Re-designing around component shortages

A project log for Solder Ninja Pen

A 40W Portable USB-Powered Soldering Iron for Makers and Professionals compatible with Weller RT Tips

nicolas-schurandoNicolas Schurando 08/08/2023 at 10:400 Comments

Just as I was confident I had a design that could go into production, the component shortage hit, hard. In particular, the STM32F0 microcontroller at the heart of the product had almost overnight become impossible to source.

A quick chat with a local ST representative made me realize small companies and individuals like me didn't stand a chance against larger companies who were offered the opportunity to bid to secure their supply. I had to find another microcontroller.

I eventually managed to find a roll of some newer STM32G4; only to realize the DC-DC converters were now also unobtainium. After spending weeks browsing through distributor websites, redesigning around components that seemed available, I gave up. It was just too much effort for no tangible result.

But then in summer of 2021, the Raspberry Pi announced the RP2040. With its small footprint, good performance, growing community, and announced stocks, it was the ideal candidate for a final redesign.

It took some time - and well, the shortages are over - but the dev board works. And the first samples arrived. Next steps? A crowd funding campaign for the first batch. Stay tuned.