Soldering Tips (what you need)

Of all the skills I can teach about assembling the TouchDRO, soldering is probably where I am the weakest. So I’m going to start there. There’s a method to the madness. Sometimes when someone is new at a skill they are can actually do a better job teaching it because the learning is fresh in their mind. Ever have a master try and teach you something and all they can say is “just do it, it’s not that difficult” because it is just too easy for them?

Anyway, here goes, soldering tips from a somewhat decent solderer.

Starting with the basics, you probably want to buy a “soldering station” as opposed to just a soldering iron. The advantages of a soldering station are mainly that it includes a stand to rest the soldering iron in when you are not using it and the temperature can be adjusted. It’s the latter that is the most important, but the former is very useful too. I’ve got the Weller WLC100, you’ll find it online anywhere from $35 to $55. It is adjustable from 5 to 40 watts and has interchangeable tips.

Weller WLC100
Weller WLC100

You can buy much higher cost soldering stations with more features, some that let you set the exact temperature of the tip but for this job I think the Weller does just fine. You could do it with a cheaper one as well but for the money I think that the WLC100 makes the job easier. Here’s two sources to buy one online:

MCM Electronics

You’ll notice that Amazon is significantly cheaper, however, MCM is convenient because they have all the replacement tips indexed. You’ll need to buy at lease one replacement tip for the soldering iron and it’s pretty difficult to make sure you are buying the right one on Amazon.

If you are in the Eugene, OR area (where I am). You should probably just drop by Oregon Electronics as you can get everything you need in one trip. I’m not sure if they carry the Weller but they have something that looks similar and is actually cheaper …. plus it comes with spare tips. Speaking of spare tips, for soldering to the circuit board your going to need something other than the chisel or screwdriver tip that most soldering irons come with. With the Weller I have above, I’ve used both the ST1 and the ST7 and both work but I think I prefer the ST1 because it gets things up to temperature faster.

Now that you have your soldering station worked out you are going to need a tip tinner/cleaner. Most soldering stations will come with a sponge to clean the tip of the soldering iron. I was never successful using one as it cooled the iron down too much and the temperature fluctuations, I believe, caused the tips too wear out prematurely. Since I switched over to a tip tinner/cleaner I haven’t worn out a tip. Lastly there are two other little tools that will make things easier on you. A third hand tool and heat sink clips. You’ll see in the following post  how handy these can be.

That is going to be it for this post. I’m trying to keep this brief and only give you the information you need. If you want more information, there is a ton of it on the web. The Maker community is super active out there and soldering is one of the fundamental skills of making things. Do some searches and see what you find. In the next post I’ll have some pictures and videos of exactly how I did the soldering on the TouchDRO quadrature board.


What Makes IronPunk (videos) Different?

I’ve been trolling the web looking for free resources for training manufacturing concepts. I’ve found a lot of really good stuff, more than I expected really. There are a number of “YouTube machinists” out there taking their time and energy to pass on their hard earned tips which is a really great thing and very useful for people who have the time and inclination to watch and learn. I’ve also found a some videos prepared at various schools. You can see what I’ve come up with in the links table below. Seems most of these videos hover around the 30+ minute mark for a few reasons.

  • They cover a wide variety of topics, including viewer feedback, tool reviews and commentary.
  • They show lengthy segments of chips being made
  • The video is of a class lecture which, due to the environment, must be paced so that they entire class can keep up in the lecture environment, with many pauses to allow student’s to process the material

I have absolutely no problem with any of these formats and they all have their place. I myself have learned a lot from the likes of Abom79, Joe Pi and others. I enjoy their personalities and banter. What I’m trying to do with Ironpunk, however, is different. I’d like to keep the topics focused so that the videos can be short and to the point. Arbitrarily, I’ve set the limit at 10-13 minutes as a feasible amount of time. Rather than make the videos slow paced or repeat concepts to reinforce a point, I’ll rely on the viewer to pause the video as necessary and/or replay the video to understand the concepts or techniques. A good example of the format I like is the Hass Tip of the Day.

