Instead of giving up on hardware hacking after developing a hand tremor that hindered their ability to do precise soldering, Jonathan Gleich leveraged their maker skills to come up with a very clever solution: a re-purposed smartphone gimbal that now holds and stabilizes a soldering iron.
Gleich has been a longtime maker and is probably best known online for their Zoltar costume (based on the wish-granting fortune-telling machine in the Tom Hanks’ movie Big) that appeared to glide along all on its own thanks to a Segway hidden inside. But take a look through Gleich’s YouTube channel and you’ll see countless fun hacks and builds, and you’ll better understand why a hand tremor would be so problematic for someone who loves to make and build.
Proving you rarely need to reinvent the wheel, Gleich’s solution to the problem is based around an off-brand smartphone gimbal: a device that uses an articulated arm and gyroscopic sensors to cancel out unwanted shaky movements and smooth out larger disturbances when shooting video using a phone. Modifying the gimbal to swap the smartphone for a soldering iron looks like it didn’t take much hardware hacking aside from an adaptor with a clamp that attaches to the end of the gimbal’s arm.
It’s reminiscent of a device revealed back in 2013 called the Liftware Spoon that used motors and sensors to cancel out unwanted motions introduced by tremors so that Parkinson’s patients were still able to feed themselves. It was such an innovative design that Google bought the company that created it a year later.
Gleich’s creation is a lot simpler, but no less clever because the smartphone gimbal they used features a small joystick for making tiny manual adjustments that allows the tip of the soldering iron to be precisely manoeuvred. For a hacked-together solution, the results are impressive, but if Gleich were able to fine-tune the software powering the gimbal, it could become an invaluable tool for doing countless other things requiring fine motor control that are otherwise hindered by hand tremors: from painting to even just simply signing your own name.