A Nitrogen Soldering Iron Review

If you’ve ever welded, you know that some welders blow a shield gas over the work for different reasons. For example, you often use a gas to displace oxygen from the area and avoid oxidation. You can also solder using a nitrogen shield. This allows higher temperatures and a reduction of flux required in the solder. Wave soldering often uses nitrogen, and JBC offers a soldering iron that can employ nitrogen shield gas. [SDG Electronics] puts that iron through its paces in the video below.

As you might expect, this isn’t a $50 soldering iron. The price for the iron is just under $1,000 and that doesn’t include the power supply or the nitrogen source. The nitrogen generator that converts compressed air into nitrogen is particularly expensive so [SDG] just used a cylinder of gas.

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NASA Hardware Techniques: Soldering Space Electronics Like It’s 1958

[PeriscopeFilms] on YouTube has many old TV adverts and US government reels archived on their channel, with some really interesting subjects to dive in to. This first one we’re highlighting here is a 1958 film about NASA Soldering Techniques (Video, embedded below), which has some fascinating details about how things were done during the Space Race, and presumably, continue to be done. The overall message about cleanliness couldn’t really be any clearer if they tried — it’s so critical it looks like those chaps in the film spend far more time brushing and cleaning than actually wielding those super clean soldering irons.

Of particular note are some of the details of wire stripping and jointing with components, such as the use of a hot-wire device to remove the insulation from wire, rather than use the kind of stripper we have lying around that cuts into the insulation and slightly distorts the wire in the process. That just won’t do. If they did have to use a cutting-type stripper, it must be precisely the right size for job, and calibrated daily.

The road to the Moon is paved with calibrated wire strippers.

When soldering a pre-tinned wire to a leaded component, a clamp is required to prevent movement of the wire, as is a thermal shunt on the component lead to protect the delicate component from excess heat. They even specify how much to wrap a wire around a terminal to be soldered, never bending the wire more than 180 degrees.

The bottom line in all this is, is that the work must be as perfect as is possible, as there is very little chance of sending someone up to fix a dodgy soldering job, once the assembly is hurtling around the planet. They call it too much of a science to be called an art and too much art to be called a science, and we can sure appreciate that.

As you would expect (and it’s not exactly a big secret) NASA has some very exacting standards for assembly of all hardware, like this great workmanship standard, which is well worth studying. Soldering is an important subject for many of us, we’ve covered the subject of solder metallurgy, as well as looking at how ancient hardware hackers soldered without the benefit of much modern knowledge.

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Fix Every Broken Via To Return This Game To Life

We all know the havoc that water in the wrong place can do to a piece of electronics, and thus we’ve probably all had devices damaged beyond repair. Should [Solderking] have thrown away the water-damaged PCB from a Nintendo Pokemon Ruby cartridge? Of course he should, but when faced with a board on which all vias had succumbed to corrosion he took the less obvious path and repaired them.

Aside from some very fine soldering in the video below the break there’s little unexpected. He removes the parts and tries a spot of reworking, but the reassembled board doesn’t boot. So he removes them again and this time sands it back to copper. There follows a repair of every single vial on the board, sticking fine wires through the holes into a sponge and soldering the top, before turning it over and fixing the forest of wires on the other side. Fixing the ROM results in a rather challenging fitment involving the chip being mounted at an angle and extra wires going to its pads, which demonstrates the value in this story. It’s not one of monetary value but of persevering with some epic rework to achieve a PCB which eventually boots. Of course a replacement board would make more sense. But that’s not the point, is it?

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Soldering iron tip heating up a piece of wire wrapped around the metal parts of a MicroUSB socket, with melted solder heating up all the important parts.

Desoldering Without Hot Air: Piece Of Wire Edition

Quite a few hackers nowadays share their tips and tricks on Twitter – it’s easy to do so, and provided either an existing audience or a bit of effort to get one, you’ll get at least a few notifications telling you that people appreciated what you had to share. Today, we’re covering two desoldering hacks highlighted there that will be useful some day, exactly when you need them. Both of them use a piece of wire and, in a way, extend the reach of your soldering iron’s tip. Copper wire would work better because of superior thermal conductivity, but other types of solid core wire will work in a pinch.

