Workbench Fume Extractor Sucks, But Has A Charming Personality

Shop safety is important regardless of what kind of work you do. For those of us soldering, that means extracting the noxious fumes released by heating up the solder flux used in our projects. [yesnoio] brings to us his own spin on the idea of a fume extractor, and it pulls out all stops with bells and whistles to spare.

The Workbench Assistant bot, as [yesnoio] describes it, is an integrated unit mounted atop a small tripod which extends over the working area where you’re soldering. Inside the enclosure are RGBW lights, an IR camera, and an Adafruit ItsyBitsy M4 Express driving the whole show. Aside from just shining a light onto your soldering iron though, the camera senses thermal activity from it to decide when to ramp up the server-grade fan inside which powers the whole fume extraction part of the project.

But the fun doesn’t stop there, as [yesnoio] decided to go for extra style points. The bot also comes with an amplified speaker, playing soundbites whenever actions such as starting or stopping the fan are performed. These soundbites are variations on a theme, like classic Futurama quotes or R2-D2’s chattering from Star Wars. The selectable themes are dubbed “performers”, and they can be reprogrammed easily using CircuitPython. This is a neat way to give your little desktop assistant some personality, and a fun way to break up the monotony of soldering up all those tiny SMD components on your next prototype.

If even after all this you still need more than just a cute little robotic voice beeping at you to convince you to get a fume extractor for your bench, then maybe some hands-on results could give you that little push you need. And if you’re already convinced and want to build your own, there is no shortage of DIY solutions we’ve seen around here at Hackaday. Check out this one in action after the break!

10 thoughts on “Workbench Fume Extractor Sucks, But Has A Charming Personality

    1. A little. It’s a pretty small device though. Easy to place at a 45deg angle with respect to your project. In the video above the wire was placed close to the intake merely to fit in frame. I’ve tested the device further away (about 12″) & the vacuum effect is still sufficient.

  1. Since this just moves the air around, a quiet fan will do. It runs all the time making for a more comfortable place to work. I always run one all the time. The design of this could be of some use in the bathroom though.

    1. Indeed! I’ve noticed that, too! That 40mm server fan sucks & would probably work well in a bathroom too. In the latter part of the video above, “Sunset” mode is enabled & the fan’s max speed has been limited. Modes, themes & performers can be configured by creating/modifying JSON files. Further, user selections persist even if the device is powered off. If you’d like, you could define a ‘quiet’ mode, or adjust the ‘default’ mode to ensure the fan never gets too loud. Further, minimum speeds can be overridden if you prefer to keep the fan running.

  2. Could it wait far trom the work surface, but pivot and put its “nose” near it when the camera sees the heat in the soldering iron ? Like, after time enough has passed without hot activity around the target, it retracts and patiently waits out of your way ?

    1. It could! I’ve been using an overhead fume extractor for years & plan to create a yoke so this extractor can be mounted overhead as well. The thought of motorizing the swing arm has been considered! Since the production version will likely feature a USB-C port, it would be possible to control a properly equipped swing arm from the microcontroller in the fume extractor. The range of the 8×8 pixel thermal camera is fairly good & has just enough resolution to identify hot/warm/cold shapes. With enough software smarts, it could probably make the hottest point within view centered & larger by gradually moving closer to it. It could move back away when no hot point is detected.
      Such behavior would need to be customizable, of course, as some users may want the bot to keep things lit, while some may want it completely out of the way.

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