Custom Soldering Fume Fan Doesn’t Skimp On Features

Prolific maker [sjm4306] tells us the first iteration of his soldering fan was little more than some cardboard, electrical tape, and a hacked up USB cable. But as we all know, these little projects have a way of evolving over time. Fast forward to today, and his custom fan is a well-polished piece of kit that anyone with a soldering iron would be proud to have on their workbench.

Cardboard has given way to a 3D printed enclosure that holds the fan, electronics, a pair of 18650 cells, and a easily replaceable filter. Between the marbled filament, debossed logo, properly countersunk screw holes, and rounded corners, it’s really hard to overstate how good this case looks. We’ve shamefully produced enough boxy 3D printed enclosures to know that adding all those little details takes time, but the end result really speaks for itself.

Fan internals, with a look at the custom PCB.

The user interface running on the OLED is also an exceptionally nice touch. Sure the fan doesn’t need a graphical display, and [sjm4306] could have saved a lot of time and effort by using a turn-key speed controller, but the push-button configuration complete with graphical indications of fan speed and battery life really give the final product a highly professional feel.

In the video below, [sjm4306] reveals that while the finished product might look great, there were a few bumps in the road. Issues with clearance inside the case made him rethink how things would be wired and mounted, leading to a far more cramped arrangement than he’d anticipated. Part of the problem was that he designed the case first and tried to integrate the electronics later, rather than the other way around; a common pitfall you’d be wise to watch out for.

It’s been proven that, without some external input, solder smoke is going to go right in your face. Whether or not you need to do something this complex is naturally up for debate, but if you want to keep all that nasty stuff out of your lungs, you’d do well to outfit your workbench with some kind of fan.

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An Infrared-Activated Solder Fume Extraction Fan

Even the most safety-conscious hackers among us might overlook protective gear when we’re just doing a quick bit of soldering. Honestly, though, eye protection is always a necessity. And those wisps of smoke, which drift so elegantly off the hot part of the iron, really shouldn’t drift directly into our nostrils. This is especially true if soldering you make a daily habit, or if you use lead-based solder.

And so, in defense of his lungs, [Jeremy S Cook] added a battery-powered fume extraction fan to his custom, concrete-based solder squid. Without proper power controls, though, the fan could easily drain its battery while no actual solder activity was occurring. To tackle that problem, he recently upgraded his system with a passive infrared (PIR) sensor to control when the fan turns on and off. The PIR sensor detects motion, enabling the fan only when it sees busy hands in its view, so he no longer needs to muck around with manual controls.

Despite a large increase in functionality, the design is relatively straightforward and uses off-the-shelf components, making it an accessible project for anyone who knows their way around an iron. [Jeremy] also upgraded his power source to a LiPo battery with onboard charger, which keeps the build light, maneuverable, and easy to get close to whatever he’s working on.

Whether you build or buy, a fume extractor will help fight off the famously face-seeking solder smoke on your workbench. Which is a good thing, too, because that smoke carries more than just the alluring aromas of making.

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Workbench Fume Extractor Sucks, But Has A Charming Personality

Shop safety is important regardless of what kind of work you do. For those of us soldering, that means extracting the noxious fumes released by heating up the solder flux used in our projects. [yesnoio] brings to us his own spin on the idea of a fume extractor, and it pulls out all stops with bells and whistles to spare.

The Workbench Assistant bot, as [yesnoio] describes it, is an integrated unit mounted atop a small tripod which extends over the working area where you’re soldering. Inside the enclosure are RGBW lights, an IR camera, and an Adafruit ItsyBitsy M4 Express driving the whole show. Aside from just shining a light onto your soldering iron though, the camera senses thermal activity from it to decide when to ramp up the server-grade fan inside which powers the whole fume extraction part of the project.

But the fun doesn’t stop there, as [yesnoio] decided to go for extra style points. The bot also comes with an amplified speaker, playing soundbites whenever actions such as starting or stopping the fan are performed. These soundbites are variations on a theme, like classic Futurama quotes or R2-D2’s chattering from Star Wars. The selectable themes are dubbed “performers”, and they can be reprogrammed easily using CircuitPython. This is a neat way to give your little desktop assistant some personality, and a fun way to break up the monotony of soldering up all those tiny SMD components on your next prototype.

If even after all this you still need more than just a cute little robotic voice beeping at you to convince you to get a fume extractor for your bench, then maybe some hands-on results could give you that little push you need. And if you’re already convinced and want to build your own, there is no shortage of DIY solutions we’ve seen around here at Hackaday. Check out this one in action after the break!

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Repairs You Can Print: Take A Deep Breath Thanks To A 3D Printed Fume Extractor

If you are a maker, chances are that you will be exposed to unhealthy fumes at some point during your ventures. Whether they involve soldering, treating wood, laser cutting, or 3D printing, it is in your best interest to do so in a well ventilated environment. What seems like sound advice in theory though is unfortunately not always a given in practice — in many cases, the workspace simply lacks the possibility, especially for hobbyists tinkering in their homes. In other cases, the air circulation is adequate, but the extraction itself could be more efficient by drawing out the fumes right where they occur. The latter was the case for [Zander] when he decided to build his own flexible hose fume extractor that he intends to use for anything from soldering to chemistry experiments.

Built around not much more than an AC fan, flex duct, and activated carbon, [Zander] designed and 3D printed all other required parts that turns it into an extractor. Equipped with a pre-filter to hold back all bigger particles before they hit the fan, the air flow is guided either through the active carbon filter, or attached to another flex duct for further venting. You can see more details of his build and how it works in the video after the break.

Workspace safety is often still overlooked by hobbyists, but improved air circulation doesn’t even need to be that complex for starters. There’s also more to read about fumes and other hazardous particles in a maker environment, and how to handle them.

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A Desk Lamp Solder Fume Extractor

Those of us who have spent a lifetime building electronic projects have probably breathed more solder smoke than we should. This is not an ideal situation as we’ve probably increased our risk of asthma and other medical conditions as a result.

It has become more common over the years to see fume extraction systems and filters as part of the professional soldering environment, and this trend has also started to appear in the world of the home solderer. As always, where commercial products go the hardware hacker will never be far behind. We’ve seen people producing their own soldering fume filters using computer fans.

A particularly neat example comes via [Engineer of None], who has posted an Instructable and the YouTube video shown below the break for a filter mounted on a desk lamp. A toaster is used to heat a piece of acrylic. The softened plastic is then shaped to fit the contours of the lamp. The lamp’s articulated arm is perfect for placing light and fume extraction exactly where it is needed. It’s not the most complex of hacks, but we’d have one like it on our bench without a second thought. We would probably add an activated carbon filter to ours though.

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Solder Fume Extractor With Heat Recovery

solderhood

When snow covers the landscape outside, you do your best to preserve the heat inside. [Tom] came up with a smart design for a solder fume extractor that includes a heat recovery ventilator. He created a housing which contains input and output sections. A fan is used to bring in outside air, passing it through a heat exchanger made of alternating panels of coroplast. (See diagrams of his setup after the break) This is really a simple design, and could be built in a couple of hours.

A little digging turns up some good information on making a heat exchanger like this one. [Tom] doesn’t mention the indoor temperature, so it’s difficult to calculate the efficiency he’s getting out of it. Apparently they can attain up to 70% heat transfer, depending on the size of the heat exchanger.

In the video, [Tom] mentions some obvious improvements that could be made, including more efficient fans, and a better housing that allows the core to be removed for cleaning. Still, this is a simple setup that provides a good proof of concept. Perhaps we’ll get to see a more permanent installation from [Tom] in the future.

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