The magnifier uses a variety of components [Ad_w00000] had lying around. For the optical side of things, an old Canon DSLR zoom lens was pressed into service as the main magnifying element. The lens was then fitted with an old laptop webcam, which was glued into an old lens extender to avoid modifying the main lens itself. The webcam is hooked up to an Asus Tinkerboard fitted with a touchscreen display to show the images. The whole lens assembly is then fitted onto an old TV stand to enable it to sit far enough above the work surface to focus properly.
The build is a great example of building something useful out of whatever you have on hand. Sometimes, that’s cheaper and quicker than spending money and waiting for something to ship. It also has the bonus that you’ll learn useful skills along the way.
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.
Reddit user [duzitbetter] showed off their design for a 3D-printed programmable macro keyboard that offers a different take on what can be thought of as a sort of 3D-printed PCB. The design is called the Bloko 9 and uses the Raspberry Pi PICO and some Cherry MX-style switches, which are popular in DIY keyboards.
The enclosure and keycaps are all 3D printed, and what’s interesting is the way that the enclosure both holds the components in place as well as providing a kind of wire guide for all the electrical connections. The result is such that bare copper wire can be routed and soldered between leads in a layout that closely resembles the way a PCB would be routed. The pictures say it all, so take a look.
If you want to build cool things these days, you’ve probably had to master surface mount electronics. However, for many people, ball grid array (BGA) is still intimidating. Have a look at [VoltLog’s] video about his techniques for soldering BGA and inspecting that you managed to do it right.
He’s got quite a few tips about things like surface finish and flux selection. It looks easy when he does it. Of course, having a good PCB with good registration markings will help too.
There’s a satisfaction in watching someone else at work, particularly when they are demonstrating a solution to a soldering problem you have encountered in the past. SMA panel sockets have a particularly tiny solder bucket on their reverse, and since they often need to be soldered onto brass rod as part of microwave antenna construction they present a soldering challenge. [Andrew McNeil] is here to help, with a foolproof method of achieving a joint that is both electrically and mechanically sound.
The best connections to a solder bucket come when the wire connected to it nestles within its circular center. If this doesn’t happen and a blob of solder merely encapsulates both wire and bucket, the mechanical strength of the solder blob alone is not usually sufficient. The brass rod is wider than the bucket, so he takes us through carefully grinding it down to the right diameter for the bucket so it sits in place and can have the solder sweated into the gap. The result is very quick and simple, but has that essential satisfaction we mentioned earlier. It’s a small hack, but if you’ve ever soldered to a too-small RF connector you’ll understand. For more fun and games with RF connectors, take a look at our overview.
One aspect of working for Hackaday comes in our regular need to take good quality photographs for publication. I have a semi-decent camera that turns my inept pointing and shooting into passably good images, but sometimes the easiest and quickest way to capture something is to pull out my mobile phone.
It’s a risky step because phone camera modules and lenses are tiny compared to their higher quality cousins, and sometimes the picture that looks good on the phone screen can look awful in a web browser. You quickly learn never to zoom on a mobile phone camera because it’s inevitably a digital zoom that simply delivers grainy interpolated pictures.
That’s not to say that the zoom can’t be useful. Recently I had some unexpected inspiration when using a smartphone camera as a magnifier to read the writing on a chip. I don’t need an archival copy of the image… I just needed a quick magnifying tool. Have I been carrying a capable magnifier for soldering in my pocket or handbag for years without realising it? I decided to give it a try and it worked okay with a few caveats. While I have seen optics turn these cameras into pretty good microscopes, my setup added nothing more than a phone tripod, and will get you by in a pinch.
You can do your own Surface Mount Technology based PCB assembly with just a handful of tools and some patience. At the heart of my SMT process is stopping to inspect the various steps all while trying to maintain a bit of cleanliness in the process.
Surface mount or Surface Mount Technology (SMT) is the modern way to assemble Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) and is what is commonly seen when opening a modern piece of tech. It’s much smaller than the older Through-Hole (TH) technology where the component leads were inserted into holes in PCB, and act we called “stuffing” since we had to stuff the components into the holes.
A few specialized tools make this a lot easier, but resourceful hackers will be able to pull together a solder paste stencil jig, vacuum tweezers, and a modified toaster oven with a controller that can follow the reflow profile of the solder paste. Where you shouldn’t skimp is on the quality, age, and storage of the solder paste itself.
Join me after the break for my video overview of the process I use in my workshop, along with details of every step of my SMT assembly process.