About this Site

This site is developed using WordPress. It uses a theme I developed titled “First in Flight” which is based on the theme UnderScores which was created specifically for others to copy.  Many other pieces of software are either used on this site or in the creation of it. The majority of them are released under some form of opensource license. Where possible the license for each is listed below. Like the Creative Commons License, these licenses enable sharing and improvement by those who desire to do so. While each license is unique, the overall goal of advancement through shared knowledge is consistent.

The manufacturing industry suffers from a lack of this same goal. Equipment, software and education are all costly and primarily proprietary. Knowledge is locked away in expensive, and often outdated, textbooks and classes which serve to deter rather than encourage people from entering the industry. Perhaps a shift to opensource would open the industry to young, innovative talent and spark the kind of growth in manufacturing that the computer software industry has enjoyed over the last 30 years.

Open Source Software

  • WordPress – GPL – WordPress is technically a blog server, although many people use it as a Content Management System in the creation of websites. It uses MySQL as a back end and is easy to customize through the use of themes and plugins.
  • Underscores – WordPress theme developed by a community of developers. The theme demonstrates WordPress theme best practices and is intended to be used as a starting point for theme developers.
  • Inline Google Spreadsheet Viewer   — GPL Plugin to WordPress that allows the use of many data sources as the back end to html tables.
  • First In Flight Image Fader — Used on the front page to display the image slide show. Developed by me. Not currently released.
  • GIT GPL – Source code management system used to back up files and maintain a revision history of changes.
  • Linux Mint – GPL – My operating system of choice
  • Apache –   Apache License – Web Server used for the site.
  • PHP PHP License – Language that WordPress and hence the IronPunk site is written in.
  • JQuery  A cross-platform JavaScript library designed to simplify the client-side scripting of HTML.[3] jQuery is licensed under the MIT License.
  • Citable – Not sure of the license on this but I’ve included it in this section as it is freely available and free of charge. It’s a super useful extension to Chrome for saving links and data from web pages into a Google spreadsheet.

Commercial Software

  • Bitbucket – Bitbucket is a cloud based storage service that integrates with GIT. I use it for offsite backup of the site. Bitbucket is a commercial service that is free for less than 5 users.
  • PHPStorm – PHPStorm is a commercial, cross-platform IDE for PHP[1]  written by JetBrains . Although the application is commercial and licensed using a yearly subscription service, discounted and free licenses are available for startups, opensource projects and educational use.
  • Smugmug – SmugMug is a paid photo-sharing website. I use smugmug because of it’s features, fast downloads and the lack of advertising. Hosting the photo’s using a commercial site allows me to run the website on a cheaper lower bandwidth account. It has nice features for embedding slide shows in WordPress as well as organizing and light editing of photos. Soon I will replace all galleries on the site that currently use Photo Gallery (below) with Smugmug galleries.
  • Photo Gallery – PhotoGallery is a commercial plugin for WordPress that enables the creation of image galleries. It is the free alternative to the “Pro” version which is available from the same company. I am not a big fan of the plugin and am working to remove the site’s dependence on the plugin.

Site Task List

This site needs much work. It is really still in its infancy. Here are some big picture tasks still to be done.

  • Make Responsive to better suit mobile devices – For a project focused on putting resources on mobile devices, this site views very poorly on smaller screen devices (and needs more help even on large screens). I have made some steps toward responsiveness but much more needs to be done. The CSS for the site is poorly organized and needs much cleanup.
  • Make Front Page view better on small devices and those with portrait displays – Enhance FIF Image Fader to serve images tailored to the device.
  • Turn the Online Resource List into a community sourced resource database.  – Start with a “Submit a Resource” form.
  • Forums/Chat/? – Some form of social interaction to discuss and get support on projects.

Web Development

Somehow when I started this project I didn’t think I would be doing as much web development as I have been doing. It’s my nature, though. I am highly process oriented. If I have to do something multiple times I want to put in the work to make things go as efficiently as possible. It’s why, in my shop, I often find myself spending more time making the tooling and fixturing to get a job done than it takes to actually do the job. I get satisfaction in having things go smoothly and efficiently. Few things frustrate me more than having to repeatedly do something in an inefficient manner just to “get it done”.

When I started working on this site, I decided it would be a small modification to the site I had already developed for myself As it turns out I ended up making a bunch of changes to add to it’s readability and maintainability. It’s hard to see the changes as my own site has kept pace. In reality they are both served from the same WordPress instance and it serves out or based on the URL it is reached by. Eventually my hope is that the IronPunk site will need to scale up to it’s own server but for now this is the cheap solution. It isn’t the fastest server but it will have to do for now.

