Google “What is soldering?” and thousands of answers will flood your screen in less than 1 second. Consider this your quick and easy guide to soldering as it relates to electronics. Soldering is a fundamental technique in electrical manufacturing that fills two needs with one deed. First, it serves as a strong mechanical connection between wires and electrical components. Simultaneously, the solder material acts as a conductor that carries an electrical charge from one terminal to another.
Generally speaking, the act of soldering involves melting solder material over the top of a joint (e.g., between two terminals, wires or switches) to bond the two components and complete the electrical circuit.
Solder is not a glue, and soldering is not the same as welding or brazing. Though a fast, convenient method used to affix metal components permanently, soldering uses much lower temperatures than welding or brazing, which makes the technique well-suited for delicate electronic environments.
What is soldering material?
Before people discovered the neurotoxicity of lead (more specifically vaporized flux), electrical manufacturers used a tin- and lead-based alloy for soldering because of its soft, dense properties and low melting point. Now that we know the harmful effects of lead on human and environmental health, manufacturers have moved away from lead-based solder and instead use a combination of tin, copper, zinc, silver and bismuth.
Like lead, these metal alloys are fusible (i.e., can melt into a liquid state and harden into a solid-state) and have a relatively low melting point, which makes the material easy to heat and apply onto joints without damaging surrounding circuitry. The solder material looks like a coil of thin metal akin to an unwrapped paperclip wire. Ideally, the metal alloy should also include flux, a compound that prevents the formation of oxides, which can corrode the mechanical and conductive properties of the solder over time.
What is soldering used for?
Soldering is most commonly used in the manufacturing of electronic circuit boards used in devices, such as:
There are dozens of different soldering techniques, but they all follow the same general framework. Step one, make the mechanical connection. Step two, apply heat to melt the solder over the joint. The application of heat is where techniques diverge. For example, in small-scale production, soldering may be done by hand, one joint at a time, using a soldering iron (a tool with a tiny pen-like heating element that, upon contact with a metal alloy, quickly melts the solder material). In mass production, all electrical components can be arranged on the circuit board and soldered at the same time using wave soldering or infrared reflow processes.
Automated Soldering Technology
At iCONN Systems, Inc., we leverage advanced automated soldering technology to increase the speed, accuracy and consistency of the soldering process while reducing labor and material costs. By supporting the growing demand for flex circuits and PCBs, we have reduced the cost of electrical interconnections by as much as 70%. Furthermore, by bringing automated soldering technology in-house, we’ve successfully brought manufacturing operations back to America (from China).
Learn more about how our manufacturing processes provide quality and speed without compromise.