Solder Bridges Aid Desoldering

As our own Elliot Williams laid out, many people think that soldering is a key skill for electronics, but we don’t as often think about desoldering. Even if you are perfect in your technique, there’s always the chance you’ll put in a bad part or have a part fail later and it will need replacement. [Robert] has a short video showing his method for removing through-hole components and you can see it below.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen it, of course. In fact, it is very much like using hot air, although it doesn’t require hot air, just extra solder and a regular iron. Of course, if we knew that connector was bad, we’d have been tempted to cut each pin apart and remove them one at a time. Heating a joint and then slamming your hand on the bench can work wonders.

We always think desoldering pumps are a good idea, but the electric ones tend to be anemic. The ones with the springs are usually better, but still have limitations. In the end, we’ll stick with using hot air, but if all you have is an iron, this method is worth checking out. You might also be interested in the needle method.

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Make Your Desoldering Easier By Minding Your Own Bismuth

Any video that starts with a phase diagram has instantly earned our attention. Admittedly, we have a pretty low bar for that kind of stuff, but eye candy aside, [Robin Debreuil]’s quick outline of his technique for desoldering with the help of bismuth is worth watching.

Aside from its use in those pink gloopy solutions one takes for an upset stomach, bismuth has a lot of commercial applications. For the purposes of desoldering, though, its tendency to lower the melting point of tin and tin alloys like solder is what makes it a valuable addition to the toolkit. [Robin] starts with a demonstration of just how far a little bismuth depresses the melting point of tin solder — to about 135°. That allows plenty of time to work, and freeing leads from pads becomes a snap. He demonstrates this with some large QFP chips, which practically jump off the board. He also demonstrates a neat technique for cleaning the bismuth-tin mix off the leads, using a length of desoldering braid clamped at an angle to the vertical with some helping-hands clips. The braid wicks the bismuth-tin mix away from the leads along one side of the chip, while gravity pulls it down the braid to pool safely on the bench. Pretty slick.

Lest leaded solder fans fret, [Robin] ensures us this works well for lead-tin solder too. You won’t have to worry about breaking the bank, either; bismuth is pretty cheap and easily sourced. And as a bonus, it’s pretty non-toxic, at least as far as heavy metals go. But alas — it apparently doesn’t machine very well.

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Adding In-Game Reset To Classic Playstations

The first Playstation is quickly approaching three decades since its release, and while this might make some of us who were around for that event feel a little aged, the hardware inside these machines isn’t getting any younger either. Plenty of people are replacing the optical drive in the original hardware with an optical drive emulator as they begin to fail, and with that comes the option for several other modifications to the hardware like this in-game reset mod.

In-game reset is a function that allows a console to be reset via a controller button combination rather than pressing the console’s reset button directly. Especially for devices modified with either the XStation or PSIO drive emulators, this can be a handy feature to have as this method can more easily take the user back to the emulator menu as well as physically reset the device. The modification is a small PCB which attaches to the controller port and, unlike previous versions, only requires a single pin to be soldered to the Playstation’s control board.

If you’re someone who enjoys playing games on original hardware rather than a patchwork of emulators, this could be an excellent addition to your PS1 that still allows most of the original feel and experience the PS1 offered. The drive emulator can greatly expand the range of the hardware as well, much like this NES cartridge which similarly expands the capabilities of that much older system.

Send Old-Fashioned Pager Messages With New-Fashioned Hardware

In a world of always-connected devices and 24/7 access to email and various social media and messaging platforms, it’s sometimes a good idea to take a step away from the hustle and bustle for peace of mind. But not too big of a step. After all, we sometimes need some limited contact with other humans, so that’s what [EverestX] set out to do with his modern, pocket-sized communication device based on pager technology from days of yore.

The device uses the POCSAG communications protocol, a current standard for pager communications that allows for an SMS-like experience for those still who still need (or want) to use pagers. [EverestX] was able to adapt some preexisting code and port it to an Atmel 32u4 microcontroller. With a custom PCB, small battery, an antenna, and some incredibly refined soldering skills, he was able to put together this build with an incredibly small footprint, slightly larger than a bottle cap.

Once added to a custom case, [EverestX] has an excellent platform for sending pager messages to all of his friends and can avoid any dreaded voice conversations. Pager hacks have been a favorite around these parts for years, and are still a viable option for modern communications needs despite also being a nostalgic relic of decades past. As an added bonus, the 32u4 microcontroller has some interesting non-pager features that you might want to check out as well.

Thanks to [ch0l0man] for the tip!

Laser-Cut Solder Masks From Business Cards

There are plenty of ways to make printed circuit boards at home but for some features it’s still best to go to a board shop. Those features continue to decrease in number, but not a lot of people can build things such as a four-layer board at home. Adding a solder mask might be one of those features for some, but if you happen to have a laser cutter and a few business cards sitting around then this process is within reach of the home builder too.

[Jeremy Cook] is lucky enough to have a laser cutter around, and he had an idea to use it to help improve his surface mount soldering process. By cutting the solder mask layer into a business card with the laser cutter, it can be held on top of a PCB and then used as a stencil to add the solder paste more easily than could otherwise be done. It dramatically decreases the amount of time spent on this part of the process, especially when multiple boards are involved since the stencil can be used multiple times.

While a laser cutter certainly isn’t a strict requirement, it certainly does help over something like an X-acto knife. [Jeremy] also notes that this process is sometimes done with transparency film or even Kapton, which we have seen a few times before as well.

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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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Full 8-Bit Computer On Breadboards

Getting into a big electronics project often involves the use of specialized tools, namely the use of some sort of soldering iron or other way to apply solder to often intricate, tiny, and heat-sensitive parts. While it’s best to learn to pick up this skill at some point, it’s not always necessary, even for big, complicated projects like [DerULF1]’s full 8-bit computer that he built entirely on breadboards.

For a fully featured 8-bit computer, this build goes deep into the details of how the computer works. The clock allows programs to be stepped through one cycle at a time, and even the memory can be individually accessed with a set of switches. There are plenty of other interesting features as well, such as using registers to access extra memory. It features an SPI port and PS/2 keyboard controller and also loads programs from an SD card.

The build was inspired by some of [Ben Eater]’s projects which famously focus on using logic gates and TTL chips to perform complex tasks, such as another breadboard computer which plays snake on a small display. It’s certainly a great way to learn about the inner function of computers, and better still that no soldering is required. But you may need a few extra breadboards.

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