The latest addition to the site is the dynamically generated tables that display the IronPunk parts list and the list of Online Resource Links. The nice thing about the way these are implemented is that it allows the user to interact with the data and, because of the way that the data is stored, it can be reused in different ways and maintained easily. I won’t bore you with the details in this post. If you are interested however, you can check out this post over in the Details section. I’ve used a lot of opensource code in creating this site and that post gives credit where credit is due.

Online Resource Links

This is a dynamically generated list of useful online resources. At this point it is one large list. You can search through the list with the search box on the right. Searching will minimize the list to those entries containing the text you have entered, for example “manual” or “CNC”.  You can save out the list with the buttons on the upper left. Eventually I will create separate, filtered lists on different topics to aid in searching and discussion.

IronPunk Projects

These are the projects that will be completed for the first round of Ironpunk.

Procedural Projects (those which do not make an object)- These will have a listing of online resources and a short demonstration video.

  • Speeds – SFPM, RPM, how to calculate, resources for determining SFPM for different materials and tools, adjustment due to cutting conditions
  • Feed rate using chip load calculator – Explain chip load, feed rate and how they relate and are calculated with simple math. Reference on-line and Android calculators for determining feed rate based on chip load. Use chip load calculator in TouchDRO to tune autofeed and hand feed. Get familiar with proper feed and how it feels. (possible feature for TouchDRO, use graphic to show difference from ideal chip load during feeding)
  • Indicating a vise
  • Tramming the mill head
  • Edge finding

Part Projects – Each of these will contain:

  • Videos – At least an introduction, probably step by step instructions of anything complicated.
  • Written instructions
  • Prints utilizing proper GD&T
  • Images of each fixturing setup
  • 3D rendering of the completed part
  • Links to outside useful information.
  • Drill Gauge Project
    • DRO use in milling stock to length
    • Do not cover scribing, refer to resources
    • Edge find origin – separate video
    • spot drill holes using standard DRO techniques
    • drill holes using preset points in TouchDRO
    • Ream holes using “closest point” feature in TouchDRO
    • chamfer holes on near side with “closest point feature”
    • flip part, adjust work offset and chamfer holes on backside
  • Squaring a block – Start with raw stock. Discuss methods for squaring. Discuss how square is a spectrum and that you need to make it square enough for the application and tolerances. Methodologies for different types of stock (bar stock, cut from plate etc.) Use incremental coordinate presets with the DRO to square stock to a specific size.
  • Making the case for the Touch DRO
    • Start with a squared block (from first project).
    • Edge find a corner for the origin and set the workspace origin.
    • Add points to TouchDRO from the drawing
      • 5 drilled and tapped holes
      • Add point for center clearance hole
    • Drill and tap five holes to mount the top of the case
    • Drill the center hole
    • Add the 4 corner points to the TouchDRO
    • Using “Mill to Zero” methodology to hollow out the block.
    • Add the four points for the board mount holes to the TouchDRO
    • Drill and tap the four board mount holes

Parts list

This is the beginning of the parts list. It is incomplete at this point. I’ll add more as I sort through my expenses. The spreadsheet is interactive. The columns are sort-able and the search box below will filter the entries so that, for example, if you want to just see the things I purchased from MCM you can just type “MCM” into the search box. You can download this spreadsheet in multiple formats using the links in the upper left corner. If you have trouble using this spreadsheet, please leave a comment and include your browser and computer type.

Buying Components

One of the first hurdles to getting the TouchDRO hooked up was buying all the connectors, terminals and wiring I needed. There aren’t many stores that sell these type of connectors, certainly nowhere in Eugene I assumed (more on that later). I started searching for good sites on the web and found the following along with many others:

  • – wide selection, expensive in small quantities and you really need to know what you are looking for.
  • – kind of Arduino and kit specific. Sometimes hard to tell whether what they sell will work with other devices, user friendly however
  • – like Adafruit, better for kits and gadgets rather than individual connectors.
  • – Super wide selection and good prices. Good customer support, can actually talk to people on the phone. Confusing website with pictures and descriptions that don’t always match the item.

