Essential tremor, and soldering

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I have familial essential tremor--I was born with shaky hands. It makes through-hole soldering a challenge, and surface-mount soldering a fantasy.

Any advice?

Is there any sort of mechanism that can hold a soldering iron more steadily but still let me move it around easily? If it could translate large movements into small movements it would compensate for the shakiness. I'd like to be able to do some basic SMD stuff.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiMFFHjeh7k

YOu could try to use a PCB holder and rest your hands on a ledge while holding the soldering iron

Google 'special solder systems' there might be something there.

jim

I would rather attempt something great and fail, than attempt nothing and succeed - Fortune Cookie

 

"The critical shortage here is not stuff, but time." - Johan Ekdahl

 

"Step N is required before you can do step N+1!" - ka7ehk

 

"If you want a career with a known path - become an undertaker. Dead people don't sue!" - Kartman

"Why is there a "Highway to Hell" and only a "Stairway to Heaven"? A prediction of the expected traffic load?"  - Lee "theusch"

 

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Please Read: Code-of-Conduct

Atmel Studio6.2/AS7, DipTrace, Quartus, MPLAB, RSLogix user

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Interesting video. That arm was a bit too bouncy but the idea of controlling it with a mouse is very appealing. I'm good with those. An interesting DIY project on its own.

Now that I know to look for that, I even see some AVR-based mouse-robot arms. Arm is still bouncy, though. But something to think about.

Believe me, I've tried every which way of bracing my hands. If I had four of them I'd be good to go. It's not just the soldering iron, it's also the solder, but that's a bit easier because it's shorter. Maybe I just need a tiny soldering iron.

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Quote:
PCB holder and rest your hands on a ledge while holding the soldering iron
Not half bad advice. I use a small hobby vice to hold the board, a strong light (to see) and two hands to place the iron, then let go with one hand to pick up the solder :)
The drugs I use for Asthma control make me shake like I'm in an earth quake. It takes a bit of practice but obviously gets easier the more you do it. I've only burned myself several hundred times so far. Pretty good in my reckoning ;)

--greg
Still learning, don't shout at me, educate me.
Starting the fire is easy; the hardest part is learning how to keep the flame!

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If you took the arduino idea, and integrate it to this:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Armatron-Radio-Shack-WORKS-LOOK-/220829727231?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item336a7a39ff
You might have something. I had an armatron when I was a kid and it was very smooth to use. the controls were not proportional, but the movement was very smooth.
cannot beat the price either.

Jim

I would rather attempt something great and fail, than attempt nothing and succeed - Fortune Cookie

 

"The critical shortage here is not stuff, but time." - Johan Ekdahl

 

"Step N is required before you can do step N+1!" - ka7ehk

 

"If you want a career with a known path - become an undertaker. Dead people don't sue!" - Kartman

"Why is there a "Highway to Hell" and only a "Stairway to Heaven"? A prediction of the expected traffic load?"  - Lee "theusch"

 

Speak sweetly. It makes your words easier to digest when at a later date you have to eat them ;-)  - Source Unknown

Please Read: Code-of-Conduct

Atmel Studio6.2/AS7, DipTrace, Quartus, MPLAB, RSLogix user

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I've just been put on a beta-blocker for a heart condition. They work very well for suppressing tremor and were used by some sportsmen, before their use was banned.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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I find it helps a lot to have something to rest my hand on. I don't shake as bad as you do, unless I'm holding the silly wire and the solder is refusing to freeze.

I've gone to the hot plate method of soldering surface mount and only use the iron for off board stuff or rework. First time I tried the hot plate, I thought, "Wow, I've been building electronics the hard way all my life!"

If you don't know my whole story, keep your mouth shut.

If you know my whole story, you're an accomplice. Keep your mouth shut. 

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I have found much help practicing tia chi, energy work called chakra connection and hara breathing.

It all starts with a mental vision.

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Would opposing force help?
One way would be by using exercise bands or tubing:
http://www.tartangroup.com/store/index.asp?DEPARTMENT_ID=44
Though this would be taxing on your muscles and make you tired until conditioned.

Have you obtained opinions from occupational therapists?

Arm rest?
http://www.okinternational.com/product_convection/pct_100 (lower right)
Assumes a tremor source is not the hand muscles.

Maybe convection (hot air) instead of contact soldering could work;
could try work arounds for solder paste application.
Maybe the gaps between the pads on BusBoard or Vectorbord would be enough to reduce bridging from problems in applying solder paste.
There are some small stencils for ICs used for applying solder paste;
though would likely create custom stencils from Kapton (http://www.ohararp.com/Stencils.html) for common footprints used during prototyping.

