solderotter
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Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Jan 28, 2014 4:54 am

Hi, we’re a team of engineering undergrads hoping to redesign the soldering iron. Specifically, we’re looking at making it safer and more usable by younger teens and children.

We’re looking for any feedback or advice you might have, especially if you have kids, so if you can spare a few minutes to fill out our survey, that’d be awesome. Or if you have any questions, feel free to shoot us an email at: solder.otter@gmail.com. Thank you for your time and input!

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/14cAsPI ... w/viewform

also, does anyone know why there is so much metal exposed towards the tip?

ame
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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:08 am

I have been using a soldering iron since I was around 9 or so. I soon figured out which end was which.

My AA battery powered one heats up in a few seconds and cools down quickly after the pushbutton is released. That makes it a little safer than a mains-powered one. But then, what do you mean by 'safer'?

Ravenous
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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:53 am

solderotter wrote: also, does anyone know why there is so much metal exposed towards the tip?
Very good question. Maybe surrounding the heating element (which is the longest component in that long shaft) with lots of ceramic might cause the heater to runaway and overheat. (I don't know much about the detail design of heating elements but I gather that electric heaters can runaway and burn out.)

The other extreme though is lots of heavy ceramic or something around the shaft might prolong the warm up time. That would be annoying (anyone watching an iron heat up needing to do just one quick joint knows what true annoyance is...)

An option is a cage, even a combined stand, though it might be too heavy and get in the way when soldering in tight spaces...

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meltwater
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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Jan 28, 2014 10:15 am

A fair point about the exposed tip, it is particularly unnatural for a kid to hold and control. It may be exposed to allow suitable cooling, while having a large chunk of metal allows it to keep a steady temperature even when heating component legs.
However, I would imagine the design is more historic now, since elements are probably more powerful and better control is probably available, but the traditional tip has been kept (easy replacement etc, may help the tip last too).

Note: There are some which have a loop at the end and a handgun type grip, although no idea how easy they are to use for kids. I guess the grip naturally keeps them from holding too far down which has got to help.

Good luck with the project!
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redhawk
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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Jan 28, 2014 10:25 am

also, does anyone know why there is so much metal exposed towards the tip?
The heating element consists of a coil of wire hidden inside the shaft, this has to be considerable large/long to achieve the desired effect.
You cannot have the shaft partially inside the enclosure because that would just heat up the handle.
There is also the issue of heat transference because when you're soldering or desoldering components the tip would cool down.
By having a longer shaft you prevent premature cooling of the tip that would result in the inability to melt the solder.
Desoldering is real problem with my 12w Antex soldering iron especially when you're working on items with a large volume of metal like piezoelectric transducers or the metal cage that sits on the back of a CRT monitor tube.

Richard S.

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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Jan 28, 2014 10:40 am

4 main designs of soldering irons:

Traditional mains powered long exposed element (great...)
butane powered irons

"hand gun" style instant with a loop (the more expensive versions are ok)
"cold heat" which use a pair of electrodes so only heat on touch of the joint ( didn't work well for me)

The last two types are safer, everyone has had an accident or two with a soldering iron they forgot was still on/hot ;)

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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Jan 28, 2014 11:01 am

You soon learn which end to hold and NOT to catch a falling iron.

Children have to see some risk otherwise they never learn.

Do you also want to ban bunsen burners and tripods for sciences, many kids no matter how much you tell them after experiments that the tripod should be grabbed from the bottom because the top is hot will still grab the top and discover pain.

The point is 99.999% only do that ONCE and then they remember about hot things and are more careful afterwards.

I would rather see banning of hot glue guns as more dangerous and having tricks on others done. the heat capacity of hot glue is hotter for longer than solder.
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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Jan 28, 2014 11:28 am

redhawk wrote: Desoldering is real problem with my 12w Antex soldering iron especially when you're working on items with a large volume of metal
There's a good point. I was going to be a smarta$$ and say I have two different irons, 25W & 18W for large & small jobs. But maybe the better answer is to have some kind of switchable element. (Assuming the tip size doesn't also limit the heat transfer too much - as the two irons have different size tips. It's probably worth testing to see if a fairly small tip works better at higher power, or if the size is limiting...)

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Burngate
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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Jan 28, 2014 12:16 pm

I've just done the survey, and come up with some criticisms.

Page 1: Why is my gender of any interest? So why should it be required?
Page 2: Frequency of use - now (I'm retired, so rarely) or when I was working - up to 20 hrs a week, down to maybe 5 hrs a week depending on work load?
Page 3: If I had no children but was a teacher, would my views be more or less relevent than those of a parent?
Page 3a: (nit-picking) I said "yes" to children; now you give me the opportunity to disown her?
You ask how old she is, but isn't it more relevent how old she was when I first let her loose with an iron?

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Burngate
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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Jan 28, 2014 12:44 pm

For an iron that isn't temperature-controlled, the temperature of the bit depends on its power and what you're trying to solder. In general it'll never be right.
A 15W iron uses 15W whether the job requires 15W or 40W, so the larger job will produce dry joints.
A 40W iron uses 40W what-ever, so the small job will end up with burnt boards.
So I'd throw away all irons that haven't got temperature control.

So we've now decided (well, I have) that we must have temperature control.
Once the bit is up to temperature, the only power used is what is needed to replace the heat lost from the bit, and through the stem and handle
The handle (and stem) only get hot because the insulation isn't perfect.
Whatever material used, it would have to be non-conductive (heat & electricity), rigid, non-toxic, ... the list goes on
There are ceramic materials that are far better than the plastics generally used for irons, though cost might be an issue.

