Learning to Solder: Getting Ahead with Liquid Lead
**This is a project for my high school robotics class. Helpful comments and suggestions are appreciated!**
Welcome to Learning to Solder! Hopefully after following these steps you will be comfortable with how to solder.
Step 1: Step 1: Equipment
There are a few basic tools that are fundamental in learning how to solder.
Damp Sponge (Used to clean tip of Soldering Iron)
Helping Hands Tool (Holds PCB or other objects safely while you solder)
Step 2: Step 1: Equipment Cont.
Safety is of the upmost importance to a soldering project! These three tools can either help avoid a dangerous situation or nullify one. Always make sure to take caution while using the soldering iron!
Goggles (Useful to avoid damage from any parts that may fly out while clipping wires)
Ventilation Fan (The fan will inhale toxic fumes that may be emitted by the solder, so that you will be able to avoid breathing harmful carcinogens)
Step 3: Step 1: Tool Explanations
Here we will discuss the uses of the two main soldering components, the soldering iron and the solder!
A soldering iron is necessary to begin soldering. Generally it will come equiped with various soldering points which each have their own strengths and uses. For beginning projects I recommend using the rounded tip, eventually graduating to a pointed one with more experience.
As to avoid carcinogenic fumes as well as be ecologically friendly, attempt to find solder that has little to no lead content. Some solders vary in composition, causing them to heat at higher or lower temperature. Less maleable solders may take the highest setting on the iron to be usable for soldering.
Step 4: Step 2: Set Up
A successful soldering station requires a little bit set up to ensure maximum efficiency and safety.
- Plug in soldering iron and ventilation fan
- Set up ventilation fan in a way that it will inhale most of the fumes that result from soldering
- Dampen Sponge which will aid in maintaining a clean soldering tip
- Turn on Soldering Iron, which may take a few minutes to heat up
Step 5: Step 2: Tips and Tricks!
Best Practices: Tinning the soldering tip:
- Uniformally covering the entire tip of the soldering iron with a thin layer of solder helps with heat transfer
What I Wish I Had Known:
- The soldering iron gets very hot, which tends to heat even part of the handle closest to the tip; although it may have a covering, still try to use the middle/bottom half
- The cord connecting to the soldering iron from its holder can get easily wrapped around your hand while working on a project; keep the soldering iron situated on the side of the dominant hand, having the cords face away from you as to not get caught in between you and the solder
Step 6: Step 3: ICs and Other Complex Components
Once you are familiar with the more fundamental elements to soldering, you can try with more complex/multi-pronged additions to your PCB!
- Some components need to be soldered a certain way. Integrated Circuits (ICs) tend to require being out in a certain way. The little divots on one of the sides will indicate which side it should be put in.
- Using the same procedure as before, solder in the many prongs so that they are level and sturdy. Make sure none of the joints are connects by solder.
- Sometimes you will need to solder buttons and levers. These are to be soldered as per usual, and you will not have to worry about cutting wires.
Step 7: Step 3: Tips and Tricks
Best Practices: Stable ICs
- It can be difficult to get the ICs level on the PCB. Sometimes the helping hands are not enough to support the IC in a steady position. You can use the table and the protective foam casing from the IC to help maintain a sturdy work area.
What I Wish I had Known
- Although, it seems inconsequential, that nod at the end of the IC needs to be situated in the correct place (With the notch corresponding to the direction indicated on the PCB). It is a scenario where it is easier to get correctly the first time than to mess with after it has been soldered in place
Step 8: Step 4: Fixing Mistakes (And There WILL Be Mistakes)
It is completely natural to make mistakes, and understandably you may make a few on the way.
There are a few choices on how to fix them: Solder Sucker and Mesh Coil
- To use the solder sucker, place the soldering iron in one hand and the solder sucker in the other. Heat up the broken solder joint and quickly press the respective button on the solder sucker to suck the liquid solder
- A copper coil can also be used to absorb broken solder joints. Place the mesh over the necessary joint, followed by the heated solder tip. The heated solder should start to get absorbed into the mesh, effectively desoldering the joint.
Step 9: Step 4: Tips and Tricks!
Best Practices: Effective Solder Joints
- Neat solder joints make for a neat completed PCB. That being said, it is ok for solder joints to be a little messy and imperfect. Focus primarily on fixing joints that are not working/ where the component was put incorrectly
What I Wish I Had Known
- The copper mesh heats up pretty quickly, so make sure to hold onto the container and not the actual equipment
Step 10: Step 5: Test It!
The best way to see if it works is to test it! If it does not work, hypothesize why it is not working. Is it a software problem where the necessary program was not uploaded? Is one of the vital joints broken? Is the battery connected? Being able to troubleshoot an issue will become a useful practice in more complicated projects.