The SchmartBoard|ez prototyping system (grooves):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi6QWRgqs78
http://www.schmartboard.com/
SchmartBoard also has solder rings; add flux (paste instead of liquid?) and heat (by convection, conduction, or infrared).

The Roadrunner Prototyping System (http://www.rrunner.co.uk/index.htm) (wiring pen) could be part of a solution.

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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Quote:
If it could translate large movements into small movements it would compensate for the shakiness.

You need 5 degrees of freedom (3 positions and 2 rotations) to control a soldering iron. Sometimes third rotation is needed if the tip is not conical..

Perhaps if some of those DOFs could be fixed (rotations) and height Z with two sets (rised/lowered) was only possible, then X and Y could be quite easily translated..

This mechanism is called a pantograph:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan...
and was widely used in changing scale of the objects in ancient times. For example a sculpture of coin was designed as a huge, imprecise model and then decreased with pantograph by arbitrary (constant) factor. This is a sophisticated mechanism with special joints canceling eccentricity and looseness, so do not try to reinvent the wheel - it is not going to work without those!

Anyway, its 2D/3D version can translate into for example a +-20cm space into +-2cm space(of appropriate dimension). Only one point is kept fixed, so this could be a heavy stand placed somewhere on the table.

I have never never tried that, nor I have experience with these, but perhaps there is such instrument somewhere so that you could try if you need a gain of x5 or x50 or the machinery is useful at all? It seems it must be balanced as well as you do not want to hold 4kg construction in one hand and a solder in the other - it requires some considerations but I do not think it is neither hard nor impossible.

What do you think? Did you try/experience such pantograph?

No RSTDISBL, no fun!

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Wow, so many good ideas.

I'm already on a beta blocker and they do nothing for my tremor, unfortunately. I've been on two different ones.

Hot plate, hot air, solder paste, etc., for surface-mount sound like things I need to look into.

SchmartBoard|ez wouldn't work--just getting the tip to the right groove would be really tough. Picture that SOIC video with the solder tip moving back and forth across a few grooves at about 7 Hz.

I'd still like to be able to do through-hole soldering more easily. SchmartSolder looks interesting--frees up one hand to hold the other hand more steady.

Tremor source is in the nerves controlling the hand muscles, so arm rests generally don't help.

I haven't talked to an occupational therapist, but I will bug my doctor about it again.

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I've actually been looking for a 3D pantograph that would work. Haven't found anything so far, other than this micromanipulator. I've asked for a price quote on that.

But I might even try jury-rigging something like this extendable mirror. Put a handle in place of the mirror, rig up the iron somewhere in the middle...

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bretm wrote:
Is there any sort of mechanism that can hold a soldering iron more steadily but still let me move it around easily?
Used to work some with a quadraplegic who'd use something like/similar to this:
http://www.modularhose.com/applications/Assistive-Technology
In his case he was able to use functional parts of his body to do physical work.
Could go the other way by taping the part onto a X-Y table then vertical motion with the iron or etc.
Need an Etch-A-Sketch kind of X-Y table (opposing forces) (are you able to turn dials?)

Any functional muscles?
If yes then strap tools to it.
When your prototype tool works, use molecular bonders instead of glue or epoxy to assemble it.
http://www.tech-bond.net/
http://www.closingthegap.com/about_us.lasso

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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This actually looks feasible: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uov0SPHKcnk

The guy's tremor isn't as bad as mine, but I think I might be able to pull it off. Ironically, with the small tooth-picky stuff I can control better.

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Hmmm, helmet-mounted soldering iron maybe. Kinda scary, though. But an upper-arm mount could work.

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Quote:
Haven't found anything so far, other than

It seems too small for soldering iron, and it decreases only by a factor of 4.

Quote:
Put a handle in place of the mirror,

This one has a factor of 2.

Perhaps a regular stick fixed at one end and held at the other one, with a soldering iron mounted somewhere in between would do? It is only 2D actually and translates a sphere into sphere, but you could start from that.. Make it counter-balanced and because of a single joint it is relatively simple to make home. If you mount the PCB so that it approximates the smaller sphere..

No RSTDISBL, no fun!

