Instructables
Picture of Electric Vacuum Pen From Aquarium Air Pump.
A vacuum pen is used to pick up tiny little things such as beads, small shells or sometimes electronic components depending on their size.  They aren't very useful for picking up larger things like coins or larger computer chips, but are great for things so tiny they are hard to even pick up with your fingers, especially if it's something you are worried about crushing.  They sell manual press pumps for around $10 that can do this but if you want a little more oomph in your suction ability, an electric vacuum pen can be the the way to go.    Unfortunately those can be much more expensive starting at $50 to $80.

My goal while making this was to do it for as little money as possible, so I will try to lead you on how to do that too.  This one was under $20 in total parts, and half of it was stuff I already happened to have around the house.
 
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Step 1: Parts And Tools.

Picture of Parts And Tools.
This vacuum pen was made with some easy to find parts.   The main component is the aquarium air pump.   This walkthrough is specifically for the Aqua Culture duel pump for 20-60 gallon tanks and the Whisper 100 which we will cover after (jump to page 16 if you want to start on the Whisper 100.), which is rated for 100 gallons and has a little more power, but also cost a little more.  It will depend what you want to do.  Walmart has the best price for the Aqua Culture I've seen for around $10, but if that's not your thing, ebay is probably the next best place to work for price.   The Whisper 100 seems to go for just a little over $20.

Keep in mind before you start, the more gallons the pump is rated for, the more suction it would have.   This is a $11 pump rated for 60 gallons at most.   The Whisper goes up to 100 gallons and would give you slightly more suction, but that pump is around $20.  They also make pumps for ponds and larger tanks for around $40 and up, but I have no idea what kind of pumps they use in those at this point in time and if you can flip a gasket as easily.  At this time I also don't know if hooking multiple smaller pumps would get you better suction or not.

I'd say the Aqua Culture is good for smaller things like beading and small electronics like resistors.  But if you want to pick up larger items, I'd look at the Whisper 100 and some suction cups to go with it, which are discussed near the end.


Parts:
1 Aqua Culture duel air pump.
1 Standard airline tubing.  At least 3 feet or longer.
1 Airline T-Valve
1 Air Flow Control Valve
1 Alligator Clip
1 Inflation Needle
2 Small Screws
1 Pen with rubber grip.
1 Pen that fits comfortably in your hand.

Tools and Supplies:
Scissors
Electrical Tape
Epoxy
Philips Screw Driver
Drill and Saw or a Dremel Tool
Pliers
Toothpicks (for applying the epoxy)
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bearblue8 months ago

good

Great instructable.

My one suggestion: you might mention in step 9 that the blue covers also need to flip 180 degrees from their original position. It does not seem to work unless the gaskets and the blue valves are flipped.
This may be confusing for users since the blue valves are keyed to fit over the gasket pin, but they fit almost perfectly 180 degrees due to a small cutout on the backside.
I think that's why people are getting mixed results. Flip both gasket and blue valve cover, and the vacuum is quite strong. Also, your pic shows it correctly positioned, it's just not called out in the text.
Great write up and pics, and extra credit for making this out of a super cheap Walmart device that is very easy to obtain!
jmcnulty312 months ago
I attempted to modify the dual pump. The motor still works but there is very little suction. When I put the hose in water, it does not bubble or vacuum. I followed the steps carefully. I took it apart an reassembled it to make sure I had done it right. Any idea why it did not work? The pump cost less than 10 dollars so it is not a big expense, but I am very interested in a vacuum pick up tool that is less than $50 - $100. I am assembling a lot of boards and it would come in handy.
technicallyartistic (author)  jmcnulty312 months ago
So I've tried this several times now and seem to screw it up every other time where I'm not getting any suction or blowing. Usually the case is I've gotten one of the two valves upside down. It's just a matter of trial and error to figure out which one. Try flipping one and see what happens. If it starts blowing after that open it back up and flip them both. If it's not that then it is something new to me.
donkeyknee1 year ago
nice
R4NS0M1 year ago
Love It. Awesome Job! Thanks for the instructable.
Rezer1 year ago
For anyone wondering, the first thing I did after making this (with the aquaculture pump) was hook it up to a long piece of aquarium tubing and stick it in a bucket of water. It pulled a column of water about 8 feet high and held it there, which works out to about 240 millibar. Hooking it up to both ports made no difference whatsoever in the vacuum pressure (pretty much expected), but did increase the speed of the air flow by quite a bit (let's see...about double? Shocking!) Not too bad for a little aquarium pump.
Phoenix781 year ago
Never thought about this.Gonna make this for sure.Great Instructable.
kjsrocks1 year ago
wouldn't it be simpler to just reverse the polarity or can't you
technicallyartistic (author)  kjsrocks1 year ago
No, it's about the gasket directions. The diaphragms just vibrate back and forth to pump the air. The gasket is what decides if air is going in or going out when when the diaphragm is pumping. One direction closes it to air going out and the other direction closes it to air going in.
Thanks
Is there some reason that just sticking the hose on the other hose bib wouldn't work, rather than opening it up to adjust the mechanism to pump the other direction?
Both valves only pump out air before that. There's no suction coming from any part of the device before doing that.
Edgar1 year ago
Voted.
Good idea, and instructable, went to my Blog:
http://faz-voce-mesmo.blogspot.pt/2013/01/modi-bots-algo-de-importante-e-um.html
danzo3211 year ago
When the surgeon says, "More suction, nurse" I bet that device costs a couple grand.
danzo3211 year ago
Picking up tiny beads would seem to only call for a small vacuum force; using bigger pumps might make no sense. At some point you just need a coneshaped nozzle for a ShopVac.
askjerry1 year ago
That was an exceptionally well written instructable. Many people will place a couple of images, a vague description... but yours is very well written, clear, and the images are very well thought out.

Great job!
I would think that adding a jar in the middle like a catch basin would prevent debris from going into the mechanism and make item retrieval much easier.
I made something like this a while ago- the jar idea works very well, especially if you place a bit of filter cloth over the tube leading from the jar to the pump :)
chuckyd1 year ago
This is a good tool, well described. If you made the pick needle project a little more, then you could reach into tiny crevices to rrtrieve your tiney parts. Not saying that you lose things in tihy crevices, but I sure do.
technicallyartistic (author)  chuckyd1 year ago
Yeah. Since posting I've seen other people use syringe needles, which I didn't think of. If you needed a finer tip, that would seem like the easy way to go.
Extremely well done! Very clear and understandable. It makes me want to make one - you made it look easy and explained it well.
This is a great idea, the main limitation of the pump, is the design of the pump, or more or less, how much air remains in the pumping chamber, on it's exhaust stroke, as a ratio of it's overall displacement...

This does not include issues such as valve sealing, motor power etc...

So it's not the "size" of the pump - that rating it based upon the amount of air, that it can feed into an aquarium, to oxygenate the average population of fish, for that size tank.

The easiest way to get an idea on this, and because the very dense liquid metal - mercury - is hard to get,so you need a much greater height in your column of water, is to hang some air hose, out the window of a 2 or 3 story building, and into a bucket of water, and then hook your "vacuum" pump up to that.

Because I tend to calibrate restricted manometers, where the water will not get sucked into the device, doing the sucking, I have no real idea of what the pump is capable of pulling in the way of a partial vacuum, and how high it will lift the water.

But the vertical height of the water column, will show you exactly how much the partial vacuum is, and the only difference between a 'small pump" and a large pump, is how much FLOW it is capable of - and not how high a pressure / vacuum it will develop.

Tips: Mercury is better because 1) it doesn't evaporate 2) water has a density 13.6 times lower than mercury, so for some applications the size of the manometer would have to be very large.

The best write up on them. http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/u-tube-manometer-d_611.html
SewLolita1 year ago
I like yours, it's very tidy and professional looking :)

I did something similar in concept a while back, but simply drilled a small hole in the pen body, which I covered with my finger when I wanted it 'on' and didn't when I wanted it 'off', and half-covered for weaker pressure. I added a tiny clear screw-top plastic container with some fine filter cloth inline on the air tube (terrible diagram attached) both to stop dust gunking the motor, and so I could unscrew the pen tip, and use the setup as a micro-vacuum, for collecting spilt beads etc, or just cleaning dust out of small spaces.

