An exploded diagram of the spot welder. Shown are the capacitor bank, trigger, 12 V relay, DC power input, power out, step up converter, voltmeter, industrial SCR module, and capacitor bank.

Hackaday Prize 2022: A Not-So-Smart Spot Welder

DIY spot welders often use high-powered components that can be a bit frightening, given the potential for dangerous malfunctions. [Wojciech “Adalbert” J.] designed his capacitive discharge spot welder to be safe, easy to build, and forego the microcontroller.

Many projects work great with just a single Li-ion cell, but when you need more power, you’ve got to start connecting more cells together into a battery. [Wojciech]’s spot welder is designed to be just powerful enough to weld nickel tabs onto a cell without any overkill. The capacitor bank uses nineteen Nichicon UBY 7500uF/35V capacitors, all wired in parallel using solder wick saturated with solder. They sit atop on a perfboard with metallicized holes to carry the high current.

[Wojciech] has detailed every step of building the welder, including changes to the off-the-shelf relay board and adding a potentiometer to the step-up converter board. The level of detail makes this seem like a good starting place if you’re hoping to hop into the world of DIY spot welders. Safe is always a relative term when dealing with high powered devices, so be careful if you do attempt this build!

DIY spot welders have graced these digital pages many times, including this one built with safety in mind, and this other one that was decidedly not.

Building A Spot Welder From 500 Junk Capacitors

[Kasyan TV] over on YouTube was given a pile of spare parts in reasonably large quantities, some of which were useful and allocated to specific projects, but given the given the kind of electronics they’re interested in, they couldn’t find a use for a bag of 500 or so low specification 470uF capacitors. These were not low ESR types, nor high capacitance, so unsuitable for power supply use individually. But, what about stacking them all in parallel? (video, embedded below) After a few quick calculations [Kasyan] determined that the total capacitance of all 500 should be around 0.23 Farads with an ESR of around 0.4 to 0.5 mΩ at 16V and packing a theoretical energy total of about 30 joules. That is enough to pack a punch in the right situation.

A PCB was constructed to wire 168 of the little cans in parallel, with hefty wide traces, reinforced with multiple strands of 1.8mm diameter copper wire and a big thick layer of solder over the top. Three such PCBs were wired in parallel with the same copper wire, in order to keep the total resistance as low as possible. Such a thing has a few practical uses, since the super low measured ESR of 0.6mΩ and large capacitance makes it ideal for smoothing power supplies in many applications, but could it be used to make a spot welder? Well, yes and no. When combined with one of the those cheap Chinese ‘spot welder’ controllers, it does indeed produce some welds on a LiPo cell with a thin nickel plated battery strip, but blows straight through it with little penetration. [Kasyan] found that the capacitor bank could be used in parallel with a decent LiPo cell giving a potentially ideal combination — a huge initial punch from the capacitors to blow through the strip and get the weld started and the LiPo following through with a lower (but still huge) current for a little longer to assist with the penetration into the battery terminal, finishing off the weld.

[Kaysan] goes into some measurements of the peak current delivery and the profile thereof, showing that even a pile of pretty mundane parts can, with a little care, be turned into something useful. How does such an assembly compare with a single supercapacitor? We talked about supercaps and LiPo batteries a little while ago, which was an interesting discussion, and in case you’re still interested, graphene-based hybrid supercapacitors are a thing too!

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Cheap Spot Welder Teardown

It used to be hard to dump enough electricity through two pieces of metal to meld them together. But a lithium-ion battery can do it. The question is, should it? [The Signal Path] takes a cheap battery-based spot welder apart to see what’s inside and tries to answer that question. You can see the teardown in the video below.

The cheap welder has some obvious safety problems so the first thing was to trim down some wires and also retinning some of the PCB traces to ensure they are the lowest possible resistance. Of course, the less resistance in the wiring, the more current is available for welding.

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Robert Dunn holds a button in his hand for controlling a spot welder

Gorgeous Battery Welder Hits The Spot

Raise you’re hand if you’ve ever soldered directly to a battery even though you know better. We’ve all been there. Sometimes we get away with it when we have a small pack and don’t care about longevity. But when [Robert Dunn] needed to build a battery pack out of about 120 Lithium Ion cells, he knew that he had to do it The Right Way and use a battery spot welder. Of course, buying one is too simple for a hacker like [Robert]. And so it was that he decided to Build a Spot Welder from an old Microwave Oven and way too much mahogany, which you can view below the break.

