Pine Made Phones, Laptops, And Now… Soldering Irons?

The TS100 smart soldering iron may have some new competition. Pine — the people best known for Linux-based phones and laptops — though the world needed another smart soldering iron so they announced the Pinecil — Sort of a knock off of the TS100. It looks like a TS100 and uses the same tips. But it does have some important differences.

It used to be a soldering iron was a pretty simple affair. Plug in one end; don’t touch the other end. But, eventually, things got more complicated and you wanted some way to make it hotter or cooler. Then you wanted the exact temperature with a PID controller. However, until recently, you didn’t care how much processing power your soldering iron had. The TS100 changed that. The smart and portable iron was a game-changer and people not only used it for soldering, but also wrote software to make it do other things. One difference is that the device has a RISC-V CPU. Reportedly, it also has better ergonomics and a USB C connector that allows for UART, I2C, SPI, and USB connections. It also has a very friendly price tag of $24.99.

We like that you can use a USB C port or a barrel jack to power the iron. That opens up a number of possibilities. Software-wise, the original author of the TS100 firmware, [Ben Brown] stepped up and set the device up to support the OLED and PWM tip drive. There are a few things left to iron out — no pun intended — but it sounds like it is mostly functional.

Of course, you can also use the device as a starter for a completely different thing that fits nicely in a hand-held form factor. The release talks about a drill or a multimeter, but we are sure there will be other ideas, including the inevitable soldering iron games. If you somehow have escaped learning about the old TS-100, read our review. It will give you something to do while waiting to order your Pinecil — they should be available in the next three months.

37 thoughts on “Pine Made Phones, Laptops, And Now… Soldering Irons?

  1. If it’s like the Pine64, they’ll have some good specs on paper, but they won’t bother getting the drivers working, and “open source” it so someone else can finish it off.
    I bought the Pine64 with the intention of using the LCD display, but last I checked they never actually finished it, and all of the comments on the forums were basically “it’s open source, why don’t you write the drivers yourself”. Because I paid for this? And they showed videos of it working. Is it really that much to expect that they deliver what they promised?

    1. “I bought the Pine64 with the intention of using the LCD display, but last I checked they never actually finished it,”

      The 7″ LCD that’s on the store for the A64 kinda says your information might be a bit out of date.

  2. I came up with a great ad for this thing:

    “The Pinecil has blast processing. TS100 doesn’t. So what’s blast processing do?”

    action shots of soldering some nice-looking PCBs

    “And uh, what if you don’t have blast processing?”

    soldering a copper pipe or something


  3. Pine made a variety of stuff before that too… It’s 1994, your bud just gave you his DX-33 CPU when he upgraded to a blazing fast DX2-66, so you go trotting off to a computer show to try and get the rest, on a dime, hmmm Pine PT-429 motherboard, Pine VLB graphics card with CL5428 and 1MB VRAM, Pine VLB multi io… they were half a cut above the unbranded and probably PC-Chips/Amptron/Elpida etc stuff.

  4. When the TS100 was new I came very close to buying one.
    In the end I did not, and I prefered the “hakko clones” from Ali / Ebay / China.

    The TS100 (and probably this one too) is a great device, especially if you need portability, but for me it just sits on my bench all day.

    The TS100 has a very limited amount of tips, and some of the tip models I prefer are not available.
    The tip of the heating elements are quite far away from the handle, which amplifies shaking of your hand. Shorter tips are better here.

    The Hakko clones have much shorter tips, much more choise in tip size, and if you like you can put in original tips.

    1. I’m confused, first you say you didn’t buy it …. “In the end I did not”

      Then you say it sits on your bench… “but for me it just sits on my bench all day.”….

      Did you buy it?

      1. They meant that their current soldering iron (a Hakko clone) is only being used at their desk and that they have no use of a portable soldering iron. They didn’t bought it.

    2. Which Hakko do you have? I have an FX-901, and it’s great for quick and dirty jobs. The biggest downfall is the lack of tips, so it has the same issue as the TS100, I guess. While the iron generally gets hot enough, you’re left with a chisel or “fat point” tip to choose from, so if you’re doing a lot of really tight spaces (like GPIO pins) it can be a real pain, and feel too clunky for the job.

  5. Minor nitpick. Ben Brown is the author of the third party replacement firmware. The original TS100 firmware is also open source but written by Miniware/e-Design.