I had two pumps, one unmodiifed, and somehow attached the tube to the 'blower' rather than the 'sucker'... when I'd last used it to suck up metallic powder excess, and not emptied the canister :D *grins* sparkly..everything... -_-

A small dab of silicone sealant mixed 5:1with cornflour makes a decent cheapo sucker-end (just formed around something thr right size, then pulled off after it had set), and a wide hollow needle (such as from a syringe) works as a non-sucker tip, (I didn't have a filling valve anywhere)... the spare tip/adjusters from a cheapo lighter fluid tin look like they might've been an acceptable substitute too :D

My one is very, very ugly, but I only wound up paying for the pump and air tube :)
lousy diagram.jpg
This jar idea is so simple, very nice DIY vacuum canister!
This is by far the most highly detailed and clearly described instructable I seen. Incredible job. And very very useful gadget. It is ideal for cleaning computer keyboards.
One question; if the gaskets can be used against each other to punch the hole, can they simply be switched? I'm sure if they could be, you would have done it, but it's the only part of this beautiful inst. I wasn't sure of.
No. It's the same parts on each side. One side is just upside down from the other. I just flipped them over the top of each other to get the distance right because I didn't want to have to measure with a ruler. And even then I couldn't get it perfectly lined up and had to measure to see if the left/right measurement was even. But it got me the distance down from the edge of the circle at least. A mechanical pencil does the job pretty well and the initial hole is probably not a big deal if you screw it up by a little.
dlebryk1 year ago
Ouch! That would hurt your finger.
mh.khan921 year ago
awesome thank u so much
do you think this would work well for sucking solder away when desoldering stuff as long as you put a filter to catch the bits
I'd say chances of it working as a solder suction tool are slim. I've converted a pump myself some time ago (a different, even more crude pump tho) and measured its vacuum head to be only about 5-7 inches of water (not mercury!) In other words, it's very-very low for readers not familiar with the frame of reference. It's more than enough to hold parts with a suction tool, even larger parts (I've used it with TSOP48 memory chips, worked very nice) but it would not  suck a molten heavy metal like tin/bismuth alloys anywhere far, and even if it did, it would be so slow that it would solidify before it can pass the nozzle. Additionally, suction soldering station generate not only good negative pressure but they move quite a bit of air, too - aquarium pumps move hardly any air at all.

So, anyway, these converted pumps are very useful for pick-n-place projects but you better off buying a soldering station with suction or simply get a better hang of using a spring-loaded suction tool for de-soldering parts.
Potentially yes. I wouldn't want to use the pen made in this case for it as I would think it would clog really easy with too many edges to catch solder inside the pen. I tried it out using another pen I threw together without the needle and it was able to suck up the solder, but not that easily compared to a spring loaded desoldering pump. Also it got about one use before the tip of the pen got clogged and I wasn't able to get the solder out of the tip because there's a bunch of little ridges inside it's clinging to now. So possible yes, but convenient or easier, I'm not so sure.
I just converted over my whisper pump which is rated for 100 gallon tank and it has better suction, though I'm still not sure enough to do this. I'm going to test at some point here if I hook both of them together if I get a lot more suction or just some. There's also some pumps out there rated for 300 gallons, but I'm not sure what the parts inside those look like, or again at their price points if it's at all worth it.
an old fridge pump works well to clean solder out tape pipe in players heat up solder melts
Wouldn't that be a little overkill?
dablakh0l1 year ago
A tapered glass, like an eyedropper, would work as a solder sucker. Just put a cigarette filter in it to keep the molten solder from getting up into the pump or tubing. You will need to replace the filter fairly often if you are doing a lot of desoldering. Flux fumes will also get up into the pump and solidify causing the pump to jam up, so you need to also clean out the pump too.
luky luke1 year ago
Hi Technicallartistic,

Great idea as yours, you can even imagine different suction fittings with Teflon Ø also different to desolder components, with a vacuum bag as suggested SewLolita, or a small box camera film and a return to pump, I thought to convert a cheap airbrush for this application.

But your system is more simple and does not cost almost nothing!
It is also possible to leave the pump in the state and install a heater adjustable output, I think that adding a pump a little more powerful (like inflating balloons Foot, little more expensive on EBay ) it would be possible to ramp up, in this case it would be worthwhile to find a system of air inversion, with plethora of accessories that would make it a must for soldering SMD desoldering and different other applications

As they say with "IF" ... we would do many things ...!
In any case, kudos to you for your ingenuity, and a big thank you for sharing.
Luky.
moffett81 year ago
If the suction is strong enough this would be a big improvement over the plunger type solder suckers. On the Plunger type if you don't get all the solder out the first time you have to reheat because the solder cools down.
Sl0whand1 year ago
Thank you for sharing!
I was really amazed by the simplicity and the profundity of this concept.
Opened several intellectual doors.
R.
Dandie1 year ago
I like your project very much. Thanks for show us your idea.
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