Whether you have found a new hobby in custom cable manufacturing or if you are an aspiring inventor looking for the right cable assembly for your first prototype, you may find a need for tinning and soldering. Pronounced ‘saw-dering’, it is the process of welding two fine metals together using a heated iron and an electrically-conductive solder material in order to create a strong and reliable connection. If you would like to learn how to solder for your own DIY project or to bulk manufacture new electronics, this article will teach you the basics.
1. Safety First
Since soldering alloy is composed of tin and lead, many wires used in soldering, and the paste used to solidify the connection contain potentially hazardous materials. Add to that you are using an extremely hot iron up to 400 degrees Celcius to heat that material, and you have got potentially toxic fumes. Also, soldering wear has a flux that contains a rosin. When that rosin is burned, it produces fumes that can be fatal. It is important that you use a smoke absorber and only solder in a well-ventilated area. Naturally, since the iron is so hot, avoid touching it and always use a stand to avoid accidental fires.
2. Your Heat Source
Soldering irons and guns come in a wide variety of wattages and sizes depending on the application they are used for. The key to soldering effectively is managing your heat source. Regardless of the material you are soldering, your heat needs to be carefully controlled. If the iron is too hot, you might burn the delicate metals or circuit board materials. If it is not hot enough the solder will not melt quickly enough to properly solder the joing and make a strong and reliable electrical connection. Luckily, your device should allow you to precisely control the heat electronically. Simply refer to a guide for the specific material you are soldering.
3. Cleaning and Tinning Your Iron
Another important component of soldering, is keeping your iron or gun clean. Your station should come with a sponge. Use distilled water to dampen the sponge and clean the tip of the iron before every use. If the tip you are using is brand new, it must first be tinned. Essentially this means you need to coat the tip, turn it on and heat it up, and then cover it with your solder alloy. The reason for this is to form a thin layer on the tip of the iron so that it applies better heat transfer when soldering the joint. Clean your work station as well and prepare your materials.
4. Solder Away
Insert the component you will be soldering into your circuit board with a set of tweezers. Place the component’s lead against the copper pad on the circuit board where it will be applied. Once the iron is hot, perhaps 1 to 2 minutes after turning it on, hold it like a pen and prepare to solder the joint. Try to apply equal contact to both the copper pad and the component lead with as much surface area toching as possible. Using solder is important because it provides a liquid bridge of electric heat between the iron and joint you are trying to connect. Continue to apply solder to the joint, but not the tip of the iron, until the gap between the lead and the copper pad.
To source materials for your next soldering project or to avoid the DIY route and have your custom cable manufacturing project prepared for you, contact us today!