    1. This is hackaday afterall… But really what this would be is a small power pack with a user interface, anything that can be powered by 20v/100w can plug into the socket and be controlled by the pinecil. I don’t see any reason you couldn’t get a small RC car motor and 3d print a bracket that allows it to plug into the pinecil to make a dremel style rotary tool

  6. In the near future:

    Turn on Iron.
    Wait for it to boot…
    Connect to WiFi…
    Download new firmware…
    *click* to agree to EULA.
    Wait for firmware to update…
    Power cycle…
    Wait for it to boot…
    Watch 30 second ad on new lead free solder…
    Set target temperature…
    Wait for iron to warm up…
    *solder the one broken wire to a pad*

        1. *Solder of the month club*

          New from the Guangdong Province:
          Tightly focused, with a beam of linzer torte, bitter cherry, plum sauce and fig fruit laced with licorice snap, singed iron and roasted bay leaf. The long finish has lots of roasted fig, tar and spice notes for extra bass, but the acidity is there as well, deeply embedded.

      1. “You forgot monthly subscription payment”

        … and login with verification process.

        – failed download
        – failed network error
        – failed verification
        – no internet access to connected device.

        I’m liking the SH72 more and more I’m thinking and glad I invested in a few to play around with.

    1. And this is why I like primitive irons!
      What is wrong with a nice large thermal mass of metal heated in the fire and applied where needed! – I have actually done this once or twice, but seriously I usually use a normal ol’ benchtop iron.

      I mean its not that bad yet.. But it really could go that way, wave your RFID tag at it so it knows your qualified before it will heat, oh you didn’t redo that so now you have to re-authenticate and here have an advert, Oh wait sorry I only do windows Update style and I’m going to restart on your right now!.

      So remembering that any old lump with good thermal mass and nail could be a soldering iron with the application of burning stuff…

      1. “What is wrong with a nice large thermal mass of metal heated in the fire and applied where needed!”

        The molten plastic, destroyed chips, and lifted pads that go along with it.

        1. Takes more patience buts its actually very controllable – just test against your solder spool and dab cool on the sponge and (or just) wait a bit/heat up more as required. With a big thermal mass the tip will stay whatever temperature you dial in like that for quite a while.

          Far less convenient than the self regulating electric thermocouple designs, but in terms of soldering basically the same – even better than the slower reacting high power electrics – as it never over ramps so you are not going to kill components through overheat easily – you just need to pay attention to and do the slow patient reheat when its not melting expediently enough.

          My first iron if you did something that had high heat load like the larger pads common to connetor/ground plane interfaces it would run out of heat pretty fast then overshoot hugely and melt the plastics if you were not really really careful – lots of power but the reactions were slow. Using the flame heated block method actually works much better than that if you have the patience. Though my modern(ish) thermal controlled iron doesn’t overshoot half as badly and has faster warm up so doesn’t cool down as to much as easily either, I imagine a TS100 etc being much faster still will be even better… but a block of hot mass with a pointy tip is actually pretty damn capable if you don’t mind spending 2-4 times as long on a board (at a guess – not like I did much of it, its slower no doubt there but how much?)

      2. Irons with fast reacting heating elements and thermocouples in the tip are for very small through hole and smd work.

        I have a TS100 that I use for fine stuff, along with a 25 watt and a 60 watt dumb iron with plenty of thermal mass for big stuff.

        Both big ones have a chisel tip comparable to their wattage, while the TS100 has the best compromise tip for smd and through hole work.

        I probably should replace the two big ones with something like a hakko clone with a chisel tip.

  7. Interesting. The TS80P sounds perfect for me, except for the price. And the price of the tips! Typically 2x the cost of a legit Hakko T12 tip, far fewer choices, and only for sale on eBay or Aliexpress.

    If it supports USB-C PD I’m in.

  8. I’ve done a lot of portable soldering with my ancient (well, I bought it new over 30 years ago) weller desk top one and a long extension cord :-) So why bother with a usb one? :-)

  9. Sounds quite interesting a TS100 with USB-C for a great price.
    The question is how viable is that price point. What about Miniware, as far as i was notified on twitter they will bring out 2 heating products this year. The first one is the TS80P the second may be an upgraded TS100, TS110?

  10. Why does a soldering iron need an RTOS? Seems overly complex for something that can be controlled by a superloop. Also, using a RISC-V processor seems like it might be a novelty if the chip doesn’t offer some specific performance at a cheap price.

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