A Battery Cell with a spot welding tab attached
Spot Welding leaves two familiar divots in the attached tab, which can be soldered or welded as need.

For the unfamiliar, a battery spot welder is the magical device that attaches tabs to rechargeable batteries. You’ll notice that all battery packs with cylindrical cells have a tab with two small dimples. These dimples are where high amperage electricity quickly heats the battery terminal and the tab until they’re red hot, welding them together. The operation is done and over in less than a second, well before any heat damage can be done. The tab can then be soldered to or spot welded to another cell.

One of the most critical parts of spot welding batteries is timing. While [Robert Dunn] admits that a 555 timer or even just a manual switch and relay could have done the job, he opted for an Arduino Uno with a 4 character 7 segment LED display that shows the welding time in milliseconds. A 3d printed trigger and welder handle wrap up the hardware nicely.

The build is topped off by a custom mahogany enclosure that is quite a bit overdone. But if one has the wood, the time, the tools and skills (and a YouTube channel perhaps?) there’s no reason not to put in the extra effort! [Robert]’s resulting build is almost too nice, but it’ll certainly get the job done.

Of course, spot welders are almost standard fare here at Hackaday, and we’ve covered The Good, The Bad, and The Solar. Do you have a battery welder project that deserves a spot in Hackaday’s rotation? By all means, send it over to the Tip Line!

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Review: Battery Spot Welders, Why You Should Buy A Proper Spot Welder

Making battery packs is a common pursuit in our community, involving spot-welding nickel strips to the terminals on individual cells. Many a pack has been made in this way, using reclaimed 18650 cells taken from discarded laptops. Commercial battery spot welders do a good job but have a huge inrush current and aren’t cheap, so it’s not uncommon to see improvised solutions such as rewound transformers taken out of microwave ovens. There’s another possibility though, in the form of cheap modules that promise the same results using a battery pack as a power supply.

With a love of putting the cheaper end of the global electronic marketplace through its paces for the entertainment of Hackaday readers I couldn’t resist, so I parted with £15 (about $20), for a “Mini Spot Welder”, and sat down to wait for the mailman to bring me the usual anonymous grey package.

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Ambitious Spot Welder Really Pushes The Amps

On the face of it, a spot welder is a simple device. If you dump enough current through two pieces of metal very quickly, they’ll heat up enough to melt and fuse together. But as with many things, the devil is in the details, and building a proper spot welder can be as much about addressing those details as seeing to the basics.

We haven’t featured anything from our friends over at [Make It Extreme], where they’re as much about building tools as they are about using them to build other things, if not more so. We expect, though, that this sturdy-looking spot welder will show up in a future video, because it really looks the business, and seems to work really well. The electronics are deceptively simple — just rewound microwave oven transformers and a simple timer switch to control the current pulse. What’s neat is that they used a pair of transformers to boost the current considerably — they reckon the current at 1,000 A, making the machine capable of welding stock up to 4 mm thick.

With the electrical end worked out, the rest of the build concentrated on the housing. A key to good-quality spot welds is solid physical pressure between the electrodes, which is provided by a leverage-compounding linkage as well as the long, solid-copper electrodes. We’ve got to say that the sweep of the locking handle looks very ergonomic, and we like the way closing down the handle activates the current pulse. Extra points for the carbon-fiber look on the finished version. The video below shows the build and a demo of what it can do.

Most of the spot welders we see are further down the food chain than this one, specialized as they are for welding battery packs and the like. We do recall one other very professional-looking spot welder, though.

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Printed Jig Is A Welding Rig

[NixieGuy] was scheming to build robots with cable-driven joints when the pandemic hit. Now that component sourcing is scarce, he’s had to get creative when it comes to continuous cables. These cables need to be as seamless as possible to avoid getting caught on the pulleys, so [Nixie] came up with a way to weld together something he already has on hand — lengths of .45mm steel cable.

The 3D printed jig is designed to be used under a digital microscope, and even clamps to the pillar with screws. Another set of screws holds the two wires in place while they are butt welded between two pieces of copper.

[Nixie] adds a spot of solder paste for good measure, and then joins the wires by attaching his bench power supply set to 20V @ 3.5A to the copper electrodes. We love that [Nixie] took the time to streamline the jig design, because it looks great.

This just goes to show you that great things can happen with limited resources and a little bit of imagination. [Nixie] not only solved his own supply chain problem, he perfected a skill at the same time. If you don’t have a bench supply, you might be able to get away with a battery-powered spot welder, depending on your application.