I'm still fresh out of college, and unless you're specifically working on an electronics project or a side/personal project involving electronics, you won't ever need to learn how to solder. I can think of two, maybe three, times during my entire time at college where I needed to solder in class, and because all of those times were in groups, it was completely possible to go through college without having to solder at all.
Personally, I love Adafruit's guide on the subject. I suggest it to anyone and everyone that wants to learn to solder properly.
Unless someone is a hobbyist, you can get away without ever having to use a soldering iron. It's unfortunate, but a sign of the times. maybe soldering as a whole just isn't as important as it use to.
Unfortunately most cannot communicate well either at least in the formal methods required to effectively translate marketing documents to engineering specifications, to communicate with customers in order to effectively translate their requirements into product features, and within their own organizations such that engineering becomes an integral part of the corporate direction, not just a resource.
Of course, many electronics engineers are really software engineers and/or do work primarily with FPGAs, simulation, etc. that does not require soldering skills.
I can't write in cursive anymore either, but then again I rarely need to.
Teams are larger than they used to be and skills more specialized. I think it is just evolution. What we need to be worried about it is key soft skills that are portable across all specializations.
@Jack.L: Unfortunately most cannot communicate well either at least in the formal methods required to effectively translate marketing documents to engineering specifications...
I agree -- communication is something that should receive more emphasis at college ... having said this, I know that I had no interest in learning these skills when I was a student...
But another part if this is mentoring -- when I started out, the big companies assigned each new hire to a mentor who taught them the real-world ropes ... now new employees are left to sink or swim on their own...
These days, my problem with solding has nothing to do with solder, but the fact that I can't see the parts very well. If I take off my glasses, then my face is so close to the hot soldering iron that I can feel the heat. Even a soldering iron with LEDs doesn't help.
Hi Max, I learned enough on my first job to make simple changes, but it was another 10 years or so before I got back in the lab enough to figure out how to avoid the occasional cold joint. I was able to change out surface mount ICs myself as of about 5 years ago, but have lost that touch. My employers usually want me designing stuff at my desk and think the board work should be left to the techs!
Yes, it definitely would have been handy. Even an hour or two would have helped a lot. But, I wonder if present day liability concerns would make this less than attractive, assuming that there would be a hands on aspect to the course.
Sorry, MAX! I have to disagree with you about the soldering issue. IF my child or grandchild came to me to relate that during his previous semester @ college, he learned how to solder, the first thing I would do is to REMOVE him from that school & find another engineering school which focuses on the theory AND application of the engineering discipline for which he (or she) is enrolled. And, IF it was my grandchild, then I'd HOUND the child's parents to do the same! A person goes to college PRIMARILY to learn to THINK!...... What that person learns to think about is secondary. College is the forum to develop a process to solve problems..... nothing more.
Remember something..... Back in the late 1950s, 1960s, 1970s (maybe, even to the present), the desks of I-B-M employees & the top face of the "360" Mainframes had a small plaque prominently displayed with ONE word on it. And, that word was, THINK. Kind of says a lot!!!!!
Secondly, I have noticed very prominent examples of poor English language usage in many articles, whether in print magazines, or in their on-line versions. Now, I'm NOT referring to MAD magazine, for example. I'm referring to our popular technical magazines: MACHINE DESIGN, EDN, ECN, ELECTRONIC DESIGN, etc. It is an abomination to me that with the almost infinite power of modern-day wordprocessing software (think WORD) that spelling errors, grammatical errors, etc. should be a part of the copy. Even full-page advertisements are NOT immune to this. Where have all the human copy editors gone? (Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?)....... from SIMON & GARFUNKEL THE GRADUATE & Mrs. Robinson
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Here's an ad that appears in the current distribution of IHS GLOBAL......
How would you like to "Save Time with Mixrowave Mixing ...."? While I started my career many decades ago in radio communications equipment design, we never worked on any "Mixrowave" equipment. There's NO excuse for this!!
@Curie_US wrote: Where have all the human copy editors gone?
They've all been replaced by spelling checkers and auto-correction :-) I still read a lot of print, and you never see etaoin shrdlu anymore, but you do see phrases repeated see phrases repeated and [subheading goes here] or [figure caption goes here]. However, since so much copy is online now, you can simply write cranky comments and the author will happily -- or grudgingly -- correct the text.
Betajet: I'm well aware of the modern power of word processing software. And, that's ALL THE MORE REASON why these mistakes should be few & far between. I can tell you for a fact that not a day passes in which I don't see a glaring example (oor more) of these errors, both in spelling AND in grammatical usage, punctuation, etc. And, that was/IS my point!!!! I wonder WHAT the modern generation of technologists actually learn during their time in college!??
Yesterday I repaired a Sony transistor radio, the power cord wasn't working nor were the batteries. I desoldered the a.c. inlet from the board (a solder terminal had gone 'dry' and cracked), took that apart and found the contact wiper of the d.c. cut-off switch was dirty. Cleaned everything out, reassembled the switch contacts and resoldered it – job done.
I can understand why present-day engineers working with SMD won't see the need to have any practical soldering or assembly skills like these. It's not even expensive to learn, but if I had a dollar for every mail I've had that said 'They don't teach us this stuff [soldering] at college', well, I'd have quite a few dollars anyway.
