Category Archives: Circuit Boards

How to solder like a pro

Manual soldering is a skill that gets better with practice. For those who are starting out for the first time, manual soldering can be risky, unless they take proper care and follow safety instructions. Manual soldering involves application of heat locally by a soldering iron, whose tip may reach temperatures as high as 400°C. Soldering materials are sometimes toxic, especially if using lead based solders. Some very useful information about soldering can be found here.

One of the best tips to follow for both starters and experienced people is to don safety glasses before starting to solder. This is something that should become a habit for everyone who is soldering, because hot solder entering the eye can be dangerous. A wire, bent the wrong way, can easily flick hot solder into the air. When cutting a component leg, the cut piece can travel at high speeds. Safety glasses will save the eyes from all these flying missiles.

For most people, soldering skills will not be very good at first, but will certainly improve over time. There is no magic in making perfect solder joints every time, you will simply get used to how to hold things, when the iron is hot enough and the feel for how long you need to apply the heat on.

One basic question that comes up often is whether people ought to use leaded solder or unleaded solder. Leaded solder is composed of Tin (Sn) and Lead (Pb), typically in the ration 60:40, with lead being added to bring down the melting point of the composition to about 180°C. However, Lead being unsuitable to human health, has led to creation of unleaded or lead-free solders. The composition of lead-free solder varies, but in general, these have a higher melting point, nearer to 240°C.

The lower melting point of leaded solder makes it easier for soldering work, and beginners find it easier to practice with. Unleaded solder also has a more corroding effect on the tip of the soldering iron, so you need to change the tip more frequently if you are doing a lot of soldering with unleaded solder. For fine electronics soldering, it is preferable to use a thin gauge of solder wire such as 0.7mm in diameter. Thicker solder is intended for heavier electrical work.

For solder to melt and flow easily, a chemical compound is used; this is called Flux. Usually, the solder wire has a hollow core, in which flux is filled. As you heat the solder wire, flux melts first and helps solder to melt and flow. However, melting flux releases fumes that although not harmful in small quantities, it is advisable to avoid breathing in.

Soldering should preferably be done in a large, well-ventilated room. If that is not possible, a fume extractor or even a fan should be used to draw the fumes away. The tip of the soldering iron should be kept clean and well wetted with solder. This keeps the tip in good condition for a longer time, preventing pitting. For cleaning the tip, use a wet sponge or some wire wool. Wire wool can be used to clean the surfaces to be soldered, resulting in faster and better-soldered joints.

Solder Sucker for Desoldering – New product alert!

Solder Sucker

Solder Sucker

We’re always adding new electronic components, parts and supplies to our inventory. This week, one of our new products is a solder sucker, which is a ‘must have’ for anyone that works with electronics and solder.

Crafted in Germany by Amax, this solder sucker is a pump style solder remover. Use it on heated solder to remove the solder from your boards and components. It comes in the original manufacturer’s packaging with instructions for the use and care of your solder sucker.

Here are some basic desoldering instructions:
1. Heat your soldering iron. Push down on the plunger until it clicks to arm the soldering iron.
2. Clean your soldering tip. Place the soldering tip on the side of the old joint. Apply some fresh solder on the old joint to help the old solder soften.
3. Set the plunger on the solder sucker. Place the tip of the solder sucker on the old joint as close as possible to the soldering tip.
4. Release the plunger by pressing the button.
5. Repeat until much of the old solder is gone.
6. If any of the old solder is left in PCB holes, you can heat the old joint again and using the soldering tip on one side and a miniature flat screwdriver on the other, gently rock the joint back and forth lightly to loosen up the tiny leads on the components.
7. You may need to repeat this process again when there is a stubborn joint.
9. Remove your component carefully; taking care to not damage the board.

Wire Bending Radius Guide

At West Florida Components, we get asked very often about wire bending radius. It is important to have guidelines when working with wire or cable in your projects, particularly projects that involve curves, ductwork and buildings. There are a few rules of thumb that come into play when you think about the bending radius of wire and cable. Following these rules will ensure that your wire and cable projects go off without a hitch!

Here is a chart to use: