Welding requires firm hands, so when [Jonathan Gleich] unfortunately developed a disease called essential tremor affecting his hands, welding became much more difficult. But one day when [Jonathan] was chatting with a friend, they got a visit from the good ideas fairy, and like a real hacker he ended up reusing a handheld camera stabilizer gimbal to hold a soldering iron instead of a camera or smartphone. Now instead of the gimbal canceling hand movements to keep a camera steady, it instead helps keep a soldering iron steady.
While the inner workings of the cheap gimbal unit did not need modification, there were a few things that needed some work before the project came to fruition. The first was to set up a way to quickly and easily connect and disconnect the soldering iron from the gimbal. Thanks to a dovetail-shaped connector, the iron can be safely stored in its regular case and attached only when needed.
The other modification is more subtle. Stabilizer motors expect to handle something like a smartphone, but a soldering iron is both lighter and differently balanced. This meant that the system was working, but not as well as it needed to be. After using a few small lead weights to adjust the mass and center of gravity of the soldering iron – making it feel and move a bit more like an iPhone, as far as the gimbal goes – the results were improved.
The soldering iron stabilizer works pretty well so far, but we have no doubts [Jonathan] already has other adjustments in mind. This is a wonderful reuse of a consumer device into a working aid, so watch it in action in the short video embedded below.
Is reinventing supportive or assistive technology something that makes your head spin? Good news, because this is one of the challenges of the Hackaday Prize 2021, so think about it!