I ended up buying most of my parts from MCM Electronics and it was quite the learning experience. It took 4 orders and $32 in shipping expenses to get what I needed. That’s the problem with having to buy things that you can’t hold in your hands to see if it fits and does what you expect it to do. As I wrote in the list above, their website is confusing and misleading. The pictures often don’t match the item they are displayed with and neither do the descriptions.  After my 2nd order they sent me a catalog which made things incredibly easier. I would suggest calling them up and requesting a catalog right off the bat if you are planning on ordering from them as it will likely save you time and shipping costs in the long run. I’ll post a complete parts list in the resources section of what I bought from them which should also make things easier.

A funny thing happened after all my ordering and re-ordering from MCM. I was soldering some connectors and realized I didn’t have the right size shrink fit tubing. I rode out to Home Depot to get what I needed and came across Shangri-La, otherwise known an Oregon Electronics. I have a hard time understanding how with all my web searches I did not find this place. It is right at Conger and 11th and I believe that they have everything I needed. Not only that they have knowledgeable staff to answer questions and everything is right there to touch and feel. The prices seem comparable to MCM and probably cheaper once you figure in shipping with the small quantities I was ordering (and re-ordering 🙂 . I’ll post a parts list for Oregon Electronics for anybody close enough to drop in. They have a website but I haven’t  spent much time on it. One of the things I am quite excited about is that they have a selection of tips for soldering irons. I’ve always had a difficult time finding tips in the style I want that fit my soldering iron. I am going to take it down there so I can test fit them and get what I need.

Grant Proposal

Due to reduced school budgets and downsizing of shop programs, many high schools and community colleges have a surplus of equipment but a shortage of skilled instructors to teach students machining skills. This is at a time when there is a projected 34% growth in jobs in the CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) Manufacturing industry. The goal of this proposal is to provide a means to teach skills fundamental to CNC machining in schools lacking resources and to better prepare students entering manufacturing jobs or manufacturing programs at community colleges.

A Digital Readout (DRO) is a simple computer added to a manual machine that greatly enhances the operator’s ability to do advanced work. At its simplest, it allows the operator to easily switch between metric and imperial systems of measurement and do precise work on older manual machines. Some DROs allow the operator to accomplish many tasks using similar techniques to those used on a CNC and hence allow an instructor to teach CNC related skills on a manual machine.

This proposal would document a process by which any school can build a DRO with greater capabilities than a commercial DRO using opensource resources. The opensource DRO uses an Android tablet as a user interface allowing the inclusion of freely available manufacturing resources and tools as well as images and videos. These resources can be utilized right at the machine making the DRO an invaluable teaching resource.

The opensource Android DRO is complete and fully functional, although in the future it could be enhanced to make it an even more powerful teaching tool. The build plans and functional details are documented at the site below. Admittedly, the website is a bit disorganized. Part of this project would be to organize and condense the information on the site.

With an opensource DRO installed, teachers can create projects that include much more detail and instructional material than traditionally possible. Videos and images demonstrating proper process and setup can reduce the workload on instructors who are working with students on different schedules and at different learning rates. Instructors can use the built in camera on the Android tablet to shoot pictures and video which can be linked with the project for students to reference in the shop or at home.

Projects can be uploaded and shared with other schools that have an opensource DRO allowing schools with more skills and resources to share projects with schools lacking in the same. This can serve as an outreach tool to high school CTE programs and help increase enrollment in community college manufacturing programs.

Board Hookup Notes

Keeping with the rough draft nature of this section, I’m just dropping some notes on the board hookup process. This will get filled in and expanded upon and eventually graduate to the Resources section.

  • Need appropriate crimpers
  • 22 gauge wires will work with 24 gauge terminals and fittings, just barely
  • crimping is easier and quicker than soldering as long as you have the right crimpers
  • not all heatshrink tubing is the same, black vs, clear.
  • If you have a local shop, it is worth it to pay a bit extra to be able to test fit and make sure
    you get the right stuff the first time. What you save in part prices can be quickly lost in
    shipping charges from multiple orders to get things right.
  • Solid vs stranded wire.
  • Cheaper wire in budget scale
  • Problems with connecting two D-Sub connectors