AxxSolder 3.0 Now Takes USB Power Delivery

If you’re big into the soldering iron scene, you’ve probably heard of the AxxSolder project. Now, it’s been updated with a whole host of nifty new features. It’s AxxSolder 3.0!

If you’re not intimately familiar with AxxSolder, it’s an open-source iron design based around the popular JBC soldering iron tips. Relying on the STM32G431CBT6 to run the show, it comes in two versions—a lightweight portable design, and a desktop version based around the JBC ADS soldering iron stand. So far, so familiar.

The new 3.0 version adds new functionality, however. Where the previous model ran off any old DC power source from 9 to 26 volts, the new version can run off a USB Power Delivery supply. Thus, you can grab any old USB-PD device, like a laptop charger, and run your iron off that.

The new version also uses a larger color TFT screen with some buttons added on as an improved user interface. Thermal performance is improved, and it’s additionally capable of measuring the current draw by the tip, so you can monitor the performance of the iron in great detail.

We’ve featured the AxxSolder project previously, too, along with some other great soldering iron projects. If you reckon you’ve just designed the hottest new soldering tool yourself, let us know about it!

Inside A Cordless Soldering Station

There was a time when soldering stations were unusual in hobby labs. These days, inexpensive stations are everywhere. [Kerry Wong] looks at the TS1C station, which is tiny and cordless. As he points out, cordless irons are not new, but modern battery technology has made them much more practical. However, this iron doesn’t actually have a battery.

The iron has a large 750 Farad supercapacitor. This has advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, a supercapacitor charges quickly and doesn’t get weaker with each charging cycle like a conventional battery. On the minus side, the large capacitor makes the unit bulky compared to normal irons. [Kerry] notes that it is ergonomic, though, and he felt comfortable holding it. Also, the supercapacitor limits the amount of charge available while soldering.

It is somewhat of a balance, though. If you want to take the iron and climb a tower, you might be very interested in a longer running time. But if you return the unit to the base every few minutes, the fast charging of the cap will compensate for the lower capacity, and you’ll probably never notice it go flat.

The iron itself doesn’t display any data. The display is on the base, meaning the devices must be paired via Bluetooth. It also requires a PD-enabled USB-C connection, so you can’t just wire it to a battery. You can plug a power supply right into the iron if you prefer, but you still can’t use a simple power connection.

Of course, you assume it does an adequate job of soldering. We wanted to see inside! And [Kerry] didn’t disappoint. If you want to see soldering, skip to about the 10-minute marker. The teardown starts at around 16 minutes.

Honestly, for the bench, we’d probably stick with a wired iron. You don’t always want a base and a PD power supply for a portable iron. But if you absolutely hate cords, this could be a reasonable answer. We’ve seen another review of this iron that didn’t like the plastic casings. Maybe it is like Jedi and lightsabers: you should just build your own.

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Open-Source Firmware For Soldering Irons

For most of us, the first soldering iron we pick up to start working on electronics has essentially no features at all. Being little more than resistive heaters plugged straight into the wall with perhaps a changeable tip, there’s not really even a need for a power switch. But doing anything more specialized than through-hole PCB construction often requires a soldering iron with a little more finesse, though. Plenty of “smart” soldering irons are available for specialized soldering needs now, and some are supported by the open-source IronOS as well.

The project, formerly known as TS100, is a versatile soldering iron control firmware that started as an alternative firmware for only the TS100 soldering iron. It has since expanded to have compatibility with several other soldering irons and hosts a rich set of features, including temperature control, motion activation, and the ability to temporarily increase the temperature when using the iron. The firmware is also capable of working with irons that use batteries as well as irons that use USB power delivery.

For anyone with a modern smart soldering iron, like the Pinecil or various Miniware iron offerings, this firmware is a great way of being able to gain fine control over the behavior of one’s own soldering iron, potentially above and beyond what the OEM firmware can do. If you’re still using nothing more than a 30W soldering iron that just has a wall plug, take a look at a review we did for the TS100 iron a few years ago to see what you’re missing out on.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Portable Soldering Station Runs On Drill Batteries

Power tool batteries are a convenient portable power supply for all manner of different things. [Zachary Goode] noticed that Ryobi was using them to power soldering irons, but no such tool existed in the DeWalt range. Thus, he set about to build such a rig himself.

