Soldering is a delicate manual skill which only comes with practice. Remember that your ability to solder effectively will determine directly how well the prototype or product functions during its lifespan. Poor soldering can be an expensive business - causing product failure and downtime, engineer's maintenance time and customer dissatisfaction. At hobbyist level, bad soldering technique can be a cause of major disappointment which damages your confidence. It needn't be like that: soldering is really easy to learn, and like learning to ride a bike, once mastered is never forgotten!
These photos illustrate the basic steps in making a perfect solder joint on a p.c.b. If you're a beginner, our advice is that it's best to practice your soldering technique using some clean, new parts with perhaps some new stripboard (protoboard). Be sure to avoid using old, dirty parts; these can be difficult if not impossible to solder. The new Basic Desoldering Guide is a photo sequence illustrating the use of solder pumps and braid, and a few genuine examples (honest) of bad soldering. Alan Winstanley.
|(Left) Printed circuit board copper tracks must be clean to begin with,
especially if they're not previously "tinned" with solder. Clean any raw p.c.b. copper tracks gently with
e.g. an abrasive rubber block available from electronics suppliers.
(Right) Clean the iron "bit" (soldering iron tip) using a damp sponge. The soldering iron featured is an Ungar Concept 2100 Soldering Station. Other popular brands of soldering equipment include Weller and Antex.
|(Left) A useful product is Multicore's Tip Tinner Cleaner
(TTC) - a 15 gramme tin of special paste which cleans and "tins" the soldering iron iron, in one go. New tips must be tinned immediately when used for the first time.
(Right) Insert components and splay the leads so that the part is held in place.
|(Left) It's usually best to snip the electronic component wires to length prior
to soldering. This helps prevent transmitting mechanical shocks to the copper foil.
(Right) Apply a clean soldering iron tip to the copper solder pad and the component lead, in order to heat both items at the same time.
|(Left) Continue heating and apply a few millimetres of
solder. Remove the iron and allow the solder joint to cool naturally.
(Right) It only takes a second or two, to make the perfect joint, which should be nice and shiny. Check the Guide for troubleshooting help.
|(Left) An example of a "dry" or "gray" soller joint - the solder failed to flow, and instead beaded to form globules around the wire.|
|On to the Basic De-soldering Photo Gallery (and Black Museum of Bad Soldering...)|
ICopyright notice: these photos are Copyright © Alan Winstanley 1997-2010. They may not be used in any commercial publication, mirrored on any web site site nor appended to or amended, or used or distributed for any commercial reason, without the prior permission of the writer.
For the photographer: the photographs were taken by the author using a Minolta X-700 SLR with 50mm Minolta MC manual-focus macro lens at f11-16, coupled to a Minolta Auto 80PX macro ring flash gun. Film was Kodak Gold 200. The prints were scanned using an HP Scanjet 4C flatbed scanner, and enhanced using JASC Paintshop Pro before being uploaded to the EPE web site. A new range of digital images and multimedia products is work in progress.
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