I wonder how much e.g. math theory is actually taught on the basis that you never know when it might be needed in the future, so should they not teach it? Or my school chemistry classes, which taught me how to make a simple condenser, in case I got stranded in a desert and needed to purify some, er, drinking water. Unlikely in England but you never know! :-)
Personally I think that adding more breadth to one's skills is not a bad thing. You just never know what you'll be confronted with in the future, and there's still a planet full of PTH electronics out there that takes more to fix than just swapping out boards. That's why I got mails from US Air Force techs in Europe trying to fix something, likewise the USMC, Coastguard and a guy trying to solder the refrigeration unit of an old Greyhound bus! None had any idea about using a soldering iron and they were completely mystified by the basic principles. The same basic soldering theory ports over to SMD reworking (I'm working on that).
As someone pointed out, for the upcoming generation there's also Raspberry Pi, Arduino and so on that need interfacing, so I'm sure there'll always be a need to develop little discrete I/O circuits that need to be experimented with and soldered together, as well as repairing them.
Here's my point regarding soldering techniques. I'm NOT suggesting that soldering is NOT important. For sure it is just as important today as it was in the dawn of the Electronics Era.
After graduating from college eons ago, and landing my first "professional" position as a junior project engineer, one of the first tasks that I was exposed to was a series of "lessons" in the proper use of the soldering iron & handling of "electronic" pliers (needle-nose, etc.) This was in the days when printed circuit boards were not as ubiquitous as today, and much chassis wiring was done point-to-point. These lessons were provided to me by the Manager of the Production Processes. Even though I had expressed the position that I had considerable experience w/ hand tools, soldering irons, etc., nevertheless, I was a student for a few hours total.
So, my point is that learing the correct soldering methods is NOT something for a college curriculum, but something that should be explained & taught at the factory-floor level.
As far as being subjected to courses & concepts that one may never use during his/her career, I say, BUNK! Having knowledge is NEVER a bad thing. The moe of it, the better. Furthermore, you might find yourself in a discussion or a venue in which there is discussion about something on the fringe of your concentration. Yet, listening to those in the group, you have a sense of awareness of the subject matter because you once were exposed to this topic.
@Curie_US: Well, MACKS! IF Ur UBM Blog Post area provided a spellchecker, then these little gaffes wouldn't occur...
But I thought your main contention was that everyone relied too much on technology like spell checkers, and it would be a good idea for us all to understand spelling and grammar and check our work (LOL)
MAX!, You've got it all wrong..... I want the spellcheckers (human & machine) for the PROFESSIONAL writers, editors, etc. Let us peons be content with our mistakes. It makes reading these blogs more fun. HEY! These clowns get the big bucks to publish these periodicals. They SHOULD BE perfect!!!!!
Checking one's own work for typos is highly unreliable. Sometimes I can look at what I wrote any number of times, and what I read back will be exactly what I meant to write, which my brain substitutes for what's actually there to save image processing. The simpler the error, the harder it is to spot since I spend most proofreading time on tricky words and making sure it's the case that my text has its apostrophes correct. However, if you searched all my comments for "the the" you'd probably find a bunch.
The most embarrassing is making a mistake when pointing out someone else's mistake. When I do so I expect a wry comment and usually get one. So I'm extra careful and follow Polonius' advice: "brevity is the soul of wit".
I'm really glad eetimes.com now lets you go back and edit, since I often see something in the final formatting that I missed in the editor.
@betajet: Checking one's own work for typos is highly unreliable. Sometimes I can look at what I wrote any number of times, and what I read back will be exactly what I meant to write, which my brain substitutes for what's actually there to save image processing.
It's always better to get someone else to check one's work. When I had my own company, if we were creating a brochure or poster or something for a customer, the final stage was for us all to sit round the table reading it aloud and disecting it comma by comma.
Speaking of which, one of the best techniques if you do have to self-check is to read it aloud .. that actually helps you to find things like "the the" and also to realize where you have a superflous comma (or where you could do with a comma).
Having said all this, whenever I get one of my books back from the publisher, I've found that I can open it on any page and start to reda nd slap my head and say "D'oh!" LOL
@Alan Winstanley: ...in case I got stranded in a desert and needed to purify some, er, drinking water. Unlikely in England but you never know! :-)
I don;t know ... when I lived in Yorkshire I remember that it could rain for months at a time (we used to call that "Summer"), but if we then had 2 or 3 days of sunshine, the authorities said there was a water shortage and they banned everyone from using their garden hoses :-)
Soldering, as a whole, is more important now than it ever has been. With all the BGA and QFN devices on a PCB, the ability to securely attach the device to its pads is more important ( and difficult) than in the past. Hand soldering, while less used in production devices, is a needed experience for a new engineer. Just so that they can have an appreciation of the process that is used to create a board. I do feel very old now, as the first boards that I layed out were with mylar tape on clear plastic at 4:1 scale.
@OldSchoolTwidget: I'll admit to being older. Growing older is mandatory. Growing up, on the other hand, is optional.
That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes -- this one by Hunter S. Thompson who famously said:
"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!"
@MrCruz: Unless someone is a hobbyist, you can get away without ever having to use a soldering iron. It's unfortunate, but a sign of the times. maybe soldering as a whole just isn't as important as it use to.
You may be right -- I came from a world where everyone was pretty much expected to be able to do anything (apart for the software developers of course ... bless their little cotton socks) ... but there's something inside me that screams "No!" at the thought of someone wandering around saying "I am an electronics engineer" if they can't handle a soldering iron...
"I can think of two, maybe three, times during my entire time at college where I needed to solder in class"
Or zero times, and that was also true when I was in school back in the '80s. In electronics lab courses, we usually built analog circuits on solderless breadboards and digital circuits were wire wrapped. My soldering experience was solely from hobby activities, tinkering with circuits at home.
