Quick and dirty removing components from trash PCBs

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series TIL
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We are in COVID lockdown in New Zealand so needs must, and I am reduced to ‘recovering’ some components off the trash PCBs I have had sitting around. For instance, the board below – pulled out of a replaced PIR alarm motion sensor in our house.

Previously I have used my soldering iron and (im)patiently jiggling the component out while vacuuming up the molten solder with a desoldering pump. This gets boring quickly: you can only heat one leg at a time and you need eight hands to coordinate the exercise.

Heat Gun

A new method occurred to me – I am sure it has been done before:

  1. Hold corner of the board in a cast iron vice and use a heat gun to heat the solder side of PCB local to the thing you want off the board
  2. With other hand applying a gentle prying force to the component with something that to not going to melt (I have used long screwdrivers, steel pliers and a knitting needle).
(Cheap) Heat gun cost ~$50 from the DIY store

The component of interest slips off as soon as solder melts.

Now scavenge away!

Now, putting this kind of uncontrolled heat into the circuit might do some damage, I suppose, so I would just stick to trash PCBs where you want to ‘recover’ something interesting and are not too precious.

🦺 Safety first

  • Apply heat in well-ventilated space and/or wearing a mask. Who knows what fumes are driven off board and solder.
  • Things (the board, the component, the prying tool etc) will be 🔥HOT🔥. Do I need to point this out? Well, I burnt myself so there you are.

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