USB soldering iron

Powering all kind of gadgets from USB power has become very popular nowadays. Soldering from USB power? Now there are products for this. The question is that how useful they are because of the limited power available from USB port (just few watts). The maximum power you can get from normal USB 2.0 port is only 2.5W (5V 500mA), but some special “charge” USB ports can supply more current.

Premier Farnell has announced it will stock the world’s first USB-powered soldering iron by MegaPower. (I am a little bit skeptic on this “world’s first” part because I have seen far too many press releases with those words not properly used, but let’s go on). This small soldering iron is designed for quick repairs in the field and the lab for fine pitch SMT components. It is powered by the USB port or alternatively with a 9V battery. The product claims to achieves 480°C in 20 seconds and at 5W. At this point I am little bit wondering how this 5W is taken from USB port.

Make has article 5 minute review: USB soldering iron on this soldering iron. The article says that the iron has connections to use two USB ports to draw lots of power, which answers my earlier wondering how it gets 5W from USB port.

USB Soldering Iron from Thanko May Actually Work, Sorta reviews a similar looking device. It gives some details on USB powering options: With any standard USB cable you will only be able to get about 300 degrees and the included dual connector USB cords you can push that up to 350 degrees (enough to work with highly lead based solder). The 3rd power option is using 9V battery to mini-USB connector cable (scary idea) you can jump the all the way up to 450 degrees (but the battery last only for a quite short time).

5 minute review: USB soldering iron article article would not recommend it as a first iron, and it won’t be replacing trusty bench-top unit any time soon, however the writer sees that it could be useful when traveling with prototype hardware.

There is also this video on YouTube on this USB soldering iron:

This seems to be something that might be maybe useful for something or not. Hard to judge without actually trying. But this is not something I would run to buy. I already have small gas powered and battery powered soldering irons.

If you are interested, check out Farnell product page for more information.

6 Comments

  1. DIY USB soldering iron « Tomi Engdahl’s ePanorama blog says:

    [...] Tomi Engdahl’s ePanorama blog All about electronics « USB soldering iron [...]

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  2. product review online says:

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  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    USB soldering iron test and teardown with schematic
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-8D5t6TJYU

    When I bought this I was very sceptical that anything powered from a USB port could actually produce enough heat to solder. But here it is, tested and reverse engineered for your viewing pleasure.
    Note the warning about using it from plug-in USB chargers. Most ungrounded versions have significant capacitively coupled mains leakage on the output that will be present on the irons tip and could damage some overly sensitive components. In delicate situations it’s best to power the unit from a decent chunky USB power bank.

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    60 Watt USB Soldering Iron Does it with Type-C
    http://hackaday.com/2017/02/24/60-watt-usb-soldering-iron-does-it-with-type-c/

    Some time back we ran a post on those cheap USB soldering irons which appeared to be surprisingly capable considering they were really under powered, literally. But USB Type-C is slated to change that. Although it has been around for a while, we are only now beginning to see USB-C capable devices and chargers gain traction.

    [Julien Goodwin] shows us how he built a USB-C powered soldering iron that doesn’t suck.

    He is able to drive a regular Hakko iron at 20 V and 3 Amps, providing it with 60 W of input power from a USB-C charger. The Hakko is rated for 24 V operating voltage, so it is running about 16% lower power voltage. But even so, 60 W is plenty for most cases. The USB-C specification allows up to 5 A of current output in special cases, so there’s almost 100 W available when using this capability.

    Being such a versatile system, we are likely to see USB-C being used in more devices in the future. Which means we ought to see high power USB Soldering Irons appearing soon. But at the moment, there is a bit of a “power” struggle between USB-C and Qualcomm’s competing “Quick Charge” (QC) technology.

    Making a USB powered soldering iron that doesn’t suck
    http://laptop006.livejournal.com/59591.html

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  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Review: Aneng LT-001 USB Soldering Iron
    https://hackaday.com/2017/08/31/review-aneng-lt-001-usb-soldering-iron/

    When it comes to soldering irons, most of us are likely to be in agreement that there is a level of quality below which we will not descend. To do a decent job requires a decent tool, and when it comes to soldering that means a good quality temperature controlled iron with a decent power level and a quality bit. Anything else just isn’t worth considering.

    But what if you look at it from the opposite angle? When it comes to soldering, just how low can you go? In that case probably the ultimate scraping of the soldering barrel comes courtesy of USB soldering irons, taking their juice from a five volt phone charger socket and providing tiny power levels you’d expect to be barely enough to work at all. Surely these are toys, not irons!

    Recently I was making an order with your favourite purveyor of electronic bits and pieces from China, and since a USB soldering iron came up on my screen for only £3.69 ($4.76) my curiosity was piqued enough to tack it onto the end of my list of other items.

    An Aneng LT-001 Professional 8 W USB soldering iron, in a clear plastic display carton with a cardboard insert. It’s worth pointing out that very similar irons are available under many different brands, this one can be taken as a representative example.

    Unpacking the iron, in front of me was a USB-to-3.5mm power cable, a rather laughable little metal stand, and the iron itself with a protective plastic cap. This weighs only 22 g, or 0.77 oz, and is about 190 mm or 6.5″ long, of which only 45 mm or 1.75″ is the very slim element and bit.

    In the first instance, with surface-mount discrete components, this iron was a joy to use. Its meagre power level was not sapped by the heat capacity of the miniscule parts, the tiny bit was just the perfect size, and the iron’s extremely light weight and short length of the element made it very easy to get into the action.

    Then soldering an SOIC, the lack of power showed itself in being unable to perform in one of the ways a more hefty iron could. Often you will make solder bridges between SOIC pins, and these you will remove with a bit of desoldering braid. Doing this in the normal manner simply sucked the heat away from the USB iron, and required a rescue with a conventional iron.

    The kit in question has a few 0.1″ pitch through-hole connectors, and the USB iron coped well with these even when the pins were connected to through-plated groundplanes on both sides.

    The final component though was a different story, a through-hole BNC socket. Here the main deficiency of the iron showed itself, as the sheer mass of the socket was enough to suck away every joule the little iron could deliver.

    A Toy, But Not a Joke

    So, given that I’ve taken what amounts to a toy and subjected it to a serious review, what’s the verdict?

    The first and most obvious conclusion is this: A USB iron is not and never will be a replacement for your conventional iron. With only 8 W on offer there will always come a point at which a soldering job is too much for it, and it will not be able to melt the solder in the face of heat loss.

    That said, there are lighter soldering jobs, particularly those involving small surface mount discrete components, in which a USB iron can give a good account of itself, both in terms of heat output and in terms of small size and weight. Yet again it will never be a replacement for a high-end lightweight temperature-controlled iron, but in this arena it can at least do the job rather well.

    Would I suggest that you buy one? Given that you can have one of these for relative pennies, I’d say if you are making an order anyway, then yes.

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