I thought I would share with you a cute little soldering iron that runs off your computer’s USB ports! This Duratech USB powered soldering iron proves to be fairly useful to me given I solder lots of little components around the place.
Pros: The Duratech USB soldering iron includes some nice features such as an LED indicator light that also helps to illuminate the piece of work you are soldering. It also has an on/off switch, a belt/pocket clip, and is about the size of your average pen. You can use the Y-Cable to connect to one or two USB ports. I found that both USB ports are required, as the 2.5W from a single USB port simply isn’t enough. With 2 USB ports connected, the iron heats up in about 20 seconds. You also get a cool expanding foam sponge to clean the tip after you have finished using the iron. The small form factor makes using this soldering iron almost like using a pen!
Cons: With only six watts of power available, the biggest downfall of the Duratech USB soldering iron is the inability to solder larger components or anything that contains, or is connected to, a large amount of metal. Furthermore, that small size of the heating element means that it cannot store much heat in reserve, so even speaker wire can heatsink the temperature to below the melting point of the solder. Sometimes you can slowly heat a component up so you can still solder it (i.e. wire), but this only works as long as you aren’t heating the component above its rated temperature, eg. capacitors. Don’t even think about trying to solder a heatsink onto a PCB… The other thing that may inconvenience people is the fact that you have to use USB ports, but if you’re going to plug something into the mains, you would probably use something a bit more powerful than a 6W soldering iron 🙂
Usability: The fine point of this soldering iron allows for precise work with very small components, such that I can desolder most items I wish to remove or replace on a circuit board. The slenderness of the heating element and low power consumption also reduces the transmission of heat to surrounding components, therefore heat damage is less likely to occur (would be great for soldering IC’s or transistors to a PCB). Because you can grip the iron closer to the tip than conventional soldering irons, you should have greater control and less wobbles when soldering. The LED light is great when the component you wish to access is covered by shadow or low light. You need to have a computer or other device with 2 USB ports nearby since the cable is only about 1 metre in length.
A belt clip suggests you can stick this in your shirt pocket, however I would think twice about that given the iron has a nice sharp point on it. Someone would also end up sticking the iron in their pocket straight after unplugging it since it is like a USB stick. I think they would be taking it back out of their pocket very quickly if they did that!
Verdict: If you like building your own electronics circuits and modifying your computer, etc. and require a precise instrument, then you will probably like this little soldering iron. You can easily have it in your laptop bag and it weighs less than some metal-case pens. Making custom computer or audio cables/connectors will be very easy due to the fine point and low temperature spread. This device will not suit Mr.Sparky who likes to fix his powerpoints or Mr.Redhead who needs to solder his car’s ignition coil – there is simply not enough power! I picked up the Duratech USB powered soldering iron at Jaycar electronics for $15 (a half price special). It has served me well so far and should prove useful in the future 🙂
Take care guys,