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gregsmithcts wrote:
I've only burned myself several hundred times so far.
Would gloves help?
http://www.mechanix.com/the-original-05-glove

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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bretm wrote:
Hmmm, helmet-mounted soldering iron maybe. Kinda scary, though.
True; would need safety glasses. The quadraplegic I mentioned used a bite stick (mouth bite, metal tube, plastic point) to work the keyboard(s)/touch-keys by his functional facial, head, neck, and limited shoulder muscles; custom workstation using VESA monitor mounts, flex tubing, etc. to hold stuff.

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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bretm wrote:
I haven't talked to an occupational therapist, but I will bug my doctor about it again.
Do because this is affecting a freak's quality of life ;-)
Dr. Jen Gunter's web site has great info especially if one has to work US medical and US insurance companies:
http://www.preemieprimer.com/a-great-pencil-grip-for-weak-hands/
She does not take "no" as the final answer.

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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bretm wrote:
It's not just the soldering iron, it's also the solder, but that's a bit easier because it's shorter.
I don't know if this will help you much but you don't need to hold the solder and the iron when soldering the joint.

First put flux on the board. Then get a blob of molten solder on the tip of the iron. Then move the iron so the blob touches the joint. The joint will be soldered instantly. When soldering SMD you want a small blob. For through hole you want a big blob. In fact, you will probably have to do it more than once to fill the hole.

Someone on avrfreaks told me about the solder blob method. I'm convinced its the best way to solder with an iron. It is not only easier, but the actual soldering takes place faster, so there is no danger of any collateral heat damage.

You must remember to put flux on the board first. Any rosin in the solder core will boil off. I still use rosin core solder though because when I try solid solder without a rosin core, the solder blob won't stay on the tip.

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How about an out-of-the-box approach?

In a manner similar to Active Noise Reduction headphones, where one essentially adds negative noise to (+) noise to get silence:

You wear a flex sensor glove to measure your motion artifact, (while holding the soldering iron), and use electrodes attached to your forearm to stimulate the appropriate muscle(s) to cancel the motion artifact.

You use filters to remove the tremor motion, while your desired motion is of a much lower frequency.

JC

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Hey, just kidding...

Unfortunately it is very difficult to stimulate just the nerves providing an output signal to the muscles without also stimulating the nerves feeding signals back to your brain. The micro (or PC) supplied stimulus signals would be perceived as pain, limiting the utility of this approach.

JC

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The tip to grip distance of your iron makes a significant difference. I have a new JBC iron that is so much easier to control that I wonder why I waited so long.

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jgmdesign wrote:
Armatron
LEGO MINDSTORMS may be more rugged (ARM7TDMI plus AVR for servo control). Probable use of a mouse (X, Y), a touch sensor or rotary encoder (Z), and multiple servo motors.

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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So many good ideas!

steve17 wrote:
First put flux on the board. Then get a blob of molten solder on the tip of the iron. Then move the iron so the blob touches the joint. The joint will be soldered instantly.

I'm totally going to try that.

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"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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bretm wrote:
I'm totally going to try that.
I think you will like it.

As is usually the case, my brain screwed up a little. When I said the soldering is instantaneous, I was thinking of small SMD, like chip resistors.

With big parts, like soldering header pins in through holes, it obviously takes more time to heat the pins. The blob is still good though. Whenever soldering, a small pool of solder between the iron and the metal to be soldered greatly increases the heat transfer rate from the iron to the target.

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That solder on the tip approach may not work when the PWB pad is a large copper pour. You'll have to keep the iron in place for a long time to get the copper heated up. Preheat with an air tool maybe?

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dksmall wrote:
That solder on the tip approach may not work when the PWB pad is a large copper pour.
I've been thinking about that myself. I'm designing my first non-trivial board and I want some copper heatsinking. I've been soldering for 50 years but I've never done this particular thing before.

I think I can handle it. I have some big soldering iron tips. I also have a hot air machine although I haven't used it much. If all else fails, I'll get a propane torch. :)

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The blob-of-solder thing worked reasonably well in a project over the weekend. Better for smaller pads, as others have noted.

I also learned about the Mahl stick or maulstick. Nice and low-tech. I haven't had much luck with arm wrests, but this one would be finely adjustable. I think it would work well in combination with the blob soldering trick.

But I'm most eager to try SMT reflow, maybe with an oven instead of a hot plate.

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I once knew a surgeon who had ET. His hands would shake uncontrollably right up to the point where the scalpel touched the patient's skin. From that point on he was as steady as a rock. When he finished a cut or manipulation, he would start shaking again.

It might sound strange, but go have a talk with a reputed hypnotherapist. There are ways to "condition" your brain to certain actions. The fact that ET does not occur during sleep sounds to me like this would be an excellent candidate for hypno suppression.