Not covered so far ...
People seem to think of an iron as a general-purpose tool, for everything from surface-mount resistors to the case round a CRT base.
Surely the ideal would be easily changeable bits? I'm imagining a tray with a range of bits held vertically. Button on iron, releases bit into tray, picks up the next bit.

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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Mon Feb 03, 2014 4:01 pm

My first iron was a 30W mains-powered one (which I still have). It would get too hot if left on for any length of time but took too long to warm up if unplugged. I came across an ingenious solution in an electronics mag of the time which was to get a mains plug with an on/off switch on it and solder a mains diode across the off side to provide a half-wave rectified supply (which is half power) in that position. This keeps it fairly warm on standby and on switching to full power it is usable by the time you have picked up the solder. I have no idea if you can buy such plugs any more but you could easily do the same with an in-line lamp switch.

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joan
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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Mon Feb 03, 2014 4:23 pm

I think the chaps at work had gas powered soldering irons. I'm not sure if it was because they were useful without mains power or there was another benefit.

techpaul
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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Mon Feb 03, 2014 7:12 pm

Michael_O wrote:My first iron was a 30W mains-powered one (which I still have). It would get too hot if left on for any length of time but took too long to warm up if unplugged. I came across an ingenious solution in an electronics mag of the time which was to get a mains plug with an on/off switch on it and solder a mains diode across the off side to provide a half-wave rectified supply (which is half power) in that position. This keeps it fairly warm on standby and on switching to full power it is usable by the time you have picked up the solder. I have no idea if you can buy such plugs any more but you could easily do the same with an in-line lamp switch.
I tend to use Weller and JBC irons, Weller for larger work and JBC for tiny work and rework.

JBC has temp control and small tips that can warm up from standby to full heat in 2 seconds

I tend to use 0.5mm or even 0.3mm pencil tips on that iron.

Where as smallest pencil so far found for Weller I have is 0.8mm.

This actually matters when dealing with 0.3 to 0.5 mm pitch even QFP or TSSOP packages.
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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Mon Feb 03, 2014 9:53 pm

I have heard of a method where you hang your iron from a micro switch.
Closed, you have half-wave rectified AC (warm iron). Pick up the iron, switch opens & full-wave AC brings iron to working temperature.
It has been my custom to use Xeyes

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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:02 am

I have the battery powered iron from Antek too, it works great, what would be more useful is for someone to come up with a device that can hold a pcb / strip board still to allow soldering but at the same time allow for the fact that components once soldered make the board less flat.

maybe a anti static sponge, but as part of a unit, that can also hold solder, a few areas to hold components, etc, rather than having them on a desk.

just makes the operation ergonomic and portable.

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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:13 am

psutton wrote:I.... what would be more useful is for someone to come up with a device that can hold a pcb / strip board still to allow soldering but at the same time allow for the fact that components once soldered make the board less flat.

maybe a anti static sponge, but as part of a unit, that can also hold solder, a few areas to hold components, etc, rather than having them on a desk.
PCB assembly Jigs have existed for over 40 years to my knowledge see http://uk.farnell.com/pcb-assembly-jigs-vices. I have two large ones in my loft, I use for batches or larger through hole boards or through hole phase of board assembly.

Even with sponge you put lowest height components on first then in runs of height components as sponge will not hold small height components between two large height components.
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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:16 am

psutton wrote: what would be more useful is for someone to come up with a device that can hold a pcb / strip board still to allow soldering but at the same time allow for the fact that components once soldered make the board less flat.
doesn't most everyone have a pair of helping hands for this :
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redhawk
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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:39 am

doesn't most everyone have a pair of helping hands for this :
Nope, 99% of my soldering work is done on the desk and very occasionally with double sided sticky tape if the board / module moves. :)

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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Apr 15, 2014 12:12 am

Maybe color coding the iron? Tip= red handle=green. ;)

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Richard-TX
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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Apr 15, 2014 4:56 am

I sort of like this soldering iron. Tips last for years.


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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:46 am

solderotter wrote:Hi, we’re a team of engineering undergrads hoping to redesign the soldering iron. Specifically, we’re looking at making it safer and more usable by younger teens and children.
Hi

Well how about "asbestos" gloves?

Leave the iron alone and make using it different. Gloves, large heat-sink. Retractable shroud cover to guard against accidental contact.

The iron itself would want to be sized to suit the user, and balanced to avoid fatigue or other repetitive problems. Develop lower melting point solder and then an iron to suit.

Teach the children to recognise the smell of roast pork, then they will know they are holding the wrong end.

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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Apr 22, 2014 1:37 pm

Richard-TX wrote:I sort of like this soldering iron. Tips last for years.


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We had to make one of those in metal work class in high school. We made that, trowels & "ninja stars" :) the ninja stars weren't on the list of approved items to make though so we had to make them sub rosa

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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Apr 22, 2014 2:05 pm

ukscone wrote:We made that, trowels & "ninja stars" :) the ninja stars weren't on the list of approved items to make though so we had to make them sub rosa
Ninja stars? Sounds like my sort of childhood. I lost mine in our large front garden when I missed the target tree. I found it a few days later by standing on it. The point had barbs on it, and it went through my shoe's sole, through my foot, and out through the top. I can't remember how I got it out....and I never thought to seek medical attention or tell my parents. I knew I'd get into trouble...

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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Tue Apr 22, 2014 2:10 pm

Back in the days when we waved fishing rods and did not extract very many eyes, we ran with scissors, we played outdoors, etc. Most of us survived. The fun we had... :lol:

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Re: Redesigning the soldering iron!

Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:19 am

A timer would be great on a soldering iron, e.g. off after 20 minutes (maybe I'll make one!)
lost count of the number of times I've left it on for hours - or overnight - when only needed it for a few minutes...
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