Hack Your Hot Air Station

It used to be hot air soldering gear was exotic, but not anymore. There are plenty of relatively inexpensive choices. Many of these appear to be the same despite having different brand names and model numbers. One that is common and inexpensive is the 858D. These run about $50. [Gabse] has one and decided to upgrade it using some open source controller hardware and software. There wasn’t a complete guide, so he created one himself.

According to the original GitHub page, the controller will work with the Youyue-858D and any clones. However, there are others like the Atten 858D that use a different controller. In addition, there have been several variants. [Gabse’s] guide is for the latest version. Information on other versions and brands might be on this discussion board thread.

The new controller and firmware offer better temperature regulation, a safety feature that prevents the handpiece from heating up if power is applied when the handpiece is not docked, fan fault detection, a cold air mode, a sleep mode, and more. There are PCBs available from OSH Park if you want to attempt it yourself. There are also a few YouTube videos showing the custom firmware, one of which appears below.

In addition to the controller change, [Gabse] shows you some optional tweaks to make the handpiece more robust, change the power plug, and make the cradle sensor more reliable. Worthwhile changes and all well-suited for the processing power of the Arduino.

We have gotten used to having the handpiece fixed on the bench, that’s another easy hack. You can also try an unholy union of soldering iron and articulated lamp.

32 thoughts on “Hack Your Hot Air Station

  1. I actually just got another brand of this hot air rework station to have another one at home and despite the fact that the pot on the front was broken giving me the lowest speed air requiring me to replace it, i do quite like it for its price
    i’ll look into doing this modification at some point!

  2. Is it just me or do other people find it ironic that a hot air SMD re-work station is made from through hole parts.

    Those 1/4 Watt carbon resistors and that 3 Watt metal film resistor look so so old now.

        1. I found a bad electrolytic in my scope by using the scope. Suddenly there was ripple in the trace, so I put the probe on each of the electrolytics in the power supply until I hit one where the ripple doubled. I replaced that electrolytic, and all was well.


      1. PS: I see you do RF. I used to do microwave communications a long, long, time ago. One tip – flux is capacitive *because* it absorbs moisture from the outer surface first. Eventually the moisture absorbed is resistive and creates a RC network or filter. That filters frequency and ‘Q’ factor will vary with humidity. Flux is the enemy of reliable and consistent RF circuits especially oscillators or tuned circuits.

        1. I think the flux issue extends beyond just RF. I’ve now “fixed” a number of consumer devices that failed after a little more than a year by taking them apart and cleaning off the flux with isopropyl alcohol. I attribute the issue to the reduced noise margins operating at 3.3 V and below. However, it may be clock speeds, in which case it *is* an RF issue, just not in the normal sense

          I tumbled to this after the 2nd VCR died while I was living in Houston. I had taken them apart to look for parts to scavenge and observed an appalling amount of flux everywhere. I got to considering the hygroscopic nature of flux. So when the remote on my mother’s VCR “died” I took it apart and cleaned it. It worked fine after that, though I was not as successful with the unit itself when it went. I didn’t want to disassemble it, so I just put the whole thing in a container and filled it with alcohol until it covered the board. I did this twice. Both times it restored operation for a few months, but after the 2nd time I decided it was time for a new one.

          1. If it was 3V3 then I would expect that it was LVTTL. If it also had TTL chips then the available noise margin is very small. Flux capacitance will also effect rise times as well.

            If I have to mix 3V3 and 5V then I run the 3V3 chips at the top of their Vcc range (usually 3V6) to improve the niose margins. The old 5V spec was 5V +-10% or 4V5 to 5V5

          2. Electro Caps can suck up fluids with capillary action so I wipe fluid on (metho) with a brush rather than immerse. There is not so much of an issue on single sided boards. Metho will condense moisture from the air so I dry the boards with a hair dryer.

    1. Not at all!

      Just ask yourself: “what am I going to use to repair my broken SMD re-work station?”
      Your SMD re-work station? Well, it is, you know, broken!

      Luckily, you have your trusty soldering iron …

    2. Ten or so years ago I ran a Pick and Place line at a CM. The main chip shooter was really old, but still functional. I remember being amused when I opened it up the first time for maintenance – it was 100% thru-hole on its many controller boards.

  3. Why buy a crappy hot air station and mod it into a less crappy hot air station with a lot of effort when you can buy a good hot air out of the box for less than the parts of the mod alone make up? The largest issue I personally have with the crappy ones is that they’re so lousily designed and built that they often pose a health risk and that is something I’m never going to accept.

      1. Sorry, that was supposed to read cheaper than this one and the mod parts alone, the alone referring to the hardware costs excluding any labour to execute the mod.

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