When the Miniware TS100 first emerged from China nearly three years ago, it redefined what we could expect from a soldering iron at an affordable price. The lightweight DC-powered temperature controlled iron brought usable power and advanced features in a diminutive package that was easy in the hand, a combination only previously found in much more expensive soldering stations. All this plus its hackability and accessible hardware made it an immediate hit within our community, and many of us have adopted it as our iron of choice.
A surprise has been that it has attracted no serious competitors of a similar type, with the only iron mentioned in the same breath as the TS100 being Miniware’s own USB-C powered TS80. Perhaps that is about to change though, as before Christmas I noticed a new Chinese iron with a very similar outline to the TS100. Has the favourite finally generated a knock-off product? I bought one to find out. Continue reading “Review: SanErYiGo SH72 Soldering Iron”
There are a host of PCB CAD tools at the disposal of the electronic designer from entry-level to multi-thousand-dollar workstation software. It’s a field in which most of the players are commercial, and for the open-source devotee there have traditionally been only two choices. Both KiCad and gEDA are venerable packages with legions of devoted fans, but it is fair to say that they both present a steep learning curve for newcomers. There is however another contender in the world of open-source PCB CAD, in the form of the up-and-coming LibrePCB.
This GPL-licensed package has only been in development for a few years. LibrePCB brought out its first official release a little over a year ago, and now stands at version 0.1.3 with builds for GNU/Linux, Windows, MacOS, and FreeBSD. It’s time to download it and run it through its paces, to see whether it’s ready to serve its purpose.
Continue reading “Review: Testdriving LibrePCB Shows That It’s Growing Up Fast”
[Design Prototype Test] got a box in the mail. Inside? An E3D “tool changer and motion system.” Superficially, it looks like a 3D printer, but it is touted as a machine that can mount several different kinds of tools, including a 3D print head. In the video below, you can see the assembly of the heavy-looking machine.
In a world in which a cheap 3D printer costs way under $200, this machine is much sturdier and costs about $3,000 with all the pieces. [Design Prototype Test] is a bit put out by the price, but you have to wonder if they aren’t trying to allow for an eventual CNC head for which the extra-sturdy build could be an advantage. However, the use of motion belts makes that seem like a long shot.
Continue reading “E3D Tool Changer Partially Reviewed”
Is the second cheapest tool you can find any better than the cheapest one?
Readers with long memories will recall there was a time when I amused myself by tacking inexpensive tools or electronic devices to my various orders from the Chinese electronic Aladdin’s Cave. Often these inexpensive purchases proved to be as disastrous or ineffective as you might expect, but sometimes they show unexpected promise, true diamonds in the rough. It’s been a while and life has intervened over the last year, but it’s time to resume this harmless diversion.
Memories Of An Explosive Conclusion
A particularly memorable review came in April 2018, when I bought a five pound ($6.30) desoldering iron. I described it then as an “unholy lovechild of a cheap solder sucker and an even cheaper soldering iron“, and while that was an accurate portrayal it also showed promise as a useful tool that would fill a niche in my requirements. Desoldering is always slightly annoying, and a heated desolder pump genuinely does make a difference. Unfortunately for me, the cheap desoldering tool was not a product I’d recommend that anyone try for themselves. A combination of questionable electrical safety and a propensity to explosively deconstruct itself meant it has languished unused in my big box of cheap junk, and I’m still without a decent desoldering solution. It is time to buy something better, and in the rich tradition of reviewing inexpensive stuff I decided to pick up the next cheapest desoldering iron I could find. Eight pounds ($10) secured me a Shi Yi Tool Sy365-8, and I set to on this review. Continue reading “Review: Shi Yi Tool Sy365-8 Desoldering Iron, Second Cheapest You Can Find”
Did you ever see a thin metal tab bonded to a battery terminal with little pock marks? That’s the work of a spot welder. Spot welding is one of those processes that doesn’t offer much in the way of alternatives; either one uses a spot welder to do the job right, or one simply does without. That need is what led [Erwin Ried] to purchase a small, battery-powered spot welder from a maker in Korea and test it out on nickel strips.
The spot welder [Erwin] used is the work of a user by the name of [aulakiria] (link is Korean, machine translation here) and is designed to be portable and powered by batteries commonly used for RC. [Erwin] is delighted with the results, and demonstrates the device in the video embedded below.
Spot welder projects see a lot of DIY, some of which are successful while others are less so. Our own [Sean Boyce] even gave making a solar-powered spot welder a shot, the results of which he described as “nearly practical!”
Continue reading “Testing A Battery-Powered Mini Spot Welder”
[This Old Tony] is no stranger to quality tools, but he started on a mini lathe. Nostalgia does not stop him from broadcasting his usual brand of snark (actually, it is doubtful that anything short of YouTube going offline will stop that). He rates the lathe’s ability to machine different materials and lets you decide if this is an investment, or a money pit.
Lathe parts range from a chintzy start/stop button assembly that looks like it would be at home on a Power Wheels restoration project to a convenient cam locking mechanism on the tail stock which is an improvement on the lathe with which our narrator learned. We see the speed tested and promptly disproved as marketing hoopla unless you allow for a 40% margin of error. It uses a 500 watt DC motor, so don’t try correcting for mains power frequency differences. The verdict on the lead screw and thread dial is that you get what you pay for and this is demonstrated by painstakingly cutting threads into aluminum. Finally, we see torture tests on cold rolled steel.
Maybe someone from the mini lathe community will stop by with their two-cents. If you appreciate this introduction to lathes, consider [This Old Tony]’s guide to CNC machines or injection molding. But for us, [Quinn Dunki’s] series of machine tools has been a real treat this year.
Continue reading “Take A Mini Lathe For A Spin”
It’s an entertaining pastime when browsing the array of wonders available from the other side of the world at the click of the mouse, to scour the listings of the unusual, the interesting, or the inexpensive. Sometimes when you find something unexpected you are rewarded with a diamond in the rough, while at other moments your bargain basement purchase is revealed as a hilariously useless paperweight. This is a game in which the stake is relatively low and the reward can be significant, so rarely does an order for some parts or sundries go by without a speculative purchase.
The latest to arrive is a soldering iron. The CXG E90W is a 90W mains-powered temperature controlled iron with its control electronics built into its handle. Such irons are by no means unusual, what makes this one different is that it has a low price tag.
The Miniware TS100, an iron I quite like and the current darling of the pack, is priced at nearly £50 ($71). Just how can this iron priced at just under £15 ($21) be any good? I placed one on the order, and waited for delivery.
Continue reading “Review: CXG E90W Temperature-Controlled Soldering Iron”