A Soldering Iron Tip Cleaner
on my website, you can read the story behind the design and
construction of my temperature controlled soldering station. This is an
accessory I made for cleaning the tips of the soldering iron.
final stages of designing and constructing my new temperature
controlled soldering iron and 3D-printed base, I realized I would need
some form of tip cleaning system.
In my old Weller and Radio
Shack soldering stations, there was a small rectangular cutout in the
base. This held a water-dampened sponge for wiping excess solder and
residues off the soldering iron tip. While effective, this is perhaps
less than desirable. I noticed some tip damage over time which could
possibly be attributed to water corrosion rather than from soldering.
also required me to have a small plastic squeeze bottle of water at the
back of my bench so I could periodically dampen the sponge. In an
air-conditioned room, that got used frequently. I never had an
accident, but the risk of knocking the plastic bottle of water over
something was always present.
My new soldering station did
not have a sponge tray because I was a bit reluctant to repeat the
same approach. Instead, I observed that many current soldering stations
use a dry system. To me, they appeared to be using some form of
stainless steel “wool”. It looks like the spring-like waste produced
from metal cutting processes on lathes. This tip cleaning method seems
to have some advantages. For one, it reduces the temperature drop
caused by wiping a tip on a cold water-filled sponge. Potentially, it
might also reduce the tip corrosion I had noticed with my old soldering
a suitable source to purchase such a tip cleaner system, I decided to
make my own. Once again, I used DesignSpark Mechanical to do the heavy
lifting involved with designing the holder. I have found that software
to be very easy to use although it does take a little time to get to
grips with the important features.
I also bought a small
packet of stainless steel pot cleaning pads from the local supermarket
for the local equivalent of about $US1. I used these to dimension the
holder in my design. When you print your own version, you may need to
scale the holder slightly to suit the cleaning pads you find at your
local supermarket, although the design is fairly forgiving. It’ll fit a
reasonable range of such products, I suspect.
base I designed is just over 50mm in diameter. The ball of stainless
steel wool seems to fit into it quite tightly – It’s just pushed in
until you can’t fit any more inside. The balance “blossoms” out from
the angled open front of the base nicely. That’s important because you
don’t want the tip getting anywhere close to the 3D printed plastic
base. That would melt it instantly. Messy.
In the same
manner as I used for the design of the printed base of the soldering
station, I also designed a hollow space into the tip cleaner
base. I’ll explain why in a moment.
base was printed using standard PLA filament in 0.2mm layers on my 3D
printer. It took about 30 minutes to print. I used black filament to
match the base of my soldering station but any colour is likely to
Using the same method I used for the
soldering station base, the hollow base of the tip cleaner was also
filled with a single layer of small lead balls. Again, I used a few
dozen shotgun pellets to fill up the hollow space. This was covered by
a layer of plaster of paris to hold everything in place and left to
harden overnight. This approach definitely stops the base from falling
over or moving about, anchoring it safely in place on my bench.
been using this tip cleaner so far for about three months, fairly
intensively. I’ve been very happy with the results. The soldering iron
tip seems to be cleaned surprisingly well with this method, and I’ve
seen no signs of corrosion resulting from wiping the tip against the
stainless steel wool. Thus far, I’ve also avoided getting anywhere
close to the 3D printed plastic of the base.
negative side of the equation, I have noticed that, very occasionally,
the springy nature of the stainless steel “wool” can occasionally catch
and fling a really tiny speck of hot solder or waste around the bench
or across the room. It doesn’t happen very often at all, but it’s
enough to make me more careful. If you work close to others, small pets
or children, the old wet sponge method might be preferable for you.
For me, this tip cleaner is going to stay in action on my bench. I like it a lot, and it’s proven very effective in use.
3D printer files (STL format): Tip_Cleaner
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