A soldering iron applied to a stuck threadlocked screw in a titanium pen

Removing Threadlocked Screws With A Soldering Iron

We’ve all been there – that last stubborn screw, the one thing between you and some real progress on a repair or restoration. It’s stuck tight with thread-locking fluid, and using more torque threatens to strip the head. Frustration mounting, drilling that sucker out is starting to seem pretty tempting. But wait! [Daniel] offers a potential solution using nothing but a soldering iron.

This tool hack is pretty simple, but all the great ones tend to be straightforward. In the video, [Daniel] is faced with a titanium Torx screw that refuses to come loose due to threadlocker, an adhesive that is applied to screws and other fasteners to prevent them coming loose. Available in a variety of strengths, thread-locking fluid is great at keeping screws where they need to be, but too much (or the wrong kind) can seize a screw permanently.

Instead of drilling out the offending screw, [Daniel] reaches for his soldering iron. By applying a significant amount of heat to the screw head, the adhesive starts to give. After heating, working the screw back and forth breaks the threadlocker, thus freeing the screw. The whole process takes just a couple of minutes, and potentially saves the repairer from destroying a screw.

The chemistry behind thermoset adhesives makes for some great bedtime reading, however the main takeaway is that threadlock fluid, while somewhat resistant to heat, will eventually become brittle enough for the screw to come loose. Unlike most adhesives, which melt under high temperature (think glue sticks), thermoset materials tend to initially harden with the application of heat, before turning brittle and breaking. While high-temperature threadlocker derivatives exist, typical Loctite-branded threadlocker (and similar products) would not appear to be able to stand the heat of a typical soldering iron.

This soldering iron hack isn’t the first we’ve featured on Hackaday – check out this method on removing enamel from magnet wire. If you’re not too squeamish, also check out our thoughts on soldering iron cauterization.

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Teardown Experts Sing Praise Of Stretch-Release Adhesives

Anyone who enjoys opening up consumer electronics knows iFixit to be a valuable resource, full of reference pictures and repair procedures to help revive devices and keep them out of electronic waste. Champions of reparability, they’ve been watching in dismay as the quest for thinner and lighter devices also made them harder to fix. But they wanted to cheer a bright spot in this bleak landscape: increasing use of stretch-release adhesives.

Nokia BL-50J Battery
An elegant battery, for a more civilized age.

Once upon a time batteries were designed to be user-replaceable. But that required access mechanisms, electrical connectors, and protective shells around fragile battery cells. Eliminating such overhead allowed slimmer devices, but didn’t change the fact that the battery is still likely to need replacement. We thus entered into a dark age where battery pouches were glued into devices and replacement meant fighting clingy blobs and cleaning sticky residue. Something the teardown experts at iFixit are all too familiar with.

This is why they are happy to see pull tabs whenever they peer inside something, for those tabs signify the device was blessed with stretch-release adhesives. All we have to do is apply a firm and steady pull on those tabs to release their hold leaving no residue behind. We get an overview of how this magic works, with the caveat that implementation details are well into the land of patents and trade secrets.

But we do get tips on how to best remove them, and how to reapply new strips, which are important to iFixit’s mission. There’s also a detour into their impact on interior design of the device: the tabs have to be accessible, and they need room to stretch. This isn’t just a concern for design engineers, they also apply to stretch release adhesives sold to consumers. Advertising push by 3M Command and competitors have already begun, reminding people that stretch-release adhesive strips are ideal for temporary holiday decorations. They would also work well to hold batteries in our own projects, even if we aren’t their advertised targets.

Our end-of-year gift-giving traditions will mean a new wave of gadgets. And while not all of them will be easily repairable, we’re happy that this tiny bit of reparability exists. Every bit helps to stem the flow of electronics waste.

Friendly Fiberglassing: Can Hide Glue Replace Epoxy?

Hide glue has been around for thousands of years, and some of it is holding wood pieces three thousand years after application. It is made from animal protein, so vegetarians may want to stick to the petroleum-based adhesives. [Surjan Singh] wanted to see if its longevity made it a contender with modern epoxy by casting a couple of fiberglass car parts with the competing glues. In short, it doesn’t hold up in this situation, but it is not without merit.

Musical instrument makers and antique restorers still buy and use hide glue, but you would never expose it to heat or moisture. To its credit, hide glue doesn’t require a ventilator. All you need is boiling water and a popsicle stick, and you are in business. [Surjan] writes his findings like a narrative rather than steps, so his adventures are a delight to read. He found that a car part made with fiberglass and epoxy will withstand the weather better than the alternative because heat and humidity will soften hide glue. His Saab 96 isn’t the right application, but since it is nearly as strong as epoxy once set, you could make other fabric shapes, like a flannel nightstand or a lace coffee table, and you could shape them in the living room without toxifying yourself

No matter how you want to work with glues and substrates, Bil Herd has you covered, and here is an excellent tip for a cheap degassing setup.