It wasn't until after I started working in industry that I learned how to properly solder, and how to recognize good solder joints from bad ones. On the job training. But to be honest, none of us (engineers) ever came close to the soldering competency of our best technicians and skilled assemblers. When working on prototype boards, you could usually tell which solder joints had been done by a tech and which had been done by an engineer.
Someone who solders daily is always better than the occasional participant.
The lack of any actual skill is the reason I typically have any intern or junior engineer I work with spend time in the lab soldering and de-soldering on scrap boards. They stay at it until the head tech agrees that they have enough skill to no longer be a danger to the boards (or themselves). Unfortunately, there have been a couple over the years that just could never get it, but most take to it fairly quickly.
If working in a commercial enviroment as opposed to been a hobbyist then I would say that if you have the chance to learn any of the skills in designing and producing all stages of a product then take the plunge. I could solder as a junior school pupil and by the time I had an interview for an electronic apprenticeship I was been quizzed on what I had just built and all the technical terms associated with it ( An Audio power amp as it happens, THD, RMS and peak power etc ) But I involved myself with all activities as required and beyond of my apprenticeship. Later on that came in useful that I could do things that were needed in a hurry in any dept. as the people there knew that I could do it to at least the required standard that they expected.
"What do they teach electronics students at college these days? Isn't soldering one of the core skills one is expected to know?"
I went to college eons ago (pre-Watergate, if you must know), and even back then, the answer was "No!" Soldering is not a core skill. There were one or two courses where you had opportunities to solder (barely), but not everyone took those, and you could do a horrible job with the iron and still get by. The skill was not taught.
I learned to solder by building Heathkits, starting in elementary school. Where is Heath, and the interest in kit-building for the fun of it? Yes there are die-hard fans and homebrewers but they are in the minority. Most new engineers have few opportunities to pick up the skill.
Then when I went to work, I found that most working Engineers are not supposed to solder either! That was the job of a Technician. Years later, however, the situation reversed ... working in the lab and debugging our circuits or probing them for signal integrity. We do it ourselves now (fortunately with the aid of a good stereo microscope, and steady hands).
I recall a fellow EE student in college who was distraught over not knowing (a) how to solder, or (b) how to make a practical circuit that actually did something useful, despite earning a degree. He thought his degree was crap because it taught him lots of theory but nothing practical.
@Andy_I: I recall a fellow EE student in college who was distraught over not knowing (a) how to solder, or (b) how to make a practical circuit that actually did something useful, despite earning a degree. He thought his degree was crap because it taught him lots of theory but nothing practical.
As per my response to another comment, I started out on a more achademic / theoretical course and it bored my socks off -- I transfered to a control engineering degree which involved using mixtures of electronics, mechanics, and hydraulics / pneumatics systems to control things (or controlling electronic, mechanical, and fluidin systems, ddepending on your point of view).
Some engineers go in to engineering because it was a life goal ... to build things. They were probably hobbyist and tinkerers since they were a kid. Others pick it like any other "pick" career. Not because they are passionate, but because it is a way of earning a living. My guess is those are the most likely not to know how to use a soldering iron (or own their own).
@Dither: Here the feeling is that soldering is a tech's job not the job of an engineer. So stuff like that is not really shown to students.
Do you think a technician has more or less respect for an engineer who cannot solder? For myself, I think that if I were working on something with a technician and I picked up the soldering iron and created a few perfect joints, when I wandered off he or she would think to themselves "Wow, Max isn't as stupid as he looks*"
To remove components I usually ask the skilled soldering people to do it - after all, they have the proper motorized suction vacuum tools, while all I have is an ESD-generating-spring-loaded-piston-in-a-damn-blue-plastic-cylinder, and I would prefer not to bugger-up the pcb. I can usually re-solder the components back into place with my head-worn magnifying visor and a fine-tipped iron.
I remember being a highschool senior and being so excited to start engineering school. I had gone to engineering camp at NC state and in the 11th grade and did so much cool stuff I could only imagine the awesome of being a full time student. Obviously it was going to be harder but it's be worth it. My first year I barely had a lab, and that was programming (appropiately so but still it didnt' fel quite right) and after talking with some of my friends I switched schools and programs to earn a BS in electrical engineering technology.
I learnt to solder and make PCBs, I had internships and shadows in coal mines, paper plants, substations, and construction firms. We built things, the designs I helped with were in fact going to be machines for making cardboard. Some people look/ down on me for not having a "real" engineering degree but I love being more than just a engineer who knows allot but can't do anything.
@cupcakes: Some people look/ down on me for not having a "real" engineering degree but I love being more than just a engineer who knows allot but can't do anything.
Tell "some people" to push off :-) I know folks with PhDs who are complete dingbats, and I knwo people who didn;t graduate high school who are brilliant. The main thing is to be happy with who you are (said Max, philosophically :-)
I regularly travel to Universities for my job and it is more or less true. EE students learn a lot of theory and very few actual practical hands on skills. I always tell the students that my company wants to hire people who know which end of the soldering iron to hold. Schools with BSEET degrees typically graduate students who have built something. Some schools have both degrees.
I regularly travel to Universities for my job and it is more or less true. EE students learn a lot of theory and very few actual practical hands on skills. I always tell the students that my company wants to hire people who know which end of the soldering iron to hold. Schools with BSEET degrees typically graduate students who have built something. Some schools have both degrees.
It's been so long that I can't remember when I learned how to solder. As early as the 5th grade I was building radios, transmitters and even my own test equipment (understandably a low budget operation). I even built a tube circuit or two.
I've met many engineers over the years who didn't know which end of the sodlering iron was hot. It's a good thing they left all of their soldering to the assemblers and technicians.
