One of my previous guides here was on modifying the CVS camcorder to allow users to download movies made with it to their home computers. During the early stages of this project, it was necessary to remove the memory chip from the camcorder and then surface-mount it on a different PCB to read the chip without killing it. Luckily, a way was developed to access the memory chip via USB, but I decided that it was time for me to take a closer look at ways to improve my soldering.
A standard soldering iron is not really a good tool choice for SM chips as it can be difficult to control where the heat goes. Additionally, picking up and laying down old solder can become an issue. Taking some pointers from a short guide on USBmicro, I went to the local Radio Shack and picked up one of their $10.99 de-soldering irons with the red bulb on the end. My next stop was a pet supply store where I spent $7.99 on an air pump.
- 1 Air De-soldering Iron 45W
- 1 cheap air pump (for 5 gallon tank)
- Air hose (had this already)
- small piece of copper wire
Having gathered all the required parts, I started the assembly phase. First, I removed the red bulb from the de-soldering iron. This required bending the wire ring that holds the bulb in place slightly, after which removal was simple. Next, I took off the tip and added a small, coiled piece of wire into the enclosed area. This should provide greater surface area and allow the air pump to push more heat through the tip. Anything ductile (heat conducting) such as steel wool can be used, but I decided on a strand of copper wire. As we all know, copper is an excellent conductor of heat. I made sure to strip off all the insulation, as nobody wants to breathe toxic fumes.
After the tip is back in place I attached the air hose to the iron. To do this, I heated the end of the hose with a lighter (approximately 1 second was enough) and started pushing the hose over where the bulb used to be. The first heating allowed me to get it half way on, and a second application of heat softened it enough to get the hose on the rest of the way. I intentionally kept the air hose long so I can keep the pump on the floor and not be limited in my movement.