First hack is brought to us by [Erin Rose] – desoldering a microUSB socket. You need to heat up the entire shield and the pins at the same time, which the wire acts as a thermal gateway for. As long as there are melted solder bridges from sections of the wire to all the copper-to-part connection points, it should be easy to pump enough heat into the solder joints for all of them to eventually melt and give in at once.

Second hack is brought to us by [arturo182]. A piece of thick wire acts, again, as a heat conductor to desolder a 0.5mm pitch TQFP-100 package IC. You have to bend the wire into a correct shape, so that it’s as close to the pins of the TQFP as possible. In this situation, the wire performs two functions: first, transferring the heat from the iron’s tip to different points along the wire, then, as a barrier that helps solder not escape too far away from the pins. Copious amounts of flux likely desired for this one!

Hopefully, this comes handy if you ever need to replace an all-SMD part ASAP but don’t have a hot air gun or a hotplate handy. After getting this concept down to an art, we are sure you won’t limit yourself to TQFP parts and MicroUSB sockets. We’ve talked about desoldering practices before as part of our newsletter, and using lots of melted solder for part removal is not a foreign concept to us, either.

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Ask Hackaday: What’s Your Worst Soldering Job?

Soldering! It’s the primary method for attaching one component to another in the world of electronics. Whether you’re free-forming a circuit, attaching connectors to cables, or populating a PCB, you’ll eventually find yourself doing some soldering, whether by hand, reflow, or maybe even a fancy wave soldering machine.

It’s a fundamental skill that nevertheless remains one of the biggest hurdles for newcomers to overcome when diving into the electronics hobby. Difficult jobs with tiny components or with large heat sinks can up the challenge for even well-practiced hands. Thus, today we ask the question: What’s your worst soldering job?
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Hackaday Links: February 20, 2022

Sounds like somebody had a really bad day at work, as Western Digital reports that “factory contamination” caused a batch of flash memory chips to be spoiled. How much, you ask? Oh, only about 7 billion gigabytes! For those of you fond of SI prefixes, that’s 7 exabytes of storage; to put that into perspective, it’s seven times what Google used for Gmail storage in 2012, and enough to store approximately 1.69 trillion copies of Project Gutenberg’s ASCII King James Version Bible. Very few details were available other than the unspecified contamination of two factories, but this stands poised to cause problems with everything from flash drives to phones to SSDs, and will probably only worsen the ongoing chip shortage. And while we hate to be cynical, it’ll probably be prudent to watch out for any “too good to be true” deals on memory that pop up on eBay and Ali in the coming months.

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Another Neat General Purpose Soldering Iron Driver

Over on Hackaday.io, user [Tomasz Jastrzebski] has designed a tidy-looking custom controller for driving temperature-controlled soldering irons. The design is intended to be general purpose, capable of operating with irons rated for different voltages and probe type, be they thermocouple- or thermistor-based. Rather than integrating a power supply, this is handled by an external unit, giving the possibility of feeding this from a variety of sources that are not necessarily tied to the grid.

Hardware-wise, we’ve got the ubiquitous STM32 microcontroller in charge of the show, with a nice front end based on the INA823 instrumentation amplifier, referenced to a REF2030 precision voltage source. The input stage is configured as a versatile Wheatstone bridge input circuit, giving plenty of scope for tweaking.

There are a few extra features in the design that aren’t necessarily needed for a soldering iron driver, such as RTC support, complete with supercapacitor backup, but then this doesn’t have to drive a soldering iron, it could drive any DC heater with temperature feedback. With a change in firmware, this could serve other tasks. One potential feature that springs to mind — have the unit automatically power down at a certain time of day in case it was left on accidentally.

The schematic has a lot of relevant detail — in that many parts have a good list of alternatives, presumably because of the semiconductor shortages — which is a good habit to get into if you ask us. Many of us involved with manufacturing have been doing this for years, as it makes sense to give the assembly house the extra options, but this really is basically mandatory practice now.

Firmware for the STM32G0 series microcontroller is based on the STM32 HAL, keeping it simple, with a Visual Studio Code project provided for your convenience. All hardware (KiCAD) and firmware can be found on the project GitHub.

We’ve seen a few projects like this over the years, like this Really Universal Soldering Controller, a custom controller for JBC irons, and this great portable Arduino-based unit.