Fail Of The Week: Z-Tape Is No Substitute For Solder

Here at Hackaday, we see all kinds of mechanical construction methods. Some are impressively solid and permanent, while others are obviously temporary in nature. The latter group is dominated by adhesives – sticky stuff like cyanoacrylate glue, Kapton tape, and the ever-popular hot glue. They’ve all got their uses in assembling enclosures or fixing components together mechanically, but surely they have no place in making solid electrical connections, right?

Maybe, maybe not. As [Tom Verbeure] relates, so-called Z-tape just might be an adhesive that can stand in for solder under certain circumstances. Trouble is, he couldn’t find the right conditions to make the tape work. Z-tape, more properly called “Electrically Conductive Adhesive Transfer Tape 9703”,  derives its nickname from the fact that it’s electrically conductive, but only in the Z-axis. [Tom] learned about Z-tape in [Joe FitzPatrick]’s malicious hardware prototyping workshop at the 2019 Hackaday Superconference, and decided to put it to the test.

A card from a Cisco router served as a testbed thanks to an unpopulated chip footprint. The 0.5-mm pin spacing on the TSOP-48 chip was within spec for the Z-tape, but the area of each pin was 30 times smaller than the recommended minimum bonding area. While the chip was held down mechanically by the Z-tape, only five of the 48 pins were electrically connected to the pads. Emboldened by the partial success, [Tom] tried a 28-pin SOIC chip next. The larger pins and pads were still six times smaller than the minimum, and while more of the pins ended up connected by the tape, he was unable to make all 28 connections.

Reading the datasheet for the adhesive revealed that constant pressure from a clamp or clip might be necessary for reliable connections, which suggests that gluing down SMD chips is probably not the best application for the stuff. Still, we appreciate the effort, and the fine photomicrographs [Tom] made showing the particles within the Z-tape that make it work – at least in some applications.

Saving Your Vision From Super Glue In The Eyes

Super glue, or cyanoacrylate as it is formally known, is one heck of a useful adhesive. Developed in the 20th century as a result of a program to create plastic gun sights, it is loved for its ability to bond all manner of materials quickly and effectively. Wood, metal, a wide variety of plastics — super glue will stick ’em all together in a flash.

It’s also particularly good at sticking to human skin, and therein lies a problem. It’s bad enough when it gets on your fingers. What happens when you get super glue in your eyes?

Today, we’ll answer that. First, with the story of how I caught an eyeful of glue. Following that, I’ll share some general tips for when you find yourself in a sticky situation.

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Sugar As A Bed Adhesive For 3D Printing

3D printers, like most CNC machines, reward careful thought and trial and error. It’s important to use the correct machine settings and to prepare the build environment properly in order to get good results. Fused Filament Fabrication printers rely on melting plastic just so in the production of parts, and have their own set of variables to play with. [Mysimplefix] has been exploring various solutions to bed adhesion and found something that seems to work perfectly, right in the pantry.

That’s right, this solution to the problem of bed adhesion is more commonly stirred into your coffee every morning – it’s sugar. [Mysimplefix] shares their preferred process, consisting of first mixing up a sugar/water solution in the microwave, before applying it to the bed with a paper towel and allowing the water to evaporate off.

Several test prints are then shown, with major overhangs, to show the adhesive capabilities of the sugar. The results are impressive, with parts sticking well while the bed is hot, while being easy to remove once cool. The video deals with PLA, but we’d be interested to see the performance with other materials as well.

It’s a tidy solution, and we’d love to know your thoughts and experiences in the comments. We’ve had a good long think about adhesives ourselves, too.

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Super-Blue CNC Part Fixturing

Simple clamps are great if you need to keep the pressure on two parallel surfaces, but if you have an irregular plane, or you need to cut through it, clamps are not the correct tool. The folks at [NYC CNC] feature a video with a clever hack borrowing from other disciplines. Painters tape is applied to the top of a level mounting surface in the machine and then burnished. The same is done to the bottom of the workpiece. Superglue is drizzled between the tape layers and pressed together so now the stock is held firmly below the toolhead.

Some parts are machined in the video, which can be seen below, and the adhesion holds without any trouble. One of the examples they cut would be difficult to hold without damage or stopping the machine. The accepted wisdom is that superglue holds well to a slightly porous surface like tape, but it doesn’t like do as well with smooth surfaces like metal. Removing residue-free tape at the end of a cut is also cleaner and faster than glue any day.

If you have yet to cut your teeth, you can watch our very own Elliot Williams getting introduced to CNC machines or a portable machine even a child can use.

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