Solder Fume Extractor With Activated Carbon Filter




Introduction: Solder Fume Extractor With Activated Carbon Filter

For years I've endured soldering without any ventilation. This is not healthy, but I got used to it and didn't care enough to change this. Well, until I got the chance to work in a lab of my university a few weeks ago...

Once you've experienced the huge benefit of a solder fume extractor you never, ever want to solder without one again.

I didn't wanted to invest much money or time, though. This design is simple yet pretty, can be build within an hour and is student-budget friendly. But most importantly: The air is not just pushed around, but cleaned through an activated-carbon filter. It has a "suction range" of about 20cm and can handle even gross amounts of fumes from additional flux.

Step 1: Overview

The assembly consists of for layers, each with its own function:

  1. The first metal mesh prevents parts from being sucked into the fan and potentioally damaging it. Since it is made of aluminum it withstands the accidental touch with a soldering iron or splashes of solder.
  2. The fan is the main component. It does not only create the airflow but also allows for easy attachment of the other parts.
  3. The activated carbon filter absorbs the unhealty fumes. It can be replaced by removing only one screw, reducing the maintenance of this device to the bare minimum.
  4. The second and last metal mesh holds the filter in place and protects it from mechanical damage.

The module attached to the side is optional and allows for convenient powering through a USB power supply or a USB battery pack.

Step 2: Materials & Tools

All parts have been sourced from Although it is a platform for Chinese sellers the quality is usually decent and the price is un-beatable. Offers and prices often change, so I've included links to search pages only. Occasionally products are not as advertised, but on every I got my money back every time.

Parts required:





1x120mm 12V fan (can also be salvaged)1,43€search
2xmetal mesh dust filter for 120mm fans2x 1,40€search
8xM5 screw, 16mm long, countersunk1,67€ (pack of 21)search
1xactivated carbon filter, 13*13cm4,61€ (pack of 10)search
1xMT3608 Step-Up Module (optional)0,36€search
1xMicro USB breakout board (optional)0,25€search



*Cheapest price at the time of writing this article.

Tools required:

  • soldering equipment
  • pliers
  • 5.5mm drill (6mm should work as well)
  • screw driver
  • cutter knife
  • ruler

Tools required for the optional USB port:

  • round file
  • multimeter
  • hotglue gun

Step 3: Thread the Holes of the Fan

Although the fan is not made for standard screws, the size M5 happens to fit quite well. It is a thight fit, so I recommend threading the holes first. You don't need any additional tools, you can use one of the screws you'll be using later. The friction generates heat which makes the process easier after a few turns. The fan may slightly crack under the pressure, this is normal for cheap chinise versions.

Step 4: Enlarge the Holes of the Dust Filter

Unfortunatly the dust filters are made for smaller screws, just like the fans. A 5.5mm drill is just perfect for M5 screws. The holdes do not even need to be pretty, they will be fully covered by the heads of the screws.

Step 5: Add the Step-Up Module (optional)

A micro USB port adds a lot of convenience in my opinion. It makes the device suitable for the most common power supplies and allows for easy portable use with an USB battery pack.

You can also attach a 12V power supply instead and skip this step.

To run a 12V fan from a 5V USB supply the voltage needs to be 'boosted'. This is such a common task that there are many different ICs and modules available. I picked the MT3608 because it can handle the power easily, fits well into the overall build and is incredible cheap.

Unfortunatly it is slightly to large. Use a round file to make a small indent to fit the turn-thingy of the trimmer.

Proceed to shorten the wires of the fan. Leave them slightly longer than required to allow for corrections later on. After tinning the wires, solder them to the output of the step up module.

Next solder the micro USB breakout board to the input. If you don't have such aboard at hand and are a little bit insane (like me) you can also solder a micro usb port upside-down to one of the ground (= minus) terminals. For high mechanical strength you have to heat the board and the connector thoroughly and apply some additional flux. Once the connector starts 'flowing' you can remove the heat. Carefully proceed to solder wires to the outermost pins, connect the red wire to + and the black to - .

Attach a power supply to the input and a multimeter set V to the output. Turn the potentiometer until the output voltage is about 12V.

I used a lab power supply to test this assembly and noticed that the fan is drawing way less power than specified. To increase the airflow tuned the voltage until it was running at its rated power of ≈2W, which was at about 15V. Be aware that this reduced the lifetime of the fan. Considering the price this was an acceptable tradeoff for me.

If everything woks as intended you can add the module with plenty of hot glue to the fan.

