Cool Tools 2020: Soldering Fume Extractor - Review

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RoadTest: Cool Tools 2020: Soldering Fume Extractor

Author: hafcanadian

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Independent Products

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: I looked at the many offerings on Amazon, and several look virtually identical to this Multicomp Pro.

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Initial shipment did not reach me. Other than that, the LED light could be brighter.

Detailed Review:

Of course I must relate right up front, and confirm the premise behind Road Test, that I was sent the Multicomp Pro MP740146 at no expense to me, in return for an honest review.  I will endeavor that it be only that.  I was supposed to have received the item last Spring.  Some weeks later when I received inquiries from Element 14 regarding submitting a review, and it had not yet even arrived, they kindly reshipped one and extended me time to adequately use the unit.  

 

That out of the way, I can briefly summarize by saying I like everything about the unit, but believe the LED could be a bit brighter.  I am by no means a professional in the realm of electronics, so my comments may not be as in-depth as other contributors here.  As to the internal components of the device I therefore prefer to make no attempt to analyze.  My experiences with it are limited to relatively few, also because I don't repair or build electronics for a living.  Due to that delayed product receipt, and the fact that my bench projects are relatively infrequent, submitting a review of any useful extent here took awhile.  My hope is that some here who are like myself just "Saturday fix-its", if you will, can glean some insights into the product, enough to help make a purchase decision one way or another.  My eventual conclusion is that though there other options out there, this one very much fills my need for an occasionally needed but safety-essential device.

 

Some clarity might be afforded by my circumstance.  My search was instigated by the mild asthma I deal with.  It doesn't exactly choke me to death, but it doesn't take much dust or fumes to flare up my bronchial and lungs.  I'd just as soon keep the stuff out to begin with, and have both a fume and a dust respirator.  Now as some homeowners here can probably empathize, I'm all too often in a big hurry and either don't think about it or am too lazy at that moment to go put the proper mask on.  After all, they're more uncomfortable and harder to don than even paper N95 or cotton Covid-19 masks.  At my garage workbench I keep a 3M N95 mask, and usually use it.  On the garage ceiling I have a Jet shop air cleaner on pulleys.  The idea was that when soldering I could lower it so its intake was next to the soldering.  Yeah, right.  Lowering it turned out to be no small effort, and I've rarely ever actually done that.  Opening all the garage doors provided some air movement, but usually not enough to keep fumes or smoke away from my face.  With aging eyesight and a confounding tremor, I need to get close-in to my work.  That requires a head-mounted magnifier and lamp gizmo, on top of the classic wire/pc board alligator clamp desktop device with magnifying lens.

 

I have to relate that the tremor has become a major issue.  Trying to desolder or resolder anything, much less points on a tiny, garden lantern's one inch by half inch circuit board, is a challenge to say the least.  One unforeseen plus to the Multicomp Pro extractor is that it provides a great place to rest my left wrist, mitigating some of the tremor.  The more frustrated and anxious I get about how sloppy my soldering job is going, the more intense the tremor;  its a vicious cycle.  The extractor's position and effectiveness at pulling fumes away from my work and face is almost secondary (well, maybe primary) to its providing a stable base for one hand.  Now that gives me the idea that maybe I need to order a second extractor, to steady my other hand!

 

But honestly, and more to its intended use, I really appreciate the convenience of the extractor's size.  Its footprint is minimal and occupies a spot off to one side of the "small jobs" end of my 16' long workbench.  When needed, it gets plugged in and moved right next to whichever of two flexible-arm alligator clip holding devices I'm using.  The LED light on it could be brighter, but actually I use multiple other light sources, including on my headgear magnifier and a penlight on the holding device;  they usually provide all I need.  The lamp on the extractor is additive, though, and at my age every bit helps.  It does often fill in the left side of a job that might otherwise be in a shadow caused by the other light sources.  So I'm not about to claim that it's useless.  I'd like to see it a tad brighter though, given it works on house voltage rather than a battery.  The switch is in a convenient spot, and goes one way for just the fan and the other way to include the lamp.  The cord, truth be told, exits the device body on the wrong side for my setup, which means I have to route it clumsily in order to plug it in.  But that's simply a matter of individual circumstance and bench configuration like it is for every corded device that must subsist thereon.

 

I must say that I was quite surprised at the powerful airflow the extractor provides.  Absolutely no fumes or smoke reached me.  You could watch them slide immediately and completely off to the side and away.  No trace of them either on the outlet side.  The carbon filter looks porous, maybe, but it seems to absorb it all very effectively.  I still might turn on the Jet hanging from the ceiling, simply to move air out the back door, but I no longer need to even think about lowering it to bench level.  In the winter when opening doors is less than pallatable, I won't need the Jet at all anyway.  The Multicomp Pro cleans adequately enough on its own, for sure.  I struggled briefly with whether to lay the extractor down or stand it up.  So far it works best for me upright, assuredly because of its wrist rest benefit, and the lamp position, but also just because that height is ideal for most work.  For certain lower work or flat-on-bench positions, I'm sure having the other option available will come in handy.  I've read reviews of other devices where people didn't like the fan noise.  My opinion on this Multicomp Pro decibels is that they are quite innocuous.  It may be that a different fan mounting or a different fan altogether might bring happier reviews about these types of units, but frankly the audio provided by mine is hardly troublesome.  If it distracted from my focus on the soldering work, yeah, that would be a big problem.  But it doesn't.

 

To be sure, I should've looked into buying one of these years ago.  I'm grateful to Element 14, not only for the opportunity to try it out and own it, but for bringing the device to my attention in the first place.  Were I to start from scratch looking for one, I might at first be put off by the cost.  But look far enough and I likely would have bought this in the end.  Given I needed something on the bench to keep my air relatively clean as per my medical condition, the product seemed to be of quality build, and it was offered by a reliable, respected source with a track record of customer care being foremost, I likely would have ordered this extractor.  There are others that look nearly identical to the Multicomp Pro, and prices vary.  If I'd known before what personal experience has brought since, I'd definitely order one from Element 14, just for the product backing, and not knowing precisely if branded differently look-alikes are up to the same snuff.  This unit, yeah, it did the job for me in excellent fashion.  Watching fumes/smoke exit stage left with abandon, and for once not a whiff of soldering odor to be had... that was super.  I even used it for when I had to grind something with my Dremel multitool.  It drew fine dust right in.  The filter isn't necessarily built for dust I guess, but it did collect the fine dust and that's better than it going in my lungs.  Replacement filters are relatively inexpensive compared to new lungs, and more readily available at Element 14.  Now there's no temptation to just step up and solder or burn or Dremel grind something.  The abstractor is sitting right there.  All I have to do is move it 12 inches into position, plug it in, and turn it on.  Love it!

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