I now work for a major semiconductor manufacturer as an applications engineer. In addition to making measurements on our own products, I am frequently asked to evaluate competitor products. Since obviously the competitor device evaluation boards were not designed for my particular test set up I usually have to kluge the proper connectors onto their boards.
For me having good soldering skills isn't just a convenience it's a necessity. Our small design office is manned by a few designers and a couple layout engineers and I double as the assembler/technician.
With the proper equipment, and it's not all that expensive, I am able to solder wafer level chip scale packages with 0.4mm (that 0.016 inches) pitch ICs. I can also solder 0201 size passive components if needed (01005 are just too small). All you need is a good stereo microscope, very fine point tweezers, an inexpensive hot air tool, a soft touch, and a lot of patience.
We can't afford a full time tech since can't keep them busy all the time. Nor can we afford to outsource the assembly work as even a half day turn around time is too long. It usually only takes me 5 or 10 minutes for simple job like swapping out parts. More complicated jobs might take 30 minutes. The guys are back in business doing what they do in no time.
I'm not saying every EE needs to be able to solder well but they should at least be capable of making minor changes to boards without trashing them.
BTW, I make sure that the other EE's keep their hands off the sodlering station ;-)
This has been true for a long time, when I graduated in 1984, I had never soldered in a class and at my first job, the technicians soldered, not the engineers. The engineers task was product design and instructing the drafters in documentation.
Normally it is the tech's or assembler's job to do the soldering, but I've been in a few situations over the years where I really needed some soldering done and no one was available to do it other than myself. Months ago I was able to replace several basic, surface mount logic ICs that were fried to get a test box's JTAG port back up and working. My pre-engineering days as a calibration/repair tech also pays off in other ways. I'd really like to be in R+D where I can have lots of hands-on and do everything (electronics design, programming, prototype building, etc.). I'm still searching for that dream job...
The lack of solder expertise may be complained. But many current EEs are also unable to perform a clean measurement. - Not even when the techie has soldered the probes into the circuit under inspection :)
In my time (the dinosaurs were extinct just recently) not all of my fellow students were capable of soldering, measuring or what you'd consider the "classical"skills expected from an EE. With the professional focus shifting towards software, programming, 'configuration' or "model based software development" (!!) etc. the "traditional skills" are vanishing. In effect these guys are unable to locate the errors when model meets reality :) I'm sure that more than one project died when colliding with reality.
Anyway, soldering is only ONE skill of a lot of technical skills required by reality. The more skills you have honed, the more likely it is that you will get the most "interesting" tasks when others have failed. It won't bring you a management career (engineering management does not require any engineering skills) but it might bring you the diversity others will never experience. And a bit of reputation.
BTW: Recently a colleague asked how to get the "interesting" tasks I'm working on. The answer: "Identify an issue the colleagues have failed to solve during the last 10 years. Find a new, promising approach. The find someone with a budget ..."
Related to this... I'll never forget what one of my engineering classmates said during one of our labs where we had to use test equipment on our breadboard circuits. He said that it was stupid we were wasting our time using physical hardware to prove that the simulations of the same circuits were the same. Apparently the school (University of Central Florida) had failed to make him understand the difference between simulation and reality. Wow.
Wow, that was incredibly naive of him. That reminds me of students in lab class who were completely mystified that their measured results didn't exactly match their calculations. In later lab courses, after they learned a bit more about component tolerances and the min-max spread of datasheet parameters, they went from being mystifed to challenged when it came to doing a real analog circuit design. As a TA, I would get questions like "which transistor beta should I use? The data sheet says min 50 and max 300?" After answering "use both -- 50 and then 300 -- you need to meet the spec over that whole range," the look of mild panic on their faces was priceless. And thus did lab students learn about the magic of feedback :)
I remember reading a Bob Pease column about when he sat in a design review in which a young "college boy" proudly showed a new circuit which worked perfectly in a SPICE simulation. RAP pointed out that it was impossible to build in reality since it depended on exact match of two transistors, something that won't happen in the real world where you have process and temperature variation across the chip. SPICE only models the subset of the Real World that you ask it to.
When I was in school (back in the dark ages) if you wanted to do hands on, applied engineering you went to the School of Engineering Technology (Purdue) and if you wanted to do theoretical (paper) engineering you went to the School of Engineering (Purdue). I started out in the School of Engineering but later discovered that all theory and no application was not where I wanted to be and moved to the School of Engineering Technology. In the School of Engineering Technology we did lots of building of circuits and measuring. I don't remember a specific class on soldering but like others have said I don't remember not knowing how to solder.
@mkost_#2: I started out in the School of Engineering but later discovered that all theory and no application was not where I wanted to be and moved to the School of Engineering Technology.
My story is somewhat similar. At high school when I went for my mandotary meeting with the career's guy he said "Do you know what you want to do" and I said "electronics" and he said "Great, go to university and take an electronics degree" ... so when i left high school I enrolled in an electronics course...
... and it was sooooo boring ..... all theoretical ... I cannot tell yo uhow much time I spent doing things liek calculating the angular momentum of electrons ... so after the first year I transferred to a degree in Control Engineering where the emphasis was actually making electrons do "stuff" ... I was much happier...
When my father was in school, all engineers learned how to weld. I mostly did wire-wrap in school, wireless protoboard, and a little soldering. My first internship we did wire-wrap and stitch-weld wiring (probably no longer exists). Those technologies don't work at higher frequencies, so have faded. As semiconductor integration levels have increased, there is less hand soldering, since it is tough to hand solder a BGA package. With less practice, proficiency falls.