Step 6: Mount the Filter

The standard size for activated carbon filters seems to be 13x13cm. Take a cutter with a sharp blade and trim it to 12x12cm. Do not cut it any smaller, the mounting mechanism depends on the exact size.

Originally the filter was placed on the inlet side of the fan. Unfortunatly the filter touched the blades and blocked the fan. As a quick solution I tried to put the filter on the exhaust side to benefit from the plastic support. Surprisingly this didn't effect the airflow in any noticeable way.

So mount one of the two metal mesh filters to the exaust side. If you have installed the step-up module decide for an orientation of the mesh. Use three screws only and screw them in for about 2mm. Now you can slide in the activated carbon filter. Push in the corners to accommodate the screws. This creates the force which holds the filter into place. Add the last screw. Tighten all screws without squeezing the filter.

Finish the project by adding the front metal mesh, pay attention to match its orientation with the one on the backside. You can also add small rubber feet to reduce the vibration and noise.

Enjoy fume-free soldering!

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35 Discussions

Do you use a two wire fan or four wire fan?

I see 2 wires coming from the fan, but on the table their is also a four wire connector.

3 replies

This design uses a two wire version. I'm not sure if a four wire version will work, some need a signal to regulate their speed to turn on.

Yep, for a little more though you could buy a fan which comes with little trim pot to adjust speed and you could then adjust to level that's quiet but still effective :-)

The fan I got from AliExpress using the search above was 3-wire, but I just ignored the third one. It's almost silent running though.

I don't understand your wiring on the 12v module. Are you just soldering the USB jack to the VOUT- pad? Does the wire you added on there go to the VIN+ pad on the other side? It doesn't look like anything is soldered there.

I got one and it doesn't seem to be doing anything. (5v out only, no matter how I adjust the pot) Maybe I hooked it up wrong?

3 replies

Yes, the shield of the connector is directly soldered to the VOUT- pad for mechanical stability. Both "-" pads are connected to each other and it is safe to solder the shield of a USB connector to ground.

The 5V pin of the USB connector (the very right pin with the red wire in the picture above) is indeed connected to the VIN+ pad. The wire is on the backside to be not easily ripped off.

At first I thought my modules were broken, too, but it turned out you need many turns (about 10, if I remember correctly) before you notice any change in the output voltage. Unfortunately I don't remember which direction increases the output voltage, but you can try it without risking any damage.

I hope this helps!

Oh, look at that. I had definitely turned the pot a LOT (20-25 turns?) but as soon as I tried the other direction (counter-clockwise) it started to work. There must be some free-turning dead-zone once you get to the bottom of its range. Thanks so much for your reply... and your project. :)

I'm glad it works now :) It would be cool if you'd post a picture of your build!


1 year ago

Great design (although I actually like the solder fumes)!

5 replies

Me too, but they're weird chemical microparticles that are small enough to penetrate deeply into lungs and bloodstream when inhaled and are thus actually carcinogenic. And that's just one of the bad attributes. I think the chemical compound that forms from the flux inside the solder burning up is probably poisonous to our organism.

I mean if you solder something once in a while its probably gonna be ok, but if you solder something every week, you'd better do something about the fumes.

activated coal is one of the few materials that does not trigger a body reaction, ea. compare the activated coal you just eat when you're poisened. However too small is never good, their are granulated coal types, normally used in cars to get rid of petrol vapors existing in the fuel tank, moreover clean air frames formed of activated carbon are used in houses to perform the same. Dependant on where you live you might find a activated carbon source to be used.

thanks for the education! definitely need to get me one now =(

That makes perfect sense, HuyV7.


Simple and practical.

Thanks for this :)

Been using something like this for a couple of years after after I found a fume extactors was rather expensive, but really only consisted of a filter and a fane.

I mounted mine on a small cardboard box, meaning I can tilt it as needed. I do not have the fancy usb thingie, but using a straight 12v input with potentiometer to adjust speed :)

2 replies

I guess it's pretty common among us makers to make or own gear when we discover how pricy the professional devices can be. Thumbs up for speed regulation, that can be pretty handy when working with dust-like parts such as 0402!

It's just the best. I don't have a seperate area to solder, so often do it in the living room.. was ok years ago, but after having children this filter is literally a lifesaver :) Can't smell a thing.

I mostly use the speed regulator to control noise, as I havn't added an/off botton.


An extra BIG thank you from my already crappy lungs & my grandson's fresh ones! I make jewelry & am learning to do stained glass; said grandson just discovered electronics & soldering at our local Maker Faire (and is in love)! Ventilation in my 100+ y/o house is always sketchy, so this will be a real boone to my studio, as well as a practical project for my grandson to work on.