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Archive for December 8th, 2011

SMD Measurement Tweezers

While fiddling around with those SMD capacitors, it occurred to me that I really needed some SMD tweezers: small forceps with isolated jaws, connected to the capacitance meter’s terminals. In the nature of a proof-of-concept, I sacrificed a (surplus) Tektronix banana plug cable and an old plain-steel tweezer (stamped Made in Japan back in the day when that had the same quality connotations as does Made in Pakistan right about now) and lashed them together:

SMD tweezers - overview

SMD tweezers - overview

I chopped off the tweezer joint with a bolt cutter, scuffed up the steel with a file, soldered the cable wires, cut a small wood block to fit, and epoxied the whole mess together:

SMD tweezers - epoxy joint

SMD tweezers - epoxy joint

When the epoxy cured, a generous wrap of silicone tape hid most of the hackage. Two lengths of clear heatstink tubing insulate the handles from my sweaty fingers:

SMD tweezers - joint detail

SMD tweezers - joint detail

Part of the reason for picking this victim was its cheap-and-bendy steel: more easily soldered than stainless, no regrets about filing the jaws to suit. They’re flattened on the bottom and filed to grip SMD chips along their length:

SMD tweezers - tip shape

SMD tweezers - tip shape

That’s on the top panel of my indispensable AADE LC meter. The stray capacitance of that cable is around 50 pF, but the meter can null it to a fraction of a pF. At least as long as I don’t change my grip, that is, which isn’t too severe a restriction. [Update: got the link right this time.]

That gorgeous Tek cable turned out to be entirely too stiff and the natural curve doesn’t lie in the correct direction. The next version will probably use a length of RG-174 mini coax and a dual banana plug. I think I’d like angled jaws, too, so as to attack the chips from the top down.

But even this version works wonderfully well, as I sorted out a few hundred random SMD caps in two half-hour sessions that I’d been putting off for far too long. This is the last batch; I’ve learned the hard way that it pays to transfer batches of chips to their storage bins long before I think I should:

Sorting SMD caps

Sorting SMD caps

Yeah, it’s false economy, but it keeps me off the streets at night. OK?

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