Soldering is a fundamental skill used in several electronic tasks and projects such as building a circuit. It is a process that allows electric current to flow between two conductors, establishing a connection between electronic parts.
This connection is made by melting a metal alloy wire, called solder, with a soldering iron, then applying the solder to the joints. Once cooled, this metal alloy creates a strong electrical bond between the electronic components.
You don’t need a lot to learn how to solder. When you enroll in a soldering course, Blackfox will provide everything you need while in class. After class, you only need a few essential tools for your soldering projects like the ones listed below:
1. Soldering Iron
One of the essential tools in soldering, a soldering iron, is a hand tool that you plug into an AC outlet, and you use to melt the solder that you will then apply around electrical connections.
A soldering iron can heat up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. When selecting a soldering Iron, you need to consider the factors below:
Types of Soldering Iron
- Soldering pencils
Soldering pencils are cheaper and are ideal for soldering 101. Though ideal for soldering for beginners, advanced users might prefer a soldering iron that allows control of the iron tip temperature.
- Soldering stations
Soldering stations are more advanced than a standalone soldering pencil, therefore more expensive. This is because they offer the option to control the iron tip’s temperature, thus providing a higher soldering precision. It is merely a power station with a soldering pencil connected to it.
A soldering iron’s wattage determines its amount of power. A wattage of 40 watts to 60 watts is highly recommended to avoid heat loss, which could lead to cold/bad solder joints, ensuring a clean solder. Beginners are advised to use 15 watts to 30 watts. The temperature of the soldering tip is the most important factor in making a quality solder connection. The solder alloy and the metal mass of what is being soldered will dictate your temperature setting.
Soldering Iron Tips
There are different variations of soldering tips, each having its specific advantages over the other. You can change the tips of most soldering irons for various specific soldering applications.
A conical tip is characterized by its pointed end. It is more geared towards high precision soldering. The pointed end allows the soldering iron to deliver heat to smaller areas without affecting its surrounding components or copper pads.
A chisel tip has a broad flat tip and is best suited for soldering large components.
The next most important tool in soldering for beginners and soldering, in general, is solder itself. It is a metal alloy material that is used for joining electrical parts to a circuit board. The most common type of solder is made of tin or copper alloy, and with diameters of .010 inches and .032 inches. The .010 is good for soldering smaller joints, while .032 is good for larger joints
The solder core contains a flux material that helps ensure better electrical contact between the copper pad and the electronic component.
3. Brass or Conventional Sponge
A cleaning sponge keeps the soldering iron tip clean by removing oxidation. Oxidation turns the soldering iron tip to black, affecting its soldering quality.
Though both brass or conventional sponge can clean the soldering iron tip, brass is more recommended because it has a longer lifespan than a traditional sponge, which is subject to constant expansion, and contraction. Moreover, sponges typically drop the temperature of the tip.
4. Soldering Iron Stand
One of the essentials in soldering 101, a soldering iron stand gives you a place to let it sit after every use, instead of having to place it on a surface where it could come in contact with flammable materials or burn your hand. Most soldering iron stands come with a conventional sponge or brass sponge for cleaning the iron tips.
5. (OPTIONAL) Helping Hand /Third Hand
A helping hand, sometimes called third hand, is a tool that has two or more alligator clips that assist you by holding items you want to solder, such as electronic components or wires. It sometimes has a magnifying glass or a light attached to it.
How To Use A Soldering Iron
1. Tinning the tip
Tinning your soldering iron ensures that it will give a proper heat transfer. Moreover, it also protects the iron tip from becoming ruined. The first thing to do is to make sure that the iron tip is screwed tight.
- Turn on the soldering iron. Then, allow it to heat up on the soldering stand.
- If you’re using a soldering station, it is recommended to set the temperature around 400 degrees.
- After letting it sit, wipe the tip on a sponge or brass.
- Apply solder on the tip, let it melt, then clean the tip again on a sponge or brass.
2. Soldering an electronic component onto a PCB
- Clean the surface of the board.
- Mount the component onto the circuit board, flip the board over, then bend the component leads outwards, enough to secure it to the board for soldering.
- Place the tip of your soldering iron on the copper pad of the circuit board, making sure that both the pad and lead are heated.
- Hold the soldering iron for three to four seconds.
- Once proper heating has been applied to the pad and lead, bring the solder over and let it touch the joint, ensuring that it does not directly touch the tip of your soldering iron.
- Remove the soldering iron once enough solder is applied to cover the copper pad.
- Let the solder cool off, then snip off the extra leads.
3. Soldering Wires Together
When soldering wires together, it is recommended to use a soldering helping hand or a clamp device of some sort to the wires while you solder with both hands.
- Begin by stripping off the insulation of the ends of the wires that you want to solder together
- Twist the exposed wires, letting them wrap one another.
- Turn on the soldering iron. Then, let it heat up.
- Afterward, place the tip of your soldering iron on the joined wires, and hold it for 3 to 4 seconds.
- Once properly heated, let the solder touch the joined wires, and let it melt.
- Remove the soldering iron, and allow it to cool.
Soldering is an essential skill in electronics, and by following the tips in this guide, you’ll quickly master its basics. Enrolling in a soldering course will allow you to learn even more advanced soldering techniques and enable you to become successful in the electronics manufacturing industry.