My Modular Soldering Station for the Space Limited

modular soldering station

Solder is the glue of electronic circuits. In addition to a permanent mechanical connection, solder provides an electrical connection. Not too much unlike glue solder combines two separate metal pieces with a bonding material. In this case, the bonding material is a metal or allow with a relatively low melting point.

When soldering together a circuit, the quality of the solder joint is crucial. Most people probably recognize the need for a high-quality soldering iron, like the FX-888D from Hakko, but about the other tools?

Building a modular soldering station is just as critical to making good solder joints as the actual solder itself.

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Deck out the rest of your Ghostbuster gear with a Ghost Trap. Dustin McLean from DIY Prop Shop from AWE me builds a trap in this quick 12-minute video. The build uses very basic materials: cardboard, popsicle sticks, tape, PVC, and spray paint. Of course, the tools used are just basic cutting and straight edges.

If you aren’t familiar with DIY Prop Shop, the show–as the name suggests–takes a DIY approach to building famous movie props. Totally fun to watch and get ideas for your projects.

Check out the Ghost Trap Build on YouTube. Who you gonna call?

EngineerDog explains why stressed plastic turns white


Polymer Crazing via

Polymer Crazing via

Ever notice when you over-stress plastic, the stress points tend to turn white? The color or type of plastic doesn’t seem to matter, does it? So what is going on? This awesome post from EngineerDog explains why stressed plastic turns white.

If you’re starting to work with ABS on your 3d printer, it will help to understand what is happening to the polymer chains. It’s a process called crazing.

One good reason to learn about crazing is there is a way to fix it. So check out EngineerDogs’ explanation for more.

Capacitor lifetime depends on the materials capacitor lifetime

Although not all applications are safety critical or mission critical, reliability is still a vital consideration for many electronic products. Making informed choices at the part selection stage can help ensure the product will perform correctly over its intended lifetime.

When choosing capacitors, properties such as volumetric efficiency, frequency stability, temperature rating or equivalent series resistance are often the primary factors that govern technology choice. In these cases, understanding factors affecting lifetime can help engineers make sure the product will deliver the required reliability.

On the other hand, a long operational life may be an essential requirement of the end product.

Continue Reading the full article, “Capacitor reliability can be improved with the right materials,” on Electronics Weekly.

Date: September 28, 2015
Appearance: Capacitor reliability can be improved with the right materials
Outlet: Electronics Weekly
Format: Magazine

Corner Case: 90-deg turns for WS2812
NeoCorner from

NeoCorner from

If you’re working with the WS2812B and need to turn corners, you’ll want to check out this NeoPixel Corner adapter PCB from It’s a pretty simple board. I came across it as a solution for an upcoming lighting project.

In josh’s example, he used a CNC to mill the PCBs. If you’re using one-sided FR4, that might work well. You’ll want to double-check thicknesses if you want to use OSHPark or similar.

You can check out the full write-up here or the NeoPixel Corner Board project GitHub.

On a related link, this document explains differences between WS2812 and WS2812B.

Makers keep your eyes out for these 8 “Trash” Types

Computer in Snow

Photo: Derek Tsang

Dumpster diving can be a rewarding experience for a maker. You never know what components you might be able to recover from electronics otherwise discarded. What can be hidden inside of an “obsolete” box? Motors? Sensors? Capacitors?

Older technologies like VCRs and Scanners can be a treasure trove of stepper and servo motors. Under-powered, by today’s standards, computers probably have cables that can be re-purposed into your current project.

Be on the lookout with Make Magazine’s list of 8 types of “trash” you’ll be lucky to score.

Changing CDNs is being moved to a new content delivery network (CDN). Until Monday September 28, 2015 5:00pm EST, some pages may not load correctly.

Feel free to ping me on twitter @baldengineer if you run into something funny.

Since is SSL-only, I wouldn’t be surprised if some issues pop-up.

Cool learning resource: KEMET Engineering Center

Filling the capacitor gap between school and the real world

Whether you are an engineer with enough experience to be called a graybeard or a novice that keeps grabbing the wrong end of a soldering iron, there is one component that eludes everyone working in electronics.

It’s the humble capacitor.

A seemingly simple device, turns out, to be incredibly complex. While the basic electrode-dielectric-electrode structure sounds simple, the materials used in that structure drastically changes the characteristics of the device.

KEMET Engineering Center Mockup

KEMET Engineering Center Screenshot, Courtesy of KEMET Corporation.

There’s a new website created by KEMET Electronics which aims to educate all levels of engineers about the ins and outs of capacitors. They call it the KEMET Engineering Center.

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Review of EMSL’s XL741

See inside the LM741 with this awesome solder kit

EMSLs XL741 and Three-Fives

When you need to buffer the output of an R-2R ladder or an RC filtered PWM signal, an op-amp is a single chip option. Unlike a discrete NPN transistor like a 2n3904, there is a lot going on inside of an LM741—or any op amp for that matter.

What if you could look inside of the op-amp? Wouldn’t it be cool to see how many transistors make up these small chips?

Put your electron microscope away. The XL741 from Evil Mad Scientist Labs is perfect for the job. I built one of these super fun solder kits and compared it to a real 741.

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Periscope demo: Pros and Con

My experience using Periscope, while soldering a kit

Periscope demo with the EMSL Three-Fives Kit

After fighting bugs, bad connections, and burned out chips your project is working–or even done. The next step? Record a video, edit it, and upload it to YouTube.

Too many steps? Then maybe you just want to do a Periscope demo. Within seconds, you can be broadcasting your project to the world.

This past weekend I tried my first couple of scopes. The first Periscope “demo” was me soldering together a Three Fives from Evil Mad Scientist Labs. The others periscope demos were 3d printing related.

When it comes to a hardware project demo, I see some challenges. Check out these five things to watch out for and, if you’re interested, you can watch my soldering Periscope demo.

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