks, screws and missing smd parts.

            we thought about running a competition at the hackerspace to see who could make the best stuff out of all the parts they found on the floor, unfortunately most people would have considered it a ploy to get the carpet cleaned…..

        1. The handful of times I’ve dealt with them I never had any issues. Use a flat head screwdriver lined up w/ the opening to push it off, w/ a finger behind the opening to keep it from spinning and from living up to its name.

          1. Yep there the ones. The ones with the holes in the ends that you use a special tool for were called circlips. The ones I called ‘c’ clips are now called ‘e’ clips. Kind of like how ‘c’ clamps are now called ‘g’ clamps.

    1. I once spent about two hours searching for a $4 SMD chip. On wood floor, no less! I never found it, not even when we moved out of that apartment and scrubbed down the floor. I do wonder where it went…

  2. I have a similar but slightly cleaner method. I just whack the board on the table top when the solder has melted and conservation of momentum pulls the solder off. Another method is to hold the board inverted in a vise like you have and heat the solder with a heat gun until it melts. The parts that don’t simply fall off due to gravity can be encouraged by tapping the board.

    1. Can confirm, the little slim-line style ones are garbage, they don’t produce enough continuous vacuum or suction to get the job done. I’d basically written off that this style was ever really up to the task until I used a larger version of one at work.

      I have however encountered a few of the smaller ones that worked better than others, stronger springs I guess and good seals inside. Others I’ve had random issues like the rod that self-cleans the intake becomes misalligned or the plastic inside breaks. It really is a crapshoot with the smaller models.

      1. The smaller ones work relatively well when you clean them occasionally, and dip a few drops of oil on the rubber o-ring. I’m using those often, with average to good results. The plastic ones are usually worse than the metal ones.

      1. Remove the bulb from the iron and the plastic nozzle from the sucker, then slightly file the metal of the bulb connector. Then you can put the iron into a vice and press-fit or just hammer the screw-on aluminum part of the sucker onto the iron. Add some glue or epoxy around the tube to perfect the air seal, screw the plastic body of the sucker back onto the aluminum nozzle disc, and you’re done. IMPORTANT: make sure the aluminum disc is oriented on the iron’s air rod such that when you screw the plastic body of the sucker back on, the sucker’s activation button is pointing where you want it. It’s a pain in the ass to redo.

  3. Strictly for salvage work!
    Any splatter on any board anywhere in the room is doom. Then there is the hazmat problem. If children are anywhere around, this mess tracks well on shoes better on bare feet. Lead!
    A offshot of working with player pianos. I made a suction bellows to step on and hosed it to one of the plunger type heated irons. A filter of tiny holes keeps most crap in the former piston chamber not in the hose-bellows.
    Hollow hot tip suction, always more vac at foot. No mess.

  4. That’s a single sided board in the video. Good luck with anything with through plates using that method. I needed to desolder some 20 pin led matrix display modules (plastic modules and through hole) the other day – in a tightly fitting plated board. My desoldering machines couldn’t pull it all out round the pins (metcal gun nor adcola vacuum iron) and hot air just couldn’t muster the spread. In the end I used a solder pot and a pair of tweezers – and worked fast. Only lost one in the end as I dropped it in the pot.

  5. While I understand the need for “something, just something! anything to help me remove this component!”, this method which i tried to a much higher evolution level|(a spiral tube wrapped around a 100W heater attached to an air compressor, trigger, etc, that blew a burst or continuous 1-2mm stream of over 400 C air) has a serious disadvantage: it covers the bottom of the parts with a film of solder that you have to painstakingly remove at great time and pcb cleaner expense.

  6. He must have a pretty awful desoldering pump if this seems like a better idea. A decent one kept clean and lubricated would eat those joints for breakfast and ask for more.

    I suppose this idea is good if you literally had *nothing else* to use, but a (good) one-shot desoldering pump will work just as well on a single-sided board and without the mess…

    This idea might have merits if for some reason you wanted as little physical contact with the board as possible, though.

    1. That’s what I was thinking too. Single sided boards are easy. The same technique may work with plated holes, but at least it will require a much better control of the airflow down the hole.

    2. I have one of those one-shot ~12″ pumps. It works well most of the time. However, I do have problems on it with through-hole components having large leads, soldered to wide traces – especially if it’s 2oz copper. Large power supply type stuff. To get a uniform suction over a large joint, you have to move the iron out of the way; but since the joint is effectively heatsinked, the solder cools almost immediately when you do so, leading to incomplete removal. Particularly memorable was one huge bridge rectifier with tab-style leads, I struggled to get that out using any conventional technique. Compressed air made short work of it.

  7. Try a Weller 6966 Heat Gun. It works great. No flying solder and has tips to get into small areas. I have even used it to replace BGA’s. Can also be used for soldering.

