I really like my TS100, I have been using it for the last 3 years as my main soldering iron. I thought it would be interesting to make a really simple way to be able to power it via USB-C Power delivery
This isn't a new idea, on Ralim's Github page for the custom firmware for TS100, there is a long discussion of people using PD sink modules to power the TS100. The Otter Iron from Jan Henrik is a complete replacement PCB for the TS100 that adds PD directly to the iron.
For my approach I wanted to try solve two problems:
- The USB PD sink (so it could correctly negotiate with the PD charger)
- The lack of flexibility in most USB-C cables
One of my biggest complaints about my TS100 was how inflexible the PSU cable I had was, I worked around this issue using a preexisting XT60 to 2.5x5.5 barrel jack wire specifically made for the TS100 and decided I would incorporate the same into this solution.
This is the first OSWA Certified Project From Ireland!
My first PCB design for this project was based on the IP2721, and I assembled this version on my stream this week. I'll go into more details about the IP2721 later in this update.
The stream is almost a perfect tutorial on how not to assemble things:
I forgot to order a stencil
I used solder paste that expired in Aug 2018
My hands were very shaky for some reason
It was my first time working with 0402. I wasn't using any magnification and I was kind of working around the camera for streaming.
But all that said, we got it assembled, only to find it wasn't working as expected. It was negotiating 5V from the charger (or at least the charger was outputting 5V) rather than the 20V we expected it to.
One of the viewers on the stream mentioned that I was missing a 100k resistor between the "SEL" pin of the IP2721, the pin that dictates what voltage you want the IP2721 to request from the charger. I had it pulled high as per the data sheet, but I connected it to VCC directly.
So I lifted the IC, cut the trace to the SEL pin, leaving the SEL pin floating, which tells the IP2721 to request 15V. I reinstalled the IC, but it was still negotiating 5V. When I replaced the IP2721 we were in luck and it now negotiated 15V as expected. Also as expected, when we added the 100k resistor (as you can see in the photo) it negotiated 20V.
So a minor change and we'll be in business right? Well it's not that simple unfortunately ....
Why the IP2721?
What attracted me to the IP2721 was two things: @ $0.60 in low quantities it was extremely inexpensive but the most important thing for me was that it could be configured without programming it.
From a product point of view this would be very desirable because it really simplifies the process. This is a product I want to get assembled by a fab house, so keeping it simple keeps costs down an minimizes points of failure.
The only kind of a problem was that I could not find a source of the chips that I could buy myself. But I asked my contact in Makerfabs (who are more than likely going to be the place I get them assembled) could they get me some samples and they were able to.
Great, so whats wrong with it?
Basically there is certain chargers that are capable of working with the Ts100 that will not work with the board as pictured above. This was something I realized after I ordered the board. The problem is something you can figure out with the specs of the charger, but thanks to my Github sponsors I was able to buy a selection of chargers to test the reality (which was actually interesting)
Power Delivery supplies range in the watts the support, but also the voltages that they offer. The IP2721 will request the configured voltage from the PSU, but will fall back to next highest available.
Take for example this 30W supply:
Chargers Max Current
The TS100 is a fixed resistave load that works at voltage rage between 12-24V. The resistance in the heating element of the TS100 is 8.5 Ohms. If we apply Ohms law (Voltage = Current x Resistance) to for the voltages in the TS100 range, we get the following:
TS100 Current Requirement
Chargers Max Current
Notice how the current requirement for the TS100 reduces with the reduction of voltage (This does have an impact on it's heat-up time). But as you can see from the above table, this PSU is not capable of powering the TS100 at 20V, but it is capable of powering it at 15V.
The issue is while PD does support checking the max current each voltage range can supply, the IP2721 does no do this. It's negotiation with the charger is based solely on the voltage range it supports.
So if you plug the Flex-C-Friend into this charger, it will negotiate 20V successfully, but when you try to power the iron it will trigger the PSU over-current protection and it will shut the TS100 off.
This is not a good situation as the PSU is capable of powering the TS100 at 15V. You could just insist everybody...
I will be doing a livestream this evening testing out a STUSB4500 reference board to determine is it a good fit for this project.
Unlike the IP2721, The STUSB4500 has configurable power delivery profiles so we can determine if the power supply can provide enough current at the rated voltage. For a restive load like the TS100, the current draw requirement drops proportionally to voltage so it would be good to be able to set the current requirements for more than one voltage level.
Although this concept had already been successfully done by several people before me, I wanted to prototype a solution to prove out
That the TS100 worked as expected using USB-C
That it was enjoyable to work with the Iron
I made a couple of early prototypes of boards I called the "Flexi Friend", which was basically an Female XT60 connector and either a screw terminal or a barrel jack connecting it.
I also was wondering using these "Flexi Friends" together with existing USB-C power sink modules such as the one pictured above, would be a more economically viable product, as let's face it, this product is a very very niche thing!
You could take the existing PD adapter I'm using and plug it directly into the TS100, but the weight of the adapter and the inflexibility of the cables don't make it very pleasant.
I have been using the cable above to power my TS100 from USB-C for the last 3 months or so and I'm loving it! So much so that when I moved house, I didn't even bother unpacking the regular PSU I had for the TS100. I even have a power bank capable of delivering 60W so I can battery power my TS100 now too.
I decided to go ahead and make a PCB with the PD sink IC on to reduce the amount of adapters you need to connect in chain to power the iron. I'll cover my attempts at this in a future update!