Lift Those Pins With Ease

Reworking is one of the regular tasks of anyone who is involved in an electronic design process, because try as we might, it’s rare to get a design perfectly right the first time. Some reworking tasks are more difficult than others though, and we have to admit that lifting an IC pin doesn’t always result in success. But with this video from [Mr. SolderFix] there’s hope for conquering the technique, as he takes us through the best pin-raising technique on a variety of packages.

The trick it seems is to lift the pin first without attempting to disengage it from the molten solder, then returning to it with some copper braid to remove the solder and leave it raised. Once the secret is revealed it’s so easy, something a Hackaday scribe should be able to do. He does sound a note of caution though, as some packages are prone to disintegrating when stressed. A broken SOT-23 is not something anyone likes to see through their magnifier.

His channel is full of such no-nonsense soldering advice, and should be a fascinating browse for many readers. Meanwhile we’ve covered quite a bit of rework technique ourselves, such as last year when we looked at BGA work.

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Check Out These Amazing Self-Soldering Sleeves From World War II

Imagine you’re a commando, doing some big secret mission on the continent in the midst of World War II. You need to hook up some wires to your explosive charges, and time is of the essence. Do you bust out the trusty Weller and see if those petulant Axis chaps will let you plug it in somewhere? No! You use a pyrotechnic self-soldering sleeve, as [Our Own Devices] explains.

Like so many British inventions during the war, the sleeves really are ingenious. They were developed by the Special Operation Executive, an organization charged with sabotage and subversion operations in then-occupied Europe.

The soldering sleeves were designed to make electrical connections between detonators and firing wires for explosives.  The sleeves consist of a copper tube through which wires to be joined are fed, with a lump of solder in the middle. The assembly is covered in pyrotechnic material with a safety match-style starter chemical dosed on top. Using the sleeves is simple. First, two stripped wires are fed into either end of the copper tube. The starter the sleeve is then ignited using the box, just like striking a match. The pyrotechnic material then gets red hot, melting the solder and making the connection.

It’s well worth watching the video to see how these field-expedient devices actually work. We’ve explored the use of more-typical solder sleeves before, too. Video after the break.

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Flux, From Scratch

Soldering flux is (or at least, should be) one of the ubiquitous features of any electronics bench. It serves the purpose of excluding oxygen from a solder joint as it solidifies, and in most cases its base is derived from pine rosin. Most of us just buy flux, but [pileofstuff] is having a go at making his own.

He starts with a block of rosin and a couple of different solvents. Isopropanol we’re happy with, but perhaps using methanol for something to be vaporized within breathing distance isn’t something we’d do. At about 25% rosin to solvent ratio the result is a yellow liquid flux, which he tests against some commercial fluxes. The result is a reasonable liquid flux, something which perhaps shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, and is a handy piece of information to store away should we ever be MacGuyver-like stuck in a pine forest with a need to save the day with electronics.

It would be interesting to try the same technique but with a solvent selected to soften the rosin for a paste flux, and perhaps any chemists among our readership could enlighten us about just what rosin is beside the heavy fractions left after extracting the volatiles from pine resin.

In the past we’ve taken a close look at how solder really works.

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CNC Soldering Bot Handles Your Headers

Soldering pin headers by hand is a tedious task, especially when your project has a huge number of them. [iforce2d] has a large number of boards with a lot of headers, and has created a rather special CNC machine to to do the job. It’s a soldering robot, controlled by LinuxCNC and you can see it below the break.

Superficially it resembles a 3D printer made in aluminium, with an X-Y movable table and a Z-direction represented by a soldering iron and solder feeder on an arm. The solder feeder uses a Bowden tube, with a 3D-printer extruder motor pushing the solder wire down a PTFE tube and finally into a fine aluminium tube from which it’s fed to the iron tip.

Though he’s done a beautiful job of it, creating the machine is not all that’s required, because the tool path requires more attention than simply moving the iron to each pin and supplying some solder. There’s a need to consider the effect of that heat, how much each pad needs, and how much neighbouring pads contribute.

We’ve had repetitive soldering tasks just like this one though not on this scale, so we can understand the tedium this machine will relieve. We can’t however help being reminded of XKCD 1319.

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Hackaday Prize 2023: One-Handed Soldering With The Solder Sustainer

For a lot of us, soldering has become so ingrained that it’s muscle memory. We know exactly when the iron is hot enough, how long to leave the tip in contact with the joint to heat it up, and exactly where to dab in the solder to get it to flow. When you’re well-practiced it can be a beautiful thing, but for those who don’t do it frequently, soldering can be frustrating indeed.

The “Solder Sustainer” looks like it just might be aimed at solving that problem, as well as a few others. It comes to us from [RoboticWorx], and while it looks a little like the love child of a MIG welder and a tattoo machine, it’s got a lot going for it. The idea is to make soldering a one-handed task by combining the soldering iron and a solder wire feeder into one compact package. The solder feeder is very reminiscent of a filament extruder on a 3D printer, using a stepper to drive spring-loaded pinch wheels, which forces the solder down a curved 3D-printed tube that directs it toward the tip. The pancake stepper is driven by an ESP32, which also supports the touch sensor that lets you advance the solder. The whole thing can be powered off a USB-C power supply, or using the onboard USB charger that can be connected in line with the soldering iron supply.

The video below shows Solder Sustainer in use. Yes, we know — some of those joints look a little iffy. But that seems to have more to do with technique than with the automatic solder feed. And really, in situations where you’ve previously wished for a third hand while soldering, this would probably be just the thing.

The Solder Sustainer is an entry in the “Gearing Up” round of the 2023 Hackaday Prize. If you’ve got an idea for a tool, jig, fixture, or instrument that makes hacking easier, we want to know about it. But you’d better hurry — the round ends on August 8.

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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

Mechanical Pencil Solder Feeder Hack

Want a better way to feed solder, but want to do it on the quick and cheap? Well [ptkrf] has a solution for you in an old instructables post we stumbled upon recently. You might have, or can inexpensively buy, a mechanical pencil which has the feeder button on the side rather than on top, as usual. With the pencil in hand, [ptkrf] shows you the simple procedure for modifying the pencil into a solder feeder. You might need to experiment with different size pencils and solders to get a perfect match. Common mechanical pencils come in sizes to accommodate 0.5, 0.7, and 0.9 mm leads, but there are bigger and smaller ones available. Perhaps one of those really large drafting lead holders could be repurposed as a solder dispenser for the bigger jobs.

We discussed a 3D printed solder feeder a few days ago, but if you don’t have one, this may be a good way to go. Thanks to [iliis] for sending in this tip.