In this article I want to discuss one of the most important tools you can have in this hobby - a soldering iron. There are many different soldering irons and stations from a multitude of brands that you can get.
But if you are just starting out and do not have a soldering iron yet or if you want a device that you can use at home and in the field the TS100 might be the perfect soldering iron for you: a compact device that you can power from a 12-24V power supply or directly from a LiPo battery.
The TS100 was kindly sent to me by banggood for the purpose of a review.
- User Interface
- Firmware (and alternative firmware)
- Accessories and replacement parts
You can power this soldering iron from one of your 3S to 6S flight packs. And don’t be fooled - there are quite some alternatives to this soldering iron, that are for example powered from two AA batteries, but they don’t have the same punch as the TS100.
One of the things that you want from your soldering iron is that it gets to operating temperature quickly and once it is reached, it stays at the set temperature constantly - even when soldering more chunky things like battery connectors.
The TS100 does exactly that: depending on the operating voltage the TS100 heats up to 300° Celsius in up to 11 seconds (on 24V). This is pretty impressive for a device of this size. The temperature can be set to anything from 100° to 400° in increments of 10.
The TS100 comes with a conical tip. I personally prefer chisel tips since you can use them for fine soldering, but you can also apply more heat through the wide side, but more on this in the section about replacement tips.
Another great feature of this soldering iron is the built in accelerometer. It can detect that it is not currently being used and automatically goes into power safe mode (reduces temp to 200°) after three minutes and then even powers down completely after six minutes.
According to the manual, you can use the TS100 up to 40 minutes before the handle gets uncomfortably hot. This should be enough time for most soldering jobs. If not, simply set it aside for a couple of minutes and then continue working
The tip comes separate from the body. You have to plug the tip into the body and then secure it with a small screw - the hex key to do so is included. You also get two spare screws. Then you just plug in the power source of your choice and you are good to go.
The user interface is pretty straight forward: you have a small display and two buttons (labelled A and B) to navigate it.
When powered up, you are on the standby screen. This screen informs you to press the A button. Doing so will heat the iron to the set temperature.
If you instead press the B button you will enter thermometer mode. In this mode it will show you the current supply voltage and the temperature of the tip.
Pressing A or B in thermometer mode will cycle through the different settings. Long pressing any of the buttons will enter the settings screen and you can increase or decrease them accordingly. If you do not change the current setting for five seconds it gets saved.
You can adjust the following values:
- WkTemp: working temperature - the temperature to initially heat up to
- StbTemp: standby temperature - the temperature when power saving mode is triggered
- SlpTime: sleep time - The amount of seconds after which to switch to power save mode
- IdlTime: idle time - The amount of seconds after which to turn off completely
- TempStp: Temperature step - the amount the temperature increases/decreased by when changing the temperature
- OffVolt: The voltage at which the soldering iron will power down. This is especially important to not over discharge your LiPo batteries
- Temp: Here you can set the unit in which the temperature is displayed - either Celsius or Fahrenheit
- Hand: This will flip the screen. Useful if you are left handed to still be able to read the screen easily
- Factory Reset: This will reset all the values to their defaults
Values that you set in the settings mode will be saved between power-cycles. All of this can also be set in the CONFIG.TXT file when attaching the TS100 to the computer. Do not forget to properly eject the drive once you are done.
After the soldering iron is in normal operation mode, long pressing the A or B button will enter the temperature selection screen where you can adjust the temperature by pressing the A button to decrease the temperature and pressing the B button to increase the temperature.
After five seconds of no button press, the current value is used as the new target value. Unfortunately this value is not saved, so you will need to set it every time you power cycle your soldering iron.
By pressing A and B button at the same time will display the current input voltage that it is supplied with.
No matter if you want to flash the original or the custom firmware, the process is completely the same:
- Plug in the TS100 via USB while holding the A button
- The TS100 will show “DFU” and a version number on its display
- A drive will pop up on your computer
- Copy the firmware hex file to the root directory of this drive
- The drive will automatically eject and mount again
- The hex file will now have a different file extension, either RDY or ERR
If you now plug in your TS100, you should see the new version number of the firmware you just flashed. In case you flashed to ralim, the difference should be quite obvious.
If you are running Linux, the process is unfortunately not as straightforward, please follow the instructions in the ralim wiki.
As mentioned before, there is an alternative firmware by github user ralim.
I would highly recommend trying out this firmware, it is really feature packed and still actively developed. A couple of features you might be interested in:
- Custom startup logo
- Automatically rotate the display
- Boost mode - temporarily increase the temperature by pressing a button
- Battery charge level indicator to monitor your LiPo
- Better Menu with a lot of additional settings
There is a multitude of accessories for the TS100, I would personally highly recommend to get the carrying case and the cable to power it directly from a LiPo with XT60 plug. Of course you can easily build this by yourself.
There is also a couple of different tips. The tips also contain the heating element, that is why the tips are slightly more expensive that what you might be used to from your soldering station.
As mentioned before, I prefer chisel tips over the conical one that the TS100 originally comes with, namely the TS-KU. This is a classical chisel tip: You can use the pointy side for precision work and the wide side if you are working on bigger contacts like battery leads or ESC pads. But it is up to you which one you feel most comfortable with. There is also a set with multiple different tips in case you want to see for yourself which one you like best.
Since the tips are not the cheapest ones, I would advise to get only the ones that you are really planning to use.
If you do not want to build your own, there is also a ready made XT60 cable available to power the TS100 directly from your flight packs. You can build this easily yourself - the TS 100 supports a standard 5.5mm barrel plug with 2.5mm hole. The sleeve is ground and the center is positive.
There is also a nice carrying pouch available, that provides space for a couple of different tips and some solder. I prefer this over the box that the TS100 comes with. Of course the box is also a viable way to transport your soldering iron.
If you want to personalize your TS100, you can get cases in different colors and simply swap the electronics to the new case.
Although I personally only have had this soldering iron for a short time - since I have my trusty Weller soldering station at home, I can not highly enough recommend the TS100 for outdoor usage.
A couple of my buddies have this soldering iron and I have used theirs countless times in the field to quickly fix a wire that came off during a crash. This soldering iron can make the difference between a great session and a “one crash and return home” kind of situation.
With a price-tag of $50 on banggood, this is really a no-brainer in my opinion.
As mentioned before, this is also a great soldering iron that does not break the bank. The perfect choice if you are just starting out.
Chris is a Vienna based software developer. In his spare time he enjoys reviewing tech gear, ripping quads of all sizes and making stuff.
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