Ever since I started soldering, I was annoying by those pesky fumes. I kept on having to blow them away using my breath or swatting them away with my hands. But they kept bothering me. Soon I started to keep a fan nearby to blow them away and that worked pretty well but at times it was cold and I didn't want to blow cool air on my face. So I started the hunt for a fume extractor. I used a few here and there but couldnt fine one that actually worked well. And all DIY solutions I saw didnt appeal me. So I set out to make my own DIY solution. One that would look sleek and work effectively.
In this instructable I will show you how to build your own fume extractor. One that might not end up saving the planet but will end up looking good on your work bench and working better than most solution in the market.
This build is a long time coming. I first made it an year ago and have been using it and changing the design. This version is the one I have been using for almost two months and I can confidently say that it is the best I have ever used and that is including the Hakko fume extractor and a very expensive industrial system.
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Step 1: Parts Required
These are the parts you will need for this build. I bought all of them from Aliexpress as they were the cheapest there but you can look for them on other websites and I am sure you will find them easily. Nothing used in this build is very special.
- 120mm Delta Fan 12V 4.8A AliExpress
- 120mm Metal Fan Grill AliExpress
- 12V 6A Power Supply AliExpress
- Foot Switch AliExpress
- 5.5mm DC Plug with Wire AliExpress
- 5.5mm DC Jack AliExpress
- M3 Screws and Nuts AliExpress
- 1/4 inch Plywood Home Depot
The fan choice was the most critical of all the parts. I basically chose the most powerful DC fan I could find which was of reasonable size. This was one of the main issues with most DIY solutions that I saw online. The fan that was used was not powerful enough to move any serious air. The fan I used is mainly installed in large servers and it is capable of moving a lot of air.
Step 2: Designing the Housing
I designed the housing in Corel Draw to be laser cut and assembled together. Although a functional fume extractor can be made without the housing but the housing makes it look like a proper finish product.
I used my handy digital calipers and took measurements of the fan, nuts, screws and dc jack. I first designed a basic four sided box and then added details. I chose t slot joints to secure the the sides as they allow for disassembly and they look good. The design of the legs was just something I had in my mind and designed as I went.
I added some text for informational and aesthetic purposes. I serialized my build just to give it an impression of a finished product.
Based on the laser cutter you use, you will have to change the line and etch color. Every laser has a specific requirement.
Step 3: Laser Cutting
I used the laser cutter at think[box] which is the university maker space at Case Western reserve University open to the community. If you live in the Cleveland area, I would recommend visiting think[box] for all your laser cutting and 3D printing needs. Otherwise you can also try you local maker space or online services such as ponoko.
Laser cutting is simple enough. Just send the vector file to the printer, adjust the focal length, set the material settings and fire away.
You might want to test the settings on a sacrificial piece of wood first so that you can dial in the settting before the real thing. Over powering the laser would result in significant fumes leaving burn marks on the wood that are hard to cut. But under power is even more of a pain because then you would have to force the pieces and might end up damaging them.
When you do test you power, test on the corner of the laser bed where the head is farthest away from the origin of the laser as it will have the least power there and you want to ensure it cuts through at that point. Because if it cuts there, it will cut fine everywhere else.
If the laser does leave marks, sand with some fine grit sandpaper or use denatured alcohol to clean it up.
Step 4: Assembly
Once we have the housing at ready, we can start assembly. Assembly is pretty straight forward for the fume extractor. Just follow the steps.
- Insert M3 nuts in all the pockets on the housing making sure you insert from the side that faced up while laser cutting as it will be wider. Secure the screw in the pocket with is flat side on the edge of the plywood. You might have to force it in based on your nut or how thick the kerf of your laser cutter is.
- Loosely screw in the four panels of the housing, leaving the bottom open.
- Cut the connector off the fan and get rid of the signal wires.
- Slide the fan in its place so that the side with the sticker faces the rear.
- Screw in the fan grill using M5 screws on both sides.
- Soldering in the DC jacks in series with the fan. Careful about inserting the nut first and in the correct location.
- Screw in the bottom cover and tighten all the screws while laying the fume extractor on a flat surface.
- Solder the DC plug with the foot lever making sure to connect to the contacts that are normally open.
And that is it. You are ready to plug it in and fire it up.
Step 5: Revisions and Testing
As I mentioned this is the third revision of my fume extractor design so there has been a lot of testing involved throughout the developmental cycle.
The first two versions had carbon filters in them so that they can clean the air as it exits the fume extractor but that idea didnt work out that well because the filter impeded air flow and did not do a very good job or filtering as I could still notice fumes coming from the back. But that wasnt the concern. The concern was that it did not pull fumes unless it was less than 4 inches from the source. And that defeated the whole purpose. So I tested this version for the distance and I was pleased when it pulled fumes effectively from almost 12 inches away. So it passed that test.
Next was to test the practicality of the foot lever switch. My first two models had a simple power switch but I noticed that I kept on turning the fume extractor on and off whenever I needed it. That was because it was so noisy, it messed up my music playback and also consumed unnecessary energy. So with the foot switch, I can turn the fan on and off just when I am about to solder without having my hand free to press the switch. I used it for a few weeks and found it very useful. So it passed this test too.
The last thing to test was safety. My first two fume extractors didnt use a metallic grill and only used a basic laser cut grill which wasn't fine enough to prevent digital injury. And because the fan is scary fast, I wanted a greater sense of security. One less thing to worry about during a stressful soldering job. Hence the grills. I tried to create accidental bumping condition but my digits remained unharmed. Hence passing the last and final test.
Step 6: Edit: Optional Carbon Filter Holder
Many of you in the comments mentioned that the fume extractor should have a filter to actually trap the fumes. And only then it can be called a fume extractor. So I am going to attach my STL file that you can print and attach on the back or front or both of your fume extractor to make it more eco-friendly. I gave up on the idea because it was becoming too restrictive in my opinion but now I realize that it might just be because of the filter I was using. A better quality filter might actually work better. So I am going to experiment with a few filters.
I encourage you to try different filters and give me some feedback on your results.
Step 7: Conclusion
Thank you for following along my instructable. This project has been a long time coming and has been a great learning opportunity. Its one of my first projects in which I actually tested it long term and revised it based on my results. I find it very practical and a unique addition to my work bench so I really hope you guys like it too.
As always, comments are welcome. If you found this project interesting, do vote for me and check out the video because that is something I just started and have been putting a lot of effort into so I really hope you guys like it. Consider subscribing to my channel if you like to see similar projects and much more. And if you want one of these fume extractors, I would highly recommend watching the video.
Thanks again and I will catch you guys next time.
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