Due to the high NRE of chip design, the programmability of chips has increased to increase the market size. That means that computer engineers spend more time on software and less on hardware.
I would say that it is the analog and power domains where students do the most soldering, but they are a subset of electrical engineers.
In other words, hand soldering used to be a critical skill for all engineers working in electronics, but its importance has declined and will continue to decline.
Hank. Funny you should mention that. I got my soldering iron out a couple of weeks ago and realized that I'm still using the same roll of solder I bought at least 15 years ago. It may last me another 15 years.
Max: Mine is so old that it lacks an on-off switch. Definitely designed before safety was a key factor. Back then, you expected to have solder marks on your hands, half of which came from the iron itself, the other half from drips. (I think I finally got rid of all my old lead-based solder. Don't even want to imagine how much of that I breathed in back in the day. Of course we also burned lead in the cars back then.)
Almost no one today knows how to solder. That includes soldering technicians and repair operators.
The reasons include training approaches and the fact that most electronics "soldering" has actually been low temperature welding. The training approaches are epitomized by A-610 and J-STD-001 courses that consist of memorizing pictures of desired solder connections without any knowledge of the process required to achieve perfect connections. Since solder will stick to oxidized/contaminated surfaces at soldering iron temperature, trainees discover how to meet the visual requirements by touching up. The resulting connection looks reliable but no intermetallic bond has been created. Worse yet, the prolonged application of high temperature damages bonds inside components such as I.C.s. The component damage ("purple plague") may show up as test or infant mortality failures but always reduce the operational life of the component so it fails years earlier than would have been the case.
Historically, most component surfaces were tin or tin/lead. Those surfaces melted during "soldering" and the liquid solder would mix with the melted surface metal. Oxides and contaminants would be pushed aside by the heavy liquid solder. But this is not soldering â€" it is welding. Soldering creates intermetallic bonds with metal surfaces that do not melt. And soldering requires a more robust, controlled process than is needed for welding.
Most of the recommended procedures for soldering originated in the days of tin and tin/lead plating. The heat application method was developed for attaching wires to vacuum tube sockets more than 60 years ago! But the leadâ€"free movement and concerns about tin whiskers mean fewer components now have tin or tin/lead surfaces. Today's components have surfaces that do not melt. In other words, we now have components that must be soldered rather than welded but the standard industry procedures are still based on welding (and attaching wires to vacuum tube sockets).
Electronics Manufacturing Sciences recognized these issues more than 30 years ago and have been developing appropriate process systems and education programs more than 30 years ago. You will find much more information at www.emsciences.com.
James A. (Jim) Smith President Electronics Manufacturing Sciences, Inc. St. Petersburg, FL 33711
Engineering is not trade school, for heaven's sake. Most EEs probably do know how to solder, because they've been tinkering with this stuff since grade school. But to pretend that soldering should be something you learn in college is to devalue what it means to get an engineering dregree. Never mind that most electronics today is surface mount, and is not easily soldered by hand.
A college education is supposed to prepare the student for a life of creative work. Creativity may not be something you learn, but for sure you have to understand what came before, how and why, to be able to move ahead in the future. My electronics prof used to say, "There's no practice that's better than good theory," and he had it exactly right. Before a EE can invent a new "practice," he needs to have a handle on the theory.
The practical reality is, EE taught in a university needs to be what the layman out there thinks is physics. Physics taught in university is what the average guy in the street would condider to be pure math. And math taught in universities is essentially conceptually incomprehensible to the layman. But this is the way it should be, IMO, to train the innovators of tomorrow.
I totally agree, Bert. In fact, I think the engineering I do (DSP algorithms for radio) would be perceived as maths by the layman, not even physics. But although I spend my time writing C++ and Matlab, I am in no way a software engineer: the product of my labours is definately hardware and that fact drives everything I do.
Actually, I can solder (to a degree). That is because I learnt it as a hobbyist and have done other things in my career apart from radio algorithms. However, some of my colleages are much more specialist, having done doctorates in a similar area before pursuing a specialist career. I suspect some of them won't be able to solder, but so what?
Actually, thinking about it some more, I'd argue they're not real MECHANICAL engineers. Soldering is a mechanical process that connects components together and stops them falling off the PCB. It doesn't have much to do with electrical or electronic engineering.
@Bert22306: The practical reality is, EE taught in a university needs to be what the layman out there thinks is physics. Physics taught in university is what the average guy in the street would condider to be pure math. And math taught in universities is essentially conceptually incomprehensible to the layman.
LOL ... but I think I will have to disagree with you on the rest. I think EE students shoudl have hands-on experiance building at least one simple analog circuit out of discrete components (transistors, resistors, and capacitors) and at least one digital circuit involving a couple of simple through-hole ICs -- and that this should involved them doing the soldering and then using multimeters and oscilloscopes and logic analysers to debig and analyse (characterize) their projects.
I think this would (a) give them a sense of "I built that!" satisfaction, (b) show them that it's harder than it looks, and (c) might even spark some of them to say to themselves "Hey, I really like building things like this"
I learned to solder in junior high school "industrial arts" AKA "shop" class, specifically in 8th grade where we had a quarter of Electronics. No theory, no equations, no SMT. We learned to solder, etch PC boards, and build simple cases out of sheet metal. Main project was an electronic siren. Starting with a schematic diagram, each student would first make a "breadboard" by soldering together the leaded compents on a wooden breadboard, using the schematic diagram as a guide. Then you'd hook up power and see (or in this case hear) that it worked. Next you'd do a layout on a single-sided PC board, following the schematic and the breadboard. You'd drill the component holes using a drill press (after learning the trick of using an awl to make a dimple where you wanted the center of the hole to be). Then you'd clip apart your breadboard and resolder the components into the PC board.
