©2019 Robotics for COMPLETE Beginners

15

Soldering

 

Soldering is the term used for the skin melting iron we use to turn metallic solder noodle into liquid which connects two separate metal contacts.

 

It is the metallic glue and the super hot iron to make your robotic dreams come true.

This is when things start to REALLY get exciting.

 

When you start soldering you will start making stand alone prototypes which are MUCH sleeker and sexier than jamming an entire blue Arduino board or green Raspberrypi into your design.

 

It makes projects much more professional and people will think you really know what you are doing.

The first thing to do is go REALLY SLOWLY.

 

This is when things start to get dangerous and your power levels reach just under 9000.

 

In order to exceed that, you will need to learn the fundamentals of coding soon after this.

You need to use or purchase a quality soldering iron or station.

 

IF it comes with a heatgun that is very nice and will come in handy, but not totally necessary yet.

The better brands of irons will allow you to control the heat via a dial or digitally.

Here is the very cheap and popular Weller soldering set recommended by both experts and beginners.

I have also included other alternatives with high numbers of positive ratings and reviews.

DON'T spend too much on your first iron and don't go for one noone has heard of.

Just get a minimal, quality iron.

It needs to produce different levels of heat fairly accurately and consistently.

You can always upgrade later.

Make sure to get one that has a range from 200F-450F.

Soldering is very easy but can damage components if you don’t take my tutorials.

Make sure to clear your space and put down a nice cutting mat or use a workbench that can get damaged or messy.

The next important step is to OPEN A WINDOW, maybe even blow a fan on you so the fumes blow out the window.

The first thing to know is your tips are replaceable, they unscrew and can be swapped for different sizes.

Never try to unscrew a hot iron tip, that is just stupid...

The second thing to know is these should be tinned with solder always to preserve them and keep them working correctly.

 

"Tinned" means to always have fresh solder on the tip.

 

This is why we should re-tin, holster, and turn off the soldering iron whenever we are not using it to solder.

 

Even for a few minutes.

 

It takes only a few seconds to ruin a good tip as it burns through all its solder.

 

Keep that in mind.

Iron, shell, tip

Tip slides inside shell

Then slide that over top of iron heat element and screw on.

Notice I melted some solder on the tip last time I finished using this tip.  This is called "re-tinning".

 

It saves your tips, always make sure there is some solder on your tip.

Clean and non-corroded tips perform better.

The third thing to know is you should also tin the connections you are trying to make.

 

This means applying a little solder to any wire ends or components that you plan on connecting as well as any solder pads on boards which can be referred to as wafers and printed circuit boards (PCB).

We do this to make it much easier to solder the two connections together.

 

It should only take a second to apply, too long and you will burn your wire and need to cut more for an undamaged part or melt off a solder pad which I have done a lot and ruined a $30 brand new drone board.

Note: Some things won't allow the solder to stick. For example: thinner, cheap wires.

The fourth thing to know is you are supposed to touch the hot iron tip to the metal part you wish to connect to and touch the solder to the other side.

 

The metal part or solder pad will heat up and melt the solder which is touching the pad or part also and the solder will rush toward the source of the heat.

 

Pretty cool, huh?

"Come to me my beloved solder" - Fake Hakko Solder Iron, 2019

Iron to pad, solder to pad. Never solder to iron!

My advice for you is to buy a few of the wafers with solder pads on them and practice soldering header pins or wires.

 

Experiment with different heat settings like 200F, 250F, 300F, 350F, 400F.

 

You will get a feel for how much time is needed with each heat setting and how well the solder melts.

 

These are dirt cheap and will build your confidence pretty quickly.

 

I stocked up on them with some header pins when I started soldering and you should too!

 

Just get a handful of them on ebay and expect them in a month....

Single Sided = CHEAPEST

Double Sided = Cheap

Ok, now you are ready to solder up any of the components we assembled on the bread board.

Take your time and solder them onto a wafer.

I suggest taking on the breadboard we set up using:

1 pushbutton

1 resistor

1 LED

1 (empty) Battery Pack or 2 header pins to attach power from USB programmer to

 

If you melt or mess something up, feel good about it because you are putting in the time and energy to achieve your final form!

Besides, this stuff is really cheap.

Let's review.

In order to solder successfully you need:

      a) a clear surface preferably on a cutting mat of sorts in a WELL VENTILATED ROOM

      b) a decent brand, well reviewed solder iron/station

      c) cheap components and wafer board

      d) patience

      e) practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice

       f) all of the above

If you didn't choose 'f' then you better press 'F' at this point...

