Soldering is one of the most fundamental skills that a DIY-er can learn, especially when everything around us is becoming electronic. Because you want to know how to fix your own electronics if they break down or malfunction. Soldering is also the next step after breadboarding because it lets you take your circuit from the breadboard to a PCB. giving you the opportunity to use your circuit outside your lab easily without struggling with the dancing wires.
In this tutorial you are going to learn the techniques of through-hole soldering, and what tools you need to have an awesome and safe soldering station.
This is the equipment you need to have an awesome soldering station, and they range from the type of solder that you use, to the alligator clips that help you hold your board as you solder on it.
A soldering iron
The soldering iron is the heat source that you use to melt the solder and connect the metallic ends of your electrical components together. And what makes a soldering iron special is that it can heat up and cool down quickly, while maintaining a constant temperature. Which makes the soldering iron the core of your soldering station, as you can't really solder anything without it.
Soldering irons come in many types and variations, and in this guide we are going to talk about the different types of soldering irons and the pros and cons of each one.
Basic Soldering Irons
These irons are the entry level irons, as they come cheaply and work great. But, they lack the advanced features of more expensive ones. Just make sure that it is 25 watts at least, and you are good to go.
Adjustable Temperature Irons
The adjustable temperature soldering irons have the same pencil style as the basic ones. But, they have more power and the ability to control the temperature by yourself, which give you better control over your solder, with the ability to work faster.
These irons are the best that you can buy, as they offer massive power - usually over 50 watts - along with interchangeable tips. Giving you awesome time while soldering, with the ability to do specialized work.
Solder is a low-melting metallic alloy that you use to solder your components to the PCB board.
It is made of tin and lead. But there are solder types that are lead-free, which makes them safer to work with, but much more difficult, as lead has the ability to create the best solder joints.
In the end, it comes to what you prefer, whether it was the ease of use or safety.
Cutters do exactly what their name implies, after soldering your components to your PCB, cut the components extra leads, to not make a contact with any adjacent components causing a short circuit
Soldering Iron Stand
The stand is the safe place where you put your solder iron as you use it. As it suspends the soldering iron with the tip pointing down and far from you. Good stands also have places to put your regular or brass sponges in.
Helping hands acts like your third hand, helps you to hold your components and PCB while you are soldering them.
The solder wick is an embroidered copper wire that is used to remove excess solder, by aligning the wick above the solder and heating the copper it will melt the solder onto it.
It is also used to remove the excess solder from your board, but it sucks the molten solder, unlike the wick.
Prepare the site
Clean the component leads with isopropyl alcohol
Cleaning any component lead before soldering it is a good idea, because if the lead is oxidized or dirty it will not make a solid joint, and may not accept the solder at all, Use a piece of cotton or tissue with an isopropyl alcohol to clean your component lead.
Clean the PCB with isopropyl alcohol
At many times, some points at PCB maybe oxidized which means if you solder a component over the oxidized part it will not accept the solder. So using a piece of cotton or tissue with an isopropyl alcohol to clean your PCB before using is a good idea.
Clean the soldering iron tip by getting it to temperature and cleaning it with a damp wipe.
Cleaning your soldering iron tip with a damp wipe will remove any oxidation or wastes on the tip from any previous use, this will make the soldering process easier and faster.
Tin your soldering iron tip.
Heat up your soldering iron then thoroughly melt a small amount of solder all over its tip and wipe again, This makes sure that the tip has a nice solder shiny layer coating, which makes it easier to melt the solder while soldering your parts.
Bend the leads
“Slightly bend them outwards, so that they don't fall off when the board is flipped.”
- Placing the component
Make sure that the leads are centered inside of the plated through-holes, to solder it in the correct place.
- Once the part is in place, bend it!
Once the component is in place, bend component’s leads back to hold the component in place. Then inspect to make sure that the component lies flat on the PCB.
Solder the part
Apply flux to both sides of the PCB to help with heat conduction. Flux will help you keep the soldering area clean and make sure the wetness is sufficient, a key part of creating a good solder joint.
Now to start soldering. Make sure to only apply solder to the underside of the board. The rule for through-hole soldering is that you can put flux on both sides but solder only on one. While holding the PCB in place with a heat resistant pad, place the soldering iron tip where the pad meets the lead.
Apply a small amount of solder at this point. Then, move the solder wire to the other side of the lead in order to make a solder bridge.
Repeat the same process for the other lead.
- Never touch the metal part of the soldering iron.
This is the part which heats up the solder to melt, so touching it will burn your skin, be careful!
- Never leave the soldering iron resting on the table
By doing this you will ruin your table! because this metal part of the soldering iron is very in high temperature.
- Wash your hands after you are done the soldering
Don’t forget to wash your hands before breaks, after finishing your work because the solder wire consists of tin, flux, lead, .. which may affect your health in the long term if you don’t keep yourself safe
Always keep a good ventilation in your working place because of the soldering fume.
It’s not a bad idea to wear safety glasses while you are working, it will protect you from the soldering fume which contains bad chemicals.
I hope that this guide was useful, and that you now know what soldering equipment you need that fit your needs, and how to get the best results from soldering while being as safe as possible.
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