David, this is a very interesting topic. AFAIK, stripping PCBs goes beyond the hobbyist level and sometimes enters the real market.
I know a real case in which a Chinese company sold a lot of low-cost LCD displays that were stripped from the PCB included in obsolete Japanese toys to a company developing products for the domotics market. Of course, I won't tell you the name of the company which bought the displays, but I can assure you that they gave me this information only some months ago -- and they were soooo proud of doing this ;-)
Hi Javi. I know there are people in India who do this, I have heard of them getting very sick from the fumes generated when PCB gets hot. There are of course companies who recover the gold and other precious metals from scrap boards, it's good business with metals prices as they are.
For myself, it just ensures I have a good stock of parts every time I want to build something, and I don't often have to buy stuff. In Zimbabwe it was a definite advantage, but in Australia where parts are fairly cheap and there's overnight delivery, I wonder if I should keep doing it. But if I just want a couple of resistors and there's an $8 delivery charge, I still score!
Nice article, David. My Dad was in the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) and would bring home one-shot telemetry equipment from drone target practice. Point-to-point wiring and miniature soldered-in vacuum tubes, got many resistors and capacitors out of these.
Ahhh, the good old days when an aspiring kid could take a junked TV set and rework the power transformer and horizontal output tube into a 50 watt ham radio transmitter...
A lot of old people talking abount ancient times here ! ;-)
I will try to counterbalance with this story that happened only last year. I was on a nice caribean island for vacation (Martinique) when oma's TV went down. Like often over there, it's the capacitors that went dry. Nowhere to buy such parts on the island, so I went to the local dump with a machete and started ripping open the scrapped electronic stuff I could find. When I found enough capacitors for my needs I unsoldered them on oma's gas stove. The most difficult part was to cleanly remove the capacitors from the TV to be repared and to solder the "new" ones with a plumber iron and his remaining tiny piece of soldering tin which was more lead than tin. Mc Gyver style.
I started out at the age of 6 or 8 when I ruined my father's record player. Besides making me pay for the damage, he also gave me an old radio to tinker with. That's where my first parts came from - stripped not from PCBs, because the radio was too old to have any PCBs: A metal chassis, some tube sockets and other solder joints. Leads were long, so I could even cut parts out rather than solder (didn't have a soldering iron in these early days of my electronics obsession).
Later I got some electronics kits, and I also started to repair (instead of destroy) TV sets that others didn't want any more. Earned my first money reselling them after repair. And of course mostly used parts from other TV sets went into those repairs...
I had a friend whose father worked at IBM. Sometimes we got computer boards with lots of resistors and other strange parts, which we stripped.
I still have lots of parts from these days (now 30 years in the past) in my home lab. Sometimes I still use some of them, but where I work I also have access to a lab stock of new parts whenever I need some standard part I don't have. We have an official policy that taking parts for home-lab projects is OK. They book it on the education account ;-)
I think quite a number of technical careers start that way...
@Hyman1 (and Zeeglen) - I did get some tube gear - there was lots of it around in the second-hand shops when I was a kid - but I think I came in just at the end of that era. I never built any valve gear, though I did later get and refurbish a couple of GEC 912 10W amplifiers. I sold them when I left Zimbabwe - now one of my regrets, though they weigh a ton and would cost heaps in excess baggage charges to get to Aussie!
For a while, in the days when memory was DIP and expensive, I did a sideline business stripping memory chips from PCBs, cleaning and testing them, and selling them. When I got scrap memory boards, they were multilayer with 50, 60, 100 chips on them. Even a heat gun was too slow to remove that many. I used a gas grill and a screwdriver. You could easily tell when the solder was melting and just run the screwdriver down the middle of the row and you could strip a board in a matter of 5 minutes. Of course, you'd lose a few into the grill, but it was quick labor.
I've read about several people that use an old toaster oven as a reflow oven for DIY SMT work. It seems to me that it could also be used to strip SM & TH boards by heating them up just enough to melt the solder without destroying the components or burning the PCB.
@BK11 - I have tried that and it does work. However it's best with Surface Mount - you just shake the board and off they come! With thru hole the solder resolidifies before you have all the chips off, and you have to wear thick gloves to handle the board, and you need patience - the boards take a good time to heat up. Clever using it for reflow though - theremostat control and all......
A technique I still find useful if you have an air compressor is to blast the solder off a heated component pin or wire. I just heat the pin with a soldering iron, holding the air gun tip almost touching. When the solder melts, a quick blast from the air gun blows the solder clean off, usually including solder in the through-plated hole. The splattered solder is not a problem as it falls off the board or other components quite easily with a little prodding. This also works with bent-over leads which can be straightened for removal once the solder is gone.
I work here in Australia in a large research lab so I scrounge a lot of cast-off electronic gear. The most recent addition was a late-1980's electron beam machine used for e-beam lithography. This had a complete set of spare PCBs and power supplies that had never been removed from their boxes. The storemen now give me a call when anything electronic is being thrown out.
Great topic. Looking at other people's board work while you strip it is great training for the novice - dismantle few thousand random board designs and you will learn a lot about the art.
I started doing this myself in the early 70's - of necessity. Back then (in the UK at least) it was difficult to buy one piece of anything - pre-internet or even mail-order catalogue of course and as a result all parts were of potentrial value to the hobbyist.
I had developed a huge collection of parts by the mid 80's. I rarely had to purchase parts for repairs or hobby work. We used to actually mend things up until 20 years ago of course - not something I try very often these days.
I also used massively over-specified military transistors and recycled cold war era rad-hard op-amps to build audio amplifiers during the audiophile boom years in the early 80's. Almost everything was discrete and thu-hole back then - made things simpler. "Towers", a must have - I had forgotten that existed!
I eventually sold my rather large parts collection at 80's swap-meets and paid for a few vacations with it. My tube (==valve if you are a brit) collection was worth a ton of money - went back to the dawn or radio.
40 years later I still hoard parts - but more demo boards than discrete parts... you never know.
Hi Jon. One of the most gratifying things about posting this article is to hear from people like yourself who also get bits off boards. None of my workmates do and they give me very funny looks whan I grab old stuff just "to get some good bits off it".
> Have you ever thought that this might not be related to your reclaiming old parts? LOL
Because I am Zimbabwean (eg not Australian) I get funny looks all the time. When I reclaim old PCBS I get VERY funny looks. But I give as good as I get (especially when South Africa beats Australia at the cricket :-)
I need to show this article and the related posts to my wife. She constantly complains about my garage lab and my collection of parts that cover one complete wall of the garage and another row of shelves paralleling the wall. My obsession started in the 60's I was given the job of sweeping up and electronics lab that my dad managed. As part of my compensation consisted of keeping any components found when doing this. The other plus was the books given to me by the technicians and engineers which added fuel to the fire and I've been hooked ever sense. I soon found that you could go to the junk yard and for a small amount you could salvage numerous parts from scrapped radios and other electronics.
I have built many things over the years using parts salvaged and expect to build many more. I have come to a saturation point on TTL and CMOS logic you can only have so many LS374's before you have to get rid of some.
Glad to see I'm not alone in this obsession.... Any one need any Motorola 100 psi board mount pressure sensors I only have about a hundred many new.
Also in relation to SMT parts the Ungar Princess heat gun which has a smaller barrel is excellent for a manual soldering and desoldering tool, assuming I remember the brand I been using it for years and now I'm not sure of the name.