Once the solder melts like T1000 in a lava pool move the solder iron tip away.

 

You should have a nice, clean solder joint like below. The shinier the better!

You will notice that if you slide the iron away from a pad or header pin quickly it will make a much better solder job.

If you have long header pins and want a lower, sleeker profile you can trim them down with clippers.

 

Practice a few times.

 

Have fun, RELAX.

 

See what heats melt the pads off or burn through the material.

 

It will save you money and headache later.

I like to use a hot glue gun to hold my pins in position on this side.

This is what you should be going for. No connected solder, all separate and shiny.

Top down view

When you are not using the solder and when you are finished make sure to re-tin the tip with fresh solder.

 

Then wipe the excess with the wet sponge or the steell kitchen scrubber. Both work great.

 

Finally, holster and turn OFF your iron.

Check again that it’s turned off.

Ok, check again.

Checc—That’s enough.

 

If you need to resolder or desolder a bad or ugly joint don’t worry, its easier than soldering.

Yeah, that’s right.

Just put more solder onto the joint and touch the hot iron to it for a short time and wick it away.

 

Slide it away or slightly flick it.

 

Don’t launch it into anyone’s eye now…

If two header pins gets soldered together on the bottom side its very easy to fix.

Just slide your iron between the two bottoms of the pins and it will grab some of the solder and the remaining should wrap itself around each pin, separating the two again.

Seriously, it's that easy.

 

Its pretty easy but if you become obsessive or the iron is too hot you will damage your board or over heat your component so keep that in mind.

Embedded soldering is a whole different animal which requires a more advanced setup, a few more tools and alot more patience and experience.

 

That will come in time.

 

For now, focus on getting good at these simple wafer boards.

Try this on your wafers now.

To desolder we can also use a desolder pump.

These are horrible cheap little tools that are incredibly difficult to use.

Seriously, they are bad but it is what we have.

Cock the pump and hold it right over the solder joint.

Now, heat up the joint or put more solder on it like I showed you and once it is hot liquid press the button on the pump.

 

It should suck the solder into the pump and become solder flakes.

 

It's primitive and messy.

 

Be careful with these flakes, if they fall onto any electronic components they can potentially cause a short in the connections or be eaten be small children and pets.

 

I’m not putting those two in the same category.

 

They just generally are low to the ground and consume whatever is in their path.

 

Let’s just say it’s an evolutionary survival technique.

 

There, happy?

Follow the pictures provided below to desolder anything.

If you have a row of pins which are connected or anything embedded you are going to need a heat gun to heat everything up enough at the same time, not to mention a TON of flux so nothing gets burned.

You will likely become frustrated at trying to hold the wafers, wires and solder up.

You may try using tape or hot glue or balancing it all on some blocks etc.

The truth is you WANT to get a simple pair of Helping Hands like the two pictured below.

They are pretty cheap and there are some really cool new designs that are way better than mine.

I plan to upgrade soon, the more helping flexible hands the merrier!

The pump

Locked and loaded, push the button to activate

Touch the iron to the solder first

When it melts, push the button on the pump and remove both the iron and the pump

Practice until you can get this. It is good enough.

Re-tin your solder tip after you are done any solder job

Remove excess solder on tip with steel scrubbing sponge or wet sponge (my dog ate my wet sponge)

Re-tinned tip, ready to be holstered and iron turned off

Remember, when dealing with skin melting hot irons:

SAFETY FIRST

  1. Clear your area

  2. use a mat&safety glasses

  3. ventilate the room

  4. go slow 

  5. Re-tin, Holster and turn off iron when not in use

  6. deep breaths

  7. take breaks

Get my favorite books on programming AVR chips I use.

Equip yourself with the most dependable, no hassle, quality usb programmer I use daily.

Make sure you have a basic kit. Arduino is fine, it contains the removable AVR 328p chip we will use.

 

I started with something very similar.

Summary

Ok! Congratulations! Your power level has just reached 8999!

You successfully learned how to prototype components on a breadboard and even got some to work together without a single line of code!

Now you know the basics of soldering and how to do it better than most beginners will figure out.

How does it feel? Good, I know.

If this feels too slow, don’t worry.

 

I’m about to turn your world upside down with the programming in C portion.

 

Like I said, you have not quite exceeded a 9000 power level but you will.

Go high five your parents or your brother or sister.

 

If you don’t have any of those high five someone.

 

Tell them all that you know until they run away.

 

Teaching them what you learned and can do reinforces it in your mind and soon YOU will become the teacher…not of me. Are you kidding?

 

There can only be ONE (Amateur) Highlander.