The build relies on a simple 3D-printed adapter to suck power from a DeWalt drill battery. It’s a little piece of plastic with spade terminals inserted to act as the contacts. Armed with this tool, [Zachary] included it as part of a simple compact portable soldering iron design that relies on the off-the-shelf T12-952 controller board. This allows him to use the rig with a wide variety of common soldering iron handpieces, like his favored Hakko FX-951. The design also features a lithium-ion battery protection circuit of [Zachary]’s own design, to make up for the fact that DeWalt don’t integrate them into their battery packs.

The high power density of lithium rechargeable batteries has led to a proliferation of portable soldering irons in recent years. Some are even completely handheld, with no external wires or power supplies to speak of. If you’ve been whipping up your own gear to solder on the go, don’t hesitate to drop us a line!

Finessing A Soldering Iron To Remove Large Connectors

One of the first tools that is added to a toolbox when working on electronics, perhaps besides a multimeter, is a soldering iron. From there, soldering tools can be added as needed such as a hot air gun, reflow oven, soldering gun, or desoldering pump. But often a soldering iron is all that’s needed even for some specialized tasks as [Mr SolderFix] demonstrates.

This specific technique involves removing a large connector from a PCB. Typically either a heat gun would be used, which might damage the PCB, or a tedious process involving a desoldering tool or braided wick might be tried. But with just a soldering iron, a few pieces of wire can be soldered around each of the pins to create a massive solder blob which connects all the pins of the connector to this wire. With everything connected to solder and wire, the soldering iron is simply pressed into this amalgamation and the connector will fall right out of the board, and the wire can simply be dropped away from the PCB along with most of the solder.

There is some cleanup work to do afterwards, especially removing excess solder in the holes in the PCB, but it’s nothing a little wick and effort can’t take care of. Compared to other methods which might require specialized tools or a lot more time, this is quite the technique to add to one’s soldering repertoire. For some more advanced desoldering techniques, take a look at this method for saving PCBs from some thermal stresses.

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Hacking A €15 8051-Based Portable Soldering Iron With Custom Firmware

With soldering irons being so incredibly useful, and coming on the heels of the success of a range of portable, all-in-one soldering irons from the likes of Waveshare and Pine64, it’s little wonder that you can get such devices for as little as 10 – 15 Euro from websites like AliExpress. Making for both a great impulse buy and reverse-engineering target, [Aaron Christophel] got his mittens on one and set to work on figuring out its secrets.

The results are covered in a brief video, as well as a Twitter thread, where this T12 soldering iron’s guts are splayed around and reprogrammed in all their glory. Despite the MCU on the PCB having had its markings removed, some prodding and poking around revealed it to be an STC8H3K62S2, an 8051-based MCU running at a blistering 11 MHz. As a supported PlaformIO target, reprogramming the MCU wasn’t too complicated after wiring up a USB-TTL serial adapter.

Completing this initial foray into these cheap T12 soldering irons is the GitHub repository, which contains the pin-outs, wiring diagrams and further information. Although [Aaron] indicates that he’ll likely not pursuing further development, the mixed responses by people to the overall quality of the firmware on the as-purchased T12 may inspire others to give it a shake.

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Printable Case For Pinecil And TS100 Soldering Irons (Mis)Uses A 608 Bearing

[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!

A standard 608 bearing makes for a handy heat-resistant stand.

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.

This design has a pretty deep history that illustrates the value of sharing one’s designs and allowing others to remix and refine ideas. [PjotrStrog]’s work makes use of the earlier and highly thoughtful TS100, Pinecil, TS80 & TS80p cases with options by [Termiman], which themselves are based on bearing-equipped TS100 case by [Olvin] that we covered back in 2020.

We loved the Pine64 Pinecil soldering iron, and this looks like a fantastic printable storage and carry option. There are a few pieces of hardware needed to put the rugged version together, but [PjotrStrog] also offers a less rugged design with fewer hardware needs, so check that out as well.