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Designing a soldering iron for limited dexterity

chriskalo

Feb 21, 2021
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Hi, I’m a student at Imperial College London studying Design Engineering. Three other students and I want to design a new soldering iron for people with limited dexterity, and more generally for everyone who would like soldering to be less fiddly. We find that even though we do not have limited dexterity soldering can be hard and we often get bad solder joints; so can only imagine what it’s like for those who do.

I wanted to message this forum in case anyone was interested in getting involved, either because you have limited dexterity (from age, disability, or anything really), or because you have some comments you’d like to share. At this stage we are not expecting any commitment, just any help we’d really appreciate!

Thank you very much,
Chris
 

Martaine2005

May 12, 2015
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Hi Chris, although I think this is a great idea, I also think it’s far from being practical.
Given that soldering is never the same item nor the same area, it’s sometimes difficult without dexterity problems.
If you’re referring to a production line scenario, dedicated tooling can be designed.

Martin
 

chriskalo

Feb 21, 2021
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Hi Martin,
Yes that is true it's a very hard problem to solve due to how diverse soldering can be. I suppose that could make it an interesting product because there is a problem with no obvious practical way to solve it yet. We are going to try and talk to a lot of people and find the root of the problem. But your point made me think maybe we should focus on beginners and hobbyists who will mainly be dealing with through hole soldering with largish components.
 

Martaine2005

May 12, 2015
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I think you may need to start with collecting data from individuals who want to be able to solder. ie: missing limb, arthritis, gout, Parkinson’s or any other condition/disease.
Then concentrate on one design for one specific problem. This won’t be a one fix cures all.
Very difficult in my opinion.

Martin
 

Alec_t

Jul 7, 2015
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we should focus on beginners and hobbyists who will mainly be dealing with through hole soldering with largish components.
For how much longer, I wonder? The trend these days, at least in commercial products, is to use surface-mount components rather than through-hole ones. The latter are getting more difficult to source. A tool which simplified the soldering of surface-mount components would be really useful.
 

(*steve*)

¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd
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Check out the guy who made a pool cue that does magic to mean you can't miss.

I can just imagine a soldering iron like that.
 

dave9

Mar 5, 2017
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We find that even though we do not have limited dexterity soldering can be hard and we often get bad solder joints; so can only imagine what it’s like for those who do...

... But your point made me think maybe we should focus on beginners and hobbyists who will mainly be dealing with through hole soldering with largish components.

Then you are not necessarily solving that problem with a new iron design. This is more about learned technique using a standard, but decent quality iron including the right tip shape, size, keeping it clean yet wetted with solder. However, larger through-hole components are particularly easy to solder with the average low-end iron if the technique is good.

I am suggesting that if you can't consistently make good solder joints yet, that you need more practice to better understand the design issues that are important, and those that aren't as important.

I suspect that your real market is not going to be beginners as this is a more price conscious group, often doing *easier* soldering tasks, more often using leaded solder, and less repetition than someone soldering in their profession all day which can contribute more to pain from ergonomics problems, and arthritis in older people. Shaky hands might also be a problem but a stabilization system might cause as many problems as it solves from additional size and weight.
 

Rayg06

Jan 3, 2023
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Hello, this seems to be a pretty old thread, so I don't know if you're still actively trying to/working on this.
Ignore all the naysayers, that's what every visionary has to do out of necessity.
I have problems holding the iron staright and secure long enough to get a good joint, my hands shake
a bit and it makes doing a proper soldering job difficult. Look at (do some research on)
current devices to help the disabled. For example, there are knives, spoons and forks with gimbals
and special handles on them to allow a person with wiggly hands to hold the utensils steady.
Contrary to what was said, I *DO* know the proper way to solder; I was once an over-anxious youngster
who did poor soldering, decided to imrpove my soldering skills, and did so. Now, however, I find my aging body
working against me in my efforts. So the problem is NOT necessarily not know how, but simply
a lack of ability due to aging joints.
I look forward to hearing from you, to see if this project is still active.
If it is not, I may take up the endeavor myself.
Ray
 

Delta Prime

Jul 29, 2020
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the simplest forms are the best. Inexpensive, Something clear, thin soldering irons, maybe even a glob of silly putty form fitting. perhaps weighted if you suffer from tremors shaky hands.
1675989022595.png

1675989355165.png
Can be very adaptable.
Again depending on your ailment.
Below I can think of something more secure holding the soldering iron and manipulating the printed circuit board with your hand.
1675989436690.png

What you don't see in the photo below is that the support attaches to the arm rather than your hand or the wrist. With this I can think of using it as a teeter totter or fulcrum. Raising the arm above the PCB. Using your shoulder and elbow to manipulate the soldering iron, up and down.
Obviously heat must be accounted for.
1675989649434.png


Just throwing it out there, perhaps it'll kick off your own imagination.
If I live long enough I'll be needing these ideas as well.
 
Last edited:

hevans1944

Hop - AC8NS
Jun 21, 2012
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Old thread or not, I think this is a worthwhile effort.

My wife is an artist and she is becoming blind with macular degeneratin, as well as losing dexterity in her hands because of her health conditions. These conditions impact her ability to draw, paint, and throw clay for pottery. It would certainly benefit thousands, if not millions, of people to have at least their hands "assisted" somehow.

I am thinking of those remote manipulators used to handle radioactive and other hazardous materials behind a protective barrier. Although, originally, remote manipulators were strictly mechanical and rather crude in their ability to grab, hold, and rotate objects, I think the state-of-the-art today (21st Century) allows a "virtual reality" approach using video and small electro-mechanical "manipulators" to do all sorts of tasks requiring precision movements, not just soldering but also anything requiring advanced vision (magnification, 3D imaging, spectral transformation, hyperspectral imaging, etc.).

Size can be almost anything. I have seen, and used, X-Y microscope stage manipulators that use mechanical linkages to translate large joy-stick motions into minute stage motions. Great for locating areas of interest on a specimen slide or finding small components on a circuit board. Something similar, with the added ability to move up and down, would help me to place and solder tiny surface-mount components. Problem is, this technology is not inexpensively available at my local big-box appliance store. If I want something like this, I will have to design and build it myself.

So, instead of a new soldering iron (of which there are already plenty), perhaps all we need is a new way to use that tool. I have personally been "playing around" with soldering surface-mounted components for a few years now. My vision and dexterity would probably be much improved with the aid of a long working-distance, low-magnification, zoom optic, digital video microscopic imaging device and steadier hands. Stereo microscopes of course are readily available, if one has sufficient resources, but I have not found one (not even used!) that I can afford to purchase. A stereo television image using a pair of CCD image sensors with a head-mounted image display might be an alternative if it were paired with a set of micro-manipulators.

Before electronics technicians are all replaced with AI-driven robots, perhaps someone here can offer a solution that would allow human beings to perform most if not all of those tasks, albeit at a slower and more error-prone rate...

73 de AC8NS -- Hop
 
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