So no need to teach soldering at the university -- students learned how to do this in junior or senior high school. (Or they could take Home Economics. My junior high school let you choose.)
@betajet: ... AKA "shop" class [...] Or they could take Home Economics. My junior high school let you choose.
I think both should be mandatory -- when I was at high school we took a woodwork class and a metalwork ("shop") class ... I don;t recall there being a choice -- everyone did them ... I don't think they offered home economics, but I wish they had...
@ Max ...I don't think they offered home economics, but I wish they had...
Home Economics was probably required for the girls... My high school stopped requiring home economics for girls and shop for boys a year or so before I got there so I didn't take either. I wish that I'd had the courage to invade the male bastions of shop class but I'm not even sure that was an option.
@kfield: we were thinking about having a soldering class on the expo show floor at DESIGN West, but I think our lawyers' heads almost exploded at the thought.
I wouldn't rule it out. Remember that Sparkfun already give training courses in basic soldering -- they might be interested in giving on-the-floor training (you could always get the attendees to sign non-liability forms in the case of death or dismemberment :-)
And the lawyers' heads exploding would be an added bonus :-)
That image was just one from a sequence of text and images. The snapshot showed the moment when solder was being raised away again after applying a sufficient amount to the joint already. The solder wire was "in the air" between the lens and the joint, and was not resting on the iron itself. That's just when the radio trigger caught it on camera.
In the accompanying text that unfortunately you did not see, I explained that the soldering iron has to heat all parts of the joint and solder is then applied to the joint. I also explain the basics of conduction, power ratings and heat sinking out of the iron, so that beginners get to understand what's happening when they choose and use a soldering iron for the first time.
I don't claim to be the world's greatest at anything but after 40+ years I'm not a beginner either! :)
Glad to hear it was not intended as it looks like.
Well, as they say "a picture tells it all" .
Meaning to be carefull about what the picture tells.
You will be surprised how many people do feed the solder on the iron instead of the joint.
Adding to that that most people nowadays say the read the book, where they mean to say, they read the pictures in the book. Just to lazy to read actual text.
Whish you the best of luck with your book, and ofcourse with educating as many soldering idiots as possible.
(by the way, don't forget to start telling wich end of the iron is the handle. I have realy seen someone grabbing the wrong end. He didn't make that mistake twice, but still, also once is one time to many)
@betajet: Was he by any chance an EE professor? :-) One of the kind who knows all about "Maxwell's equations, Laplace transforms, Fourier transforms, and Shannon's equation" but hasn't ever built anything real?
Indeed I did consider making some video clips... and I even bought a brand spanking new video camera at the time (8mm DV video) and Premiere Pro s/w specially for it but never found the time. :-( When I revisited the idea I decided to update things with another new camera (a mini DV, we'd moved on) but still never got around to it... next up is a HD camera... maybe anyway, and so life goes on!
Here are the options: 1.You have to know how to solder. 2.You have to know how to use a Spectrum Analyzer. 3.You have to know how to operate an Oscilloscope. 4.You have to know how to interpret a Logic Analyzer. 5.You have to be able speak the logarithmic scale and discuss measurements in dB.
It is absolutely amazing how many non-junior EEs I have encountered that would select the 6ths choice which is not really part of the option set >> "None of the above."
But then, I am not certain if the above 5 options are really necessary in the 21st century. Sugata Mitra' speech in 2013 TED conference may hit this point home, via youtube >> http://tinyurl.com/ks29uxv
I'm with you on what the kids are learning now days. We took on an intern to do some E-work before going into his senior year this summer. Soldering skills were definitely on the list of capaibilities. Although I have to admit he has come a long way over the summer(must be that curmudgeon he's been working with). But he is getting better, not as many fried joints. He actually did a deadbug op-amp this week, so at least going into his senior year he'll have something on his fellow students. One other thing that seems to be missing, Analog! Let's just say it's a good thing I still have my Mimms books handy for him to peruse. :-/
Earlier this year, the Boston Section of IEEE ran a soldering course for engineers. I didn't take it, having been soldering since I was a teenager. I've got a scar on my left arm from a wave solder machine, when I was 17 working in a PCB factory.
@Max, You mean like this? A little excess solder, but it worked and has apparently survived the summer at overnight camp. The pull-up-resistor lets a mini-USB cable charge an mp3 player. Customer Is Happy, but I'm Not.
I love the picture of thru hole parts. Come on. Do college students need to learn that or how to dead bug dip packages or wirewrap or how about how to work the blue print machine or make PCB layouts with tape? Ten years from now, we will 3D print the PCBs and any soldering and assembly will be done with a robot using a mouse on a computer. Kids need to learn the skills that will help them survive in the future not your past.
Excellent points Winderer. Even in my early engineering days in the 80s, nearly all the parts I worked with were SMDs. My close-up vision was much better in those days than now, but even back then I still needed a microscope or at least a jeweler's loupe to see what I was doing when attempting to solder or desolder a component. Through hole devices and wire wrapping are things I have rarely seen in the last 25 years, and these days, if I need to do any soldering, it often involves removing a high pin count BGA and soldering down a new one -- a process that requires an expensive machine with a vacuum picker, not a soldering iron or the skill to properly use a soldering iron.
