Over at Kickstarter, there’s a new circuit board support system that looks to have a lot of potential. The PCB Rax system claims to be an easy, versatile, and affordable soldering aid that will help with all of your circuit assembly (and possibly disassembly) work.
PCB Rax, at its simplest, is built with 4 legs, 2 threaded crossbars, 2 thumb nuts, and 2 multi-functional rails. The rails have slots and can hold rectangular circuit boards without the need for additional accessories. The rails and legs are made from anodized aircraft-grade aluminum, and everything can be assembled or adjusted tool-free.
Need to hold PCBs that aren’t quite square or rectangular? Attach a couple of extension brackets and you can hold circuit boards of almost any shape. Promo images show the PCB Rax holding rectangular, circular, triangular, and odd-shaped circuit boards.
PCB Rax can hold rectangular circuit boards up to 9-1/2″ x 6-1/4″ in size, and odd-shaped boards up to 9-1/2″ x 5″. If you need greater capacity, you can install longer threaded crossbar rods.
The PCB Rax’s design means you can quickly access the underside of a board by just flipping it over. You could also stand it up for easy vertical access.
Although not available yet, additional accessories are in the works, such as special extension brackets that can fit Loc-Line-style modular hose 3rd hand arms.
Early Bird PCB Rax: $45 (limited to 50 total)
Maker Level: $55
Each PCB Rax comes with the basic frame and (4) extension brackets. The 3rd hands kit is not a part of the reward levels.
These will be made in the USA using USA-sourced aluminum and USA sourcing for a majority of the parts.
Funding Deadline: May 31st, 2015.
Learn More(via Kickstarter)
Kickstarter is a fundraising site where you can make monetary pledges in return for the promise of goods and other “rewards.” When you make a pledge, you’re technically not buying something. If the pledge goal is not met by the designated deadline, you pay nothing, the campaign starters get nothing, and you get nothing. Most successful Kickstarter campaigns deliver the goods and rewards they promise.
Looks like a solid product. The design is simple, and if you’ve ever soldered components to a circuit board, I’m sure you can see the versatility in it. Pair the PCB Rax with pivoting 3rd hands or flexible modular hose clips, and you’d have a killer soldering station.
The 3rd hands kit is in the works, but isn’t currently part of the initial wave of Kickstarter rewards. It might be a stretch goal, meaning it might be something they make available if they reach a certain funding goal.
If we weren’t hoping to move soon, I’d put in a pledge right now. But since I don’t want to risk delivery issues, I’ll have to wait until they start shipping retail units. And I really hope they do. $55 isn’t too much for what the PCB Rax offers, and I’m hoping that the maker further explores the types of add-ons that can be built into extension brackets, such as other types of 3rd hands brackets, adjustable LED lights, and other useful soldering aids.
I was a little skeptical of the design at first, but the more I look into it the more I like it.
I still have a few issues with it:
1) They talk about using it for prototyping and repair, which means you’re going to be applying power to the board at some point. Yet the places that it comes in contact with the board are not insulated. Yeah they are anodized and some anodization is non-conductive, but I’d like to see some rubber.
2) It looks like it’d slip around, it needs some non slip pads on the legs.
3) Some sort of accessory base where you could adjust the working angle would be cool. If I’m going to work for a while on a board I like to have it at an angle, bending over a board for long periods of time isn’t comfortable. You can set it on edge, but that’s not really an easy angle to work.
I still think this is a cool idea, especially the additional helping hands. With everything held with the same frame, once you get things positioned they will stay in place even if you pick it up and move it to get a better angle for soldering.
I concur about the lack of insulation. Could perhaps be mitigated by dipping the business end of the arms in “Plasti-Dip” or something similarly insulative. That might help mitigate slippage as well.
That said, I think I’ll stick with my Panavise but I’ll keep an eye on this one as it develops.
What about heat shrink tubing?
My impression of the PCB Rax is that it may be fine to securely hold a finished board for testing, but as a soldering aid would be too inflexible. Would take too long to secure the board, the angles are fixed – either vertical or horizontal and the legs are in the way of your arms. Too complicated – the board is lost down in the middle of it.
I just build a ham radio transceiver that consists of several circuit boards from small 2″ x 2″ up to 7″ x 7″. I used a Panavise 300 base with 312 tray and both the 203 PV Jr holder and the 376 wide opening holder. I was able to position the boards at any angle and quickly flip them over. The Panavise really made assembly a pleasure. The Panavise system is useful for many other tasks especially with the addition of options such as the 303 PanaVise with its various jaws.
OK, I guess, but it seems to me the risers (upside down legs) would get in the way of my arms while soldering.
I don’t understand why I’d want this instead of a small soft jaw vise (Panavise or similar). More adjustable, equivalent grabbing capability, and more flexible for other applications.
Honestly, I still think the 100% American made Panavise system that is made specially for printed circuit boards is much better concept and is less likely to slip around.
Granted, I give them credit for a cool idea and investing some money in American manufacturing (not all apparently….) but I am just not sure if this is truly worth the money.
I see this more useful in SMD rework and assembly as long as a board heater can be slipped under the board. I have a similar setup that came with a board heater when I set up my SMD capabilities. The big difference with this one is the legs are designed to allow the holder to be stood on edge, whereas mine is just the rack using four long bolts as legs. The advantage of the anodized construction here is that as long as the anodized coating it properly made and not scratched off, it does act as an insulator.
It looks to me to be a clever idea. I like how it can be easily flipped over or stood up on end. Seems to have a lot of potential, as it appears the little holders can be clamped anywhere within their adjustment slots, and at most any angle.
I’ve taken some time to think about this, and… I think for $55 US, it should really have those third hand attachments. Considering the earlier remarks about not having the insulated grip points, and lacking a lot of angle control… such a simple device should not be so high a price point for lacking the extra clips.
I get they’re trying to raise funds for production on this, but the kit, as offered, isn’t something I’d buy for anything more than $20. $30 if they’re asking for start-up funds. $20 for the kit as offered, $30 if they insulated the grips, $35, MAYBE $40 with the third hand kit. Even raising Start-Up funds, this device falls pretty short.
That said… They SHOULD insulate those contact areas, and they SHOULD have grip-safe feet, and they SHOULD continue on with this device in the market, because once they get the retail market phase going, I’d buy a proper kit in a heartbeat. Half a heartbeat. The kit, AND extra parts for playing with. In fact, I’d already be on the site ordering it, if it was at that phase. It’s not, unfortunately. So, I hope they get to their production goals this round, learn the mistake they’ve made, and launch version 2 ASAP.