  8. The Elephant in the room – a cheap soldering iron. I suspect that the soldering iron is not getting the solder joint evenly hot. I have used that exact same solder sucker. Not the best but it works ok. If you are still having issues with after using a temp regulated iron – pre-heat the board using a heat gun or an oven. Works every time. I have had solder splash near my eyes even with safety glasses on- I will pass on using compressed air. Kids you only have one set of eyes – take care of them and if you must do this PLEASE use safety Goggles… (Yes I know I’m that guy today)

  9. I tried many methods, but few weeks ago I get one of those soldering pots, about $20 on ebay. That thing works great when you have bunch of boards for parts salvaging. Even 40pin DIPs on double-sided boards are not really a problem. Ceramic capacitors and resistors sometimes break, but I don’t salvage them anyway, they’re too cheap to bother. If your board’s destination is garbage, and all you want is to collect components for reusing then hot air gun and soldering pot are the fastest ways of doing it.

    1. I hadn’t heard of these so I will buy one. The first thing I will do with it is put it into a large square case or screw it to a square piece of board so it doesn’t spill.

      Also if your ceramics and resistors are getting hot enough to break then an 40 DIP will probably be toast. Speed is key.

      1. They break if their legs are angled on the bottom side of the board so you need much more force to pull them out. Chips usually have straight legs so they don’t break. Even plastic DIP sockets from 8 to 40 pins stays undamaged, so I don’t think that chips will fry.

  10. After reading comments here I went and had a look at how people are salvaging parts. Unfortunately the technique used by some is likely to cause a high rate of component failure which would be frustrating especially if the component fails after being re-used.

    De-soldering is most often used to replace faulty parts. In this case heat and temperature are less of an issue because the component is already dead.

    So here are some tips –

    1) Know the difference between heat and temperature.

    If you have a lot of contact surface area between the heating device and the component then you will transfer a lot of heat for the given temperature.

    If contact is poor then it will take time to transfer enough heat to melt the solder even at higher temperatures.

    De-soldering of dead parts is most often done at higher temperatures than the soldering in of live parts.

    The temperature / heat transfer balance is very important because a good balance means the process is faster and less likely to damage parts. Time is of the essence for many component types.

    2) Know the thermal characteristics of the components you are de-soldering.

    You could probably remove a ceramic resistor with a blow torch and still have it work. To some extent carbon resistors would be the same.

    Electro caps fail when the electrolyte dries out. Long de-soldering times will accelerate this failure.

    Semiconductors are the most sensitive. Some examples –

    IC’s. The pins are large and copper, one of the best thermal conductors. The encapsulation is a poor thermal conductor but because it is an encapsulation it will keep heat in. The chip die inside is the sensitive part. The bottleneck for heat is the very fine wires that link the pins to the die. The same is true for cooling. The copper pins extract heat but it bottlenecks on the links to the die.

    What this means is – For traditional de-soldering (one pin at a time) you have ‘x’ pins at about room temperature cooling the die slowly. ‘x’ pins that you have de-soldered still heating the die slowly and one pin that you are de-soldering heating the die rapidly. If you are fast to de-solder each individual pin then the longer the overall process takes the better because of the cooling effect of the other pins.

    For simultaneously de-soldering all pins like with a solder pot, time is of an absolute essence because of the high heat transfer due to the high contact surface area. In this case you need a temperature that is just a little more than the melting point of solder. Grip the IC with an extractor tool first. Then place the solder side of the board to the solder pot. The chip should come out almost instantly. Immediately remove the PCB from the pot and allow it to cool before removing the next part. Don’t pull too hard on the extractor or you will spill the melting pot. For a heat gun you want a very hight temperature because the PCB will absorb most the heat. In this case de-soldering will take less time at much higher temperatures.

    Transistors are a little different. One pin expands inside the transistor case (or *is* the case itself) and the die is directly attached to this pin. For many/most transistors the die is mounted to the collector. So for a TO-220 de-solder the end pins first. When you are sure they’re free then de-solder the middle pin while pulling the transistor out. Because the die is directly connected to one pin, the maximum temperature becomes more important than time, but don’t take forever.

    Why salvaging parts is different to de-soldering dead parts –

    The limiting factor for removing dead parts with a mechanical thermal connection (iron or pot) is the temperature at which the coper traces will lift from the PCB. This is a much higher temperature than what will kill most semiconductors. Here I say temperature (in relation to the PCB) because the heat transfer is very rapid due the the mechanical thermal connection.

    For removing live parts this way the limiting factor is heat due to the thermal characteristics of the part itself and due the the high heat transfer – temperature is the only way you have to control this and time becomes increasingly important.

    The limiting factor for removing dead parts with a heat gun is heat rather than temperature because the heat transfer is slower. ie how long it takes for the copper traces to get to a high enough temperature to lift off the PCB.

    For removing live parts from a PCB with a heat gun you can use much higher temperatures because you don’t care about the PCB and higher temperatures make the process faster which is better for the component. You shouldn’t get the point that traces lift from the PCB because by then you could damage a sensitive part but at the same time you can ignore the safety margin that you would normally have to protect the PCB.

    1. Excellent comment!
      One more thing, when desoldering dead part don’t be affraid to break it. It is already dead, you don’t need it in one piece. Just carefully break it’s case with wire cutters. When only legs are left they are easy to desolder one by one without need for heating bigger surfaces or applying force to the board.
      I’ve seen some people using dremels with cutting discs to cut part. I wouldn’t recommend that, board can get covered in fine metal dust, you don’t want that.

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