I completely agree that students need to learn the skills that will help them in the future, not the past, and I even wonder how hobbyists will manage to continue building circuits. Look at some of today's most popular hobbyist platforms like Arduino boards. What hobbyist would attempt to build or modify something like that the old-fashioned way?
To put this soldering stuff in better perspective, EE = Electrical Engineering. Not "electronics engineering." In my four years of undergraduate work, we had exactly one course (one semester-long course, 5 credit hours) of "electronics." A lab course, where it was assumed that everyone had picked up the art of soldering one way or another, without taking up precious school time.
In the real world of EE these days, soldering is something done a machine has to do, and for those after the fact quick and dirty fixes, an "assembler." Very skilled, usually women, but not EEs.
I'm not sure what an "electronics engineer" might be. Do they understand Maxwell's equations, Laplace transforms, Fourier transforms, and Shannon's equation? If not, then they ain't EEs! And skills in soldering don't help!
I think the proof is in the pudding. I have not done this, however I'll bet a lot of $ that if you go around the country and look at EE curricula in any university that offer EE (or ECE these days), "electronics" as a course will be a very tiny minority of what is taught. And in graduate school EE? Even less likely.
You need to go to an EET course at a state school. Someplace where they train technicians. You get the basics of electronics, not EE level. You learn to solder, you learn efficient and effective use of test and measurement equipment. If you branch into RF land, they will teach you basic antenna design and how to balance transmission lines, in practice, using stubs. If you branch into power, they will teach you phasing and PFC. The skills are being taught, but not at the EE level neccesarily. That is why you have EET, and why you have technicians.
Orthogonal to this, but related. Who would you trust with a brake job on your car? An auto mechanic with at least two years of experience? Or a newly minted Mechanical Enginner?
What? They aren't training Mechanical Engineers to rebuild brakes?
@Wobbly: ...What? They aren't training Mechanical Engineers to rebuild brakes?
I would obviously prefer an auto mechanic with at least two years of experience to do a brake job on my car as opposed to a newly minted Mechanical Enginner (in the same way that if I were prototyping an electronic product I would prefer an experianced technician to do the soldering rather than a newly minted EE) ... but having said that I would like to know that the newly minted Mechanical Enginner at least knew how to use an adjustable wrench (or which end to hold) LOL
If they do know about end wrenches it is not because of school. They absolutely do not teach that in Mechanical Engineering.
No, most likely your mechanical engineer had an interest in wrenches before going to school. I suspect that is true for most EEs as well.
I assembled my first AM radio kit in middle school. Lots of parts! All through hole, of course. 1970, after all. Tuning the IF transformers was tedious, but educational as well.
I also had a mechanical interest in my youth as well, tearing apart the B&S on the lawn mower when I was eight or nine. Dad wasn't completely pleased, but he used it as an educational opportunity. I got the engine back togther fine, but I messed up the carburator. Through high school, I worked on a large dairy farm, where I learned rudimentary 'stick' welding skills, and basic wrenching. I also raced dirt track and motocross, and had to learn advanced mechanical skills, because what farm boy can afford to pay shop labor rate on a race bike? After high school, I worked professionally as a motorcycle mechanic for six years. I still have my Snap-On tool box and full set of hand tools and measurement tools.
I don't remember any class on soldering. We did have a EE lab for working on projects, and the TA probably would have taught you. As well as I remember, the only requirement was that you be in the lab doing something the appropriate number of hours. (About 30 years ago.)
I learned to solder while my dad was working on a Heathkit stereo tuner when I was about 8 or 9 years old. Then a year or two later, I got to build the matching Heathkit amplifier. That was our home audio system for about 15 years.
@glen: ...Then a year or two later, I got to build the matching Heathkit amplifier. That was our home audio system for about 15 years.
Nothing sounds as sweet as a system you built yourself ... and the great thing in those days was that the Heathkit gave you something that would have cost a lot more if you'd bought a commercial equivalent in a shop.
I soldered a lot in my private life as a hobbyist and ham, but in my professional life as an engineer, it is hardly ever necessary. No-one can solder 500-odd ball BGAs manually anyway, so we have even the single quantity prototype boards produced by a professional subcontractor.
For other work, we have a technician with a microscope and other good tools to do that for the rest of the team. I used his workplace myself, occasionally. But nowadays, when we can only use lead-free solder, I let him do it. It just doesn't work (for me at least). At home, I have a sufficient supply of leaded solder wire, which should be enough, probably for the rest of my life.
We also have skilled technicians with stereo microscopes and an array of 'interesting' tools (besides the electronic controlled soldering iron). All sorts of interesting little widgets for picking up surface mount parts. Hot 'spatulas' for separating a part from the board, and a hot air gun with a dozen attachments.
And wise people that they are, they don't let Engineers anyway near their stations.
I've been able to solder since I was 12 or 13, though I hope I have improved since then. I can see why the average engineer would not have to get near a soldering iron, most stuff these days is SMD / BGA etc and can't be soldered manually anyway. Even thru-hole stuff is done (at manufacture, anyway) by wave soldering and other techniques. But is is a nice skill to have. I'm good at thru-hole stuff, but I'd love to have SMD reworking skills.
One complaint I have always had is that the automatic processes never put enough solder on things like connecting lugs, power jacks and terminal blocks on PCBs. If I had a dollar for every one of those I have fixed by cleaning up the joint and beefing up the solder, I'd be....well rich enough to buy everyone here a beer.
While it is true that fine-pitch SMT soldering is best left to experts with the right tools, there are still occasions when an engineer needs to solder something. For example, development boards often come with unpopulated connectors. These are usually 100 mil pitch thus easy to solder, but sometimes you see 2 mm or 50 mil. The Raspberry Pi board has several unpopulated connectors. In fact, its main 2x13 GPIO connector was originally supposed to be unpopulated so that users could install whatever connector was best suited to its use, but a BOM error caused it to be populated by mistake.
