Posted on 3 Comments

Duratool ZD-915 Vacuum Desoldering Station Teardown

For a long time I’ve needed a decent vacuum desoldering tool, as I do much stripping of old PCBs for random parts.
Solder wick works well for most things, but it’s expensive & can be fiddly. It also doesn’t keep very long as the copper braid oxidises & after that point it never seems to work particularly well, even when soaked in fresh flux.

Desoldering Station
Desoldering Station

As usual eBay to the rescue! I managed to pick this one up for £80.

Vacuum Pump
Vacuum Pump

Removing the lid reveals the internals. Front & centre is the vacuum pump, with the mains supply behind it. There’s also a very noisy cooling fan at the back. Not sure why since the unit never gets warm enough to actually warrant a fan.


On the other side is the PSU. This is an 18v 12A rated SMPS, with a bit of custom electronics for controlling the iron element. Mounted to the back case is a small black box, more to come on this bit.

PSU Board
PSU Board

Cracking the case of the PSU reveals a pretty bog-standard SMPS, with a surprising amount of mains filtering for a Chinese supply. The DC outputs are on the right.


From the rail markings, this is clearly designed to output some more voltage rails – possibly for other models of unit. In this case though, a single 18v rail is present. The iron’s element connects directly to the supply, controlled via an opto-isolated MOSFET.

Chinese Voltage Regulation
Chinese Voltage Regulation

As both the fan & the vacuum pump motor are 12v devices, some provision had to be made to reduce the 18v from the power supply to a more reasonable value. Inside the black plastic box are a pair of 1Ω 5W power resistors, connected in series. The output from this connects to the fan & vacuum pump. Because cheap, obviously.


Finally, here’s the controller PCB, the main MCU is an 8081 derivative, with a Holtek HT1621B LCD controller for the front panel temperature readout. Iron temperature is achieved by a thermocouple embedded in the heater, I imagine the potentiometer on the left side of the PCB is for calibration.

Posted on Leave a comment

Chinese Power Supply Update

Having now tested the supply I wrote about in my previous post, I can now say that it’s nameplate rating far exceeds it’s actual capability.

On running the supply under load, at 6.5A the operating frequency drops into the audible range, a big sign of overload. (It makes an irritating continuous chirping noise). The output voltage also drops to 10.5v.

The temperature of the unit while it’s been running under such a load is also questionable, the external casing gets hot enough to cause burns, I haven’t yet been able to stick a thermocouple into the case to see what the internal temperature is.

I’m currently talking with the eBay seller (wwwstation) regarding this, however they are arguing that the supply is only for LEDs & CCTV cameras.
However those two loads are very different, and the supply has no internal regulation for supplying LEDs. As a simple switchmode supply, any load is suitable, providing it’s within the load rating of the supply.
I would estimate that the supply is only capable of 5A as an upper limit.

They are requesting that I return the supply, but I’m yet to find out if they’re going to cover return postage. The item as listed is not as described, and I will escalate things if required.
I will update this post when I hear more back from the eBay seller.

73s for now 🙂

Posted on 1 Comment

12v Temperature Controlled Soldering Iron

In my shack, 99% of my gear is all 12v powered, which is good for a few reasons:

  • Single Power Supply – This increases efficiency, as I’m only getting the losses of a single supply.
  • Safety – Mains voltages are dangerous, I’m not fond of working on such equipment.
  • Portability – I can power everything pretty much no matter were I am from a convenient car battery.
  • Convenience – Since everything is single supply, with all the same plugs, I don’t have to think about what goes where. This is more important due to my forgetfulness ;).

The one piece of equipment I regularly use that isn’t 12v is my soldering station. This is a Maplin A55KJ digital unit, which uses a 24v heating element.
While the soldering wand works OK when hooked direct to a 12v power supply (only at half power though), this removes the convenience of having temperature control.

The circuitry inside the unit is PIC microcontroller based, and doesn’t even bother rectifying the AC from the supply transformer before it’s sent to the heater. Because of this there are several reasons why I can’t just hook a DC-DC converter up to it to give it 24v.

It’s sensing the zero-crossing for the triac switch, to reduce heat dissipation, so it refuses to work at all with DC.

On looking at the Great Google, I found a project on Dangerous Prototypes, an Arduino based PID controller for soldering irons.

This requires that the soldering wand itself contains a thermocouple sensor – as the Maplin one I have is a cheap copy of the Atten 938D, it doesn’t actually use a thermocouple for temperature sensing. It appears to read the resistance of the element itself – Nichrome heating elements change resistance significantly depending on temperature.

I’ve managed to find a source of cheap irons on eBay, with built in thermocouples, so I’ve got a couple on order to do some testing with. While I wait for those to arrive, I’ve prototyped up the circuit on breadboard for testing:


I’ve remapped some of the Arduino pins, to make PCB layout less of a headache, but the system is working OK so far, with manual input for the sensed temperature.
I’m using an IRL520N logic-level HEXFET for the power switching, rated at 10A. As the irons only draw a max of 4.5A, this is plenty beefy enough.
To come up with the +24v supply for the heater, a small DC-DC converter will be used.

More to come when the components for the thermocouple amplifier arrive, and the soldering irons themselves!