As many people have pointed out, what matters with USB-C isn’t just the standard, it’s the implementations. After all, it’s the implementations that we actually have to deal with, and it’s where most of the problems with USB-C arise. There is some fault to the standard, like lack of cable markings from the get-go, but at this point, I’m convinced that the USB-C standard is a lot better than some people think.
I’d like to walk you through a few USB-C implementations in real, open-source, adjacent, and just interesting products. They’re all imperfect in some way – it can’t be otherwise, as they have to deal with the messy real world, where perfection is a rarity.
Today, let’s check out the Pinecil. A soldering iron by Pine64, released a few years ago, keeping the price low and quality high. It sports both a barrel jack and a USB-C port for its power input – a welcome departure from the Miniware iron strategy, where neither the barrel-jack-only TS100 nor the low-power proprietary-tip TS80 irons quite did it. And, given its design around TS100 T12-style tips, it’s no wonder Pinecil took a well-deserved spot in hobbyist world.
Can’t Just Pull The Trigger
Now, you might be thinking that Pinecil ought to be a simple device. The usual way to get high power out of a USB-C port is a Power Delivery (PD) trigger IC, and you could merely use that. However, if you’ve read the USB-C power article, you might remember the 45 W vs 60 W charger scenario, where such an arrangement would fail immediately. Overall, the configurability of trigger ICs is quite low, and when encountering a PD compatibility problem with some PSU, you can’t do anything about it except replace the IC with a slightly-different-logic IC- if a replacement even exists, and it usually does not. This is costly and limiting for a real-world use product. Continue reading “All About USB-C: Pinecil Soldering Iron”→
[PjotrStrog]’s rugged Pinecil / TS100 storage case is the perfect printable accessory to go with a hacker’s choice of either the Pine64 Pinecil, or the Miniware TS100 soldering irons. There are some thoughtful features beyond just storing the iron, too!
Some of you may have spotted a 608 bearing in the image above, and might be wondering what it is for. In proud hacker tradition of using things for something other than their intended purpose, the bearing makes a heat-resistant stand to hold the iron while in use.
There was a time when decent quality soldering irons were substantial affairs, soldering stations with a chunky base unit containing the electronics and a lightweight handheld iron for the work. That has changed with the arrival of a new breed of microprocessor controlled lightweight handheld irons. There’s a new kid on the block from a company we associate more with open-source phones, laptops, and single board computers, Pine64 have produced the Pinecil. It’s a lightweight handheld iron with some innovative features at an attractive price, but does it raise the bar sufficiently to take on the competition?
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.