The Cypress PSoC 4 Pioneer board has two 10-pin JTAG headers for talking to its two PSoC chips. The one for the PSoC 4 is populated, but the one for the PSoC 5LP USB interface + debug controller is unpopulated. However, if you want to play with the PSoC 5LP (a much more powerful chip than the PSoC 4) at the JTAG level you can solder on a 10-pin 50 mil header.
There are also a number of FPGA and MCU boards with 100 mil DIP holes, which you can populate with 25 mil square pins for wire-wrap or 20 mil round for use in a solderless breadboard.
Welcome to reality.. Thats the difference between western civilization and the rest of the world. I an vouch for the 99% of electronics graduates from premiere institute in India does not know how to wield the soldering iron.. thought heir mathematcal or simulation skill would be top notch 99 percentile.
@Phadreus: I am one of the Engineers originally from India who CAN solder but I am NOT a EE graduate -my degrees have been in Mechanics / Mechanical area. But I agree with your statement nonetheless. I have seen more than my share of ASIC designers who have never been to the lab, used a curve tracer or a parametric analyzer, etc.
:) may be not a majority is going to lab...even I did not go to lab in my office...as it is not needed. Other do it for me...(its my work :) to write stuff in computer screen)
But...I can solder...and I can solder both BGA and all other SMDs with proper toos. All my previous known friends are doing it. We made boards and as they were too costly to assemble we soldered ourselves.
And yes now I am software engineer...indicated in the first para.
Trends are changing.....New engineers might find it easy to get a hardware in hand then make it themselves.
It is good that you know soldering. 8 year of my career I worked in India, amongst the top notch engineering companies..and I used to laugh at most of my american counter parts when they did not know how to design a good level- shifter after 10 year experience..
But when I joined here in US in a start up, first year I struggled a lot , because I did not know soldering. My fellow firmware engineer can solder, change some component, do a little bit prototyping and I was embarassed. Off late I learnt the essence of western civilization. They talk less and do more...and do not stay in a simulation world unlike us. Thats the real American engineering, when a school drop out in his garage writes firmware and make a product working on lathe machine, drills, plastic.
Back to Bay area, it has been thoroughly taken by immigrants. The engineering culture in most big companies is same as in Bangalore..The real American engineering culture is dying.
So it wont be a surprise that a lot of American univs churn out grads who do not know soldering and become electronics engineer, with out going through the path their previous generation went..Like Prof Tom Lee, who has a lab in his home.. opens up a old CRO and tells us how good the engineering was. I bet in a few yr those golden HW engineers would vanish, and what would be left are some smart math kids , with out a soul of engineer.
once it was essential to make a finished prototype, was it as essential as teamwork, where some team members brought particular skills to a group?
did Edison, Tesla or Hedi Lamar know how to solder and do we care? does it matter that Einstein couldn't/didn't leave the house with matching socks. in our wonderfully complex field of electronics, one cannot do it all or know it all tho many of the commenters here infer there's some basic requirement, in this case soldering, to construct, understand, collaborate on the development of something that to someone who worked in the earlier years of electronics would be considered science fiction...an implausible fantasy.
Remember the engineer's soldering motto: The bigger the blob, the better the job! I've built a lot of skyscrapers and nailed down hundreds of "dead bugs". How can you be an engineer if you don't get your hands dirty and stink up the lab a little bit, or even a lot.
When I worked my way through college, I worked for a while in a prototype lab with some old buzzards who taught me how to solder.
Basically, you heat the object you want soldered and melt the solder onto it once the object gets to solder temperature. DO NOT melt the solder onto an object. You can make a nice-looking solder joint that is a "cold" solder joint that way.
As an engineer, I've seen many engineers who did not know this basic fact, but that's not surprising since none of get this training in engineering schools. We engineers assume that all technicians know how to solder, so surely there will be someone in the lab who can get this right.
However, that is not always the case. What's even more scary is that I've had technicians who did not know how to solder. Many of them were older than me and thought surely this young engineer didn't know what he was talking about. I once had to correct a senior technician on this who was soldering some expensive rotary switches for me in a test box we had. Later I found this box had one hundred cold solder joints around these expensive switches, the technician quit, and then I had to repair them all!
I have now met my match with soldering QFNs with large backside copper pads, but I know the basic principle here -- heat the object first, then allow the solder to flow.
If your soldering is anything like mine, keep ice handy for finger burns, cover the floor so you won't melt the carpet when you drop the soldering iron or break it if on a non-carpeted floor, buy extra parts to make up for the one's you'll lose, keep shoes on so you won't puncture a foot when stepping on those lost parts, make sure you have a fresh fire extinguisher and, maybe just go ahead and call 911 when you start.
Of course, if you're more like a normal person, you won't have to worry about most of those things.
Hi Max. Just read your post and the string of comments. When I got my BSEE in 1968, soldering was something we spoke about, but did not do. Up until my first engineering job, I never really knew the proper way to solder. It was not taught at my college. Somewhere along the way I picked it up, though. I can still remember the "cold" solder joints and the flux-ladden boards early on in my experience. My practical training came from watching a bench technician change bad components out. It doesn't take long to figure out how to do it well. I still have my original Weller soldering iron that I got in the 1970s and use it today more for home projects than electronic ones. Thanks for the memories...
@Tsantes: I still have my original Weller soldering iron that I got