E3D Tool Changer Partially Reviewed

[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.

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Review: Shi Yi Tool Sy365-8 Desoldering Iron, Second Cheapest You Can Find

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”

Testing A Battery-Powered Mini Spot Welder

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!”

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Take A Mini Lathe For A Spin

[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.

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Review: CXG E90W Temperature-Controlled Soldering Iron

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.

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Twitter Celebration Of Scientist Hacks For Lab And Field

If you like reading about scientists creatively using household objects for their work, you will enjoy browsing Twitter hashtag #reviewforscience where scientists are sharing stories of repurposing everyday things for their lab and field.

Research papers focus on the scientific hypothesis and the results of testing it. It is very common for such papers to leave out details of tools and techniques as irrelevant. (A solid scientific conclusion should be reproducible no matter what tools and techniques are used.) This sadly meant much of scientists’ ingenuity never see light.

We can thank Amazon user [John Birch] for this event. His son wished to study how ants from different colonies interact. In order to observe how these groups of ants react to each other while still keeping the populations separate, he wanted to keep one group of ants inside a tea strainer. He posted this technique as a review on the tea strainer’s Amazon product page, where it caught the attention of @RobynJWomack and started spreading, taking off when @DaniRabaiotti suggested the tag #reviewforscience.

Sadly, it appears our original scientist (who posted under his dad’s Amazon account) did not succeed with the tea strainer technique. But he has succeeded in drawing attention to creativity in science worldwide, as well as making his dad internet famous.

We love lab hacks here. For scientists who wish there was a place to document their creative lab hacks, might we suggest Hackaday.io?

[via Washington Post]

How Cheap Can A 3D Printer Get? The Anet A8

The short answer: something like $200, if your time is worth $0/hour. How is this possible? Cheap kit printers, with laser-cut acrylic frames, but otherwise reasonably solid components. In particular, for this review, an Anet A8. If you’re willing to add a little sweat equity and fix up some of the bugs, an A8 can be turned into a good 3D printer on a shoestring budget.

That said, the A8 is a printer kit, not a printer. You’re going to be responsible for assembly of every last M3 screw, and there are many. Building the thing took me eight or ten hours over three evenings. It’s not rocket surgery, though. There are very accessible videos available online, and a community of people dedicated to turning this box of parts into a great machine. You can do it if you want to.

This article is half how-to guide and half review, and while the fun of a how-to is in the details, the review part is easy enough to sum up: if you want the experience of building a 3D printer, and don’t mind tweaking to get things just right, you should absolutely look into the A8. If you want a backup printer that can print well enough right after assembly, the A8 is a good deal as well; most of the work I’ve put into mine is in chasing perfection. But there are a couple reasons that I’d hesitate to recommend it to a rank beginner, and one of them is fire.

Still, I’ve put 1,615 m (1.0035 miles) of filament through my A8 over 330 hours of run-time spread across the last three months — it’s been actively running for 15% of its lifetime! Some parts have broken, and some have “needed” improving, but basically, it’s been a very functional machine with only three or four hours of unintentional downtime. My expectations going in were naturally fairly low, but the A8 has turned out to be not just a workhorse but also a decent performer, with a little TLC. In short, it’s a hacker’s printer, and I love it.

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