Health and Solder Fumes | Workbench Wednesdays

element14 Presents on YouTube
2019-04-10

An overlooked danger of electronics soldering is the fumes. While the smell and smoke may not be pleasant, the chemicals in the fumes can be harmful. Is solder made with lead(Pb) your only concern? Learn about where lead-free solder came from, what different flux types mean, and two ways to keep your air (and your lungs clean.)

In the video, I show a cheap “smoke eater” and a professional fume extractor. There is a cost difference of $50 and $700 between the two. However, either is better than having nothing.

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Soldering Tool Upgrade Paths

element14 - Workbench Wednesdays
06-FEB-2019

Right after the digital multimeter, or DMM, a soldering iron is a must-have tool for electronics work. Like most tools, there is a vast variety of options available. In this episode of element14’s Workbench Wednesdays, I look at a range of instruments from Weller. They offer everything from a cheap $10 “fire starter” (sorry, it is what we call them!) all the way up to a full-blown surface mount rework station.

Whether you don’t have a soldering iron or you have a  $100 station, this video will show you options to consider when thinking about an upgrade.

After you watch the video, head over to element14 and tell me for you favorite solder tips! (Or your most burning questions!)

Send James your Solder Tips

 

 

This AddOhms episode is part 3 of the “design your own Arduino” series. In this one I populate a bare PCB, reflow solder it, debug a few issues, and load the Uno bootloader. Originally, I designed 2 versions of the board. One version contained an error that I planned to fix in the episode. Well, turns out, the “correct” board had two issues which were more interesting.

Check out the #27 show notes for links to a bunch of stuff in the episode, including the design files.

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My Modular Soldering Station for the Space Limited

modular soldering station

Solder is the glue of electronic circuits. In addition to a permanent mechanical connection, solder provides an electrical connection. Not too much unlike glue solder combines two separate metal pieces with a bonding material. In this case, the bonding material is a metal or allow with a relatively low melting point.

When soldering together a circuit, the quality of the solder joint is crucial. Most people probably recognize the need for a high-quality soldering iron, like the FX-888D from Hakko, but about the other tools?

Building a modular soldering station is just as critical to making good solder joints as the actual solder itself.

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[App Note] Extending Soldering Iron Tip Life from OKI/Metcal

OK International / Metcal (via Newark)
05-14-2007

After mentioning how much I like using a brass sponge when soldering, I came across this App Note from OK International.  This is a great note to read through.  It discusses what is inside of a soldering iron tip, why they fail, and how to keep them in good shape.

Layers of a Soldering Iron Tip

Image from OK International’s Tech Note

The note actually makes me realize two of my own mistakes.

First, most cleaning should be done with a wet sponge not the brass sponge.  (Oops!)

Second, pre-made tip tinners are meant for occasional cleaning.  Moving forward I think I’ll modify my soldering behavior so that I start with a quick clean in the brass, use the sponge while working on a board, and then use standard solder to protect the tip when done.

Question: What other tips (no pun intended) can you think of for soldering tips? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Brass Sponge over Wet Sponge

Keep your soldering iron tip from oxidizing.

As it gets dull and gray, it’ll be harder to make good solder joints. My favorite tool to clean a tip is a Brass Sponge. The other option is a damp cellulose sponge, but I’m not a fan of those.

I have just never found a sponge gets the tip as clean as a light dabbing from the brass sponge.

Just be careful not to “scrub” too hard, you don’t want to scratch the tip. When you done soldering, make sure you clean it with the sponge then coat the tip with fresh solder. Leave that solder on the tip until the next time you use it. The layer of solder will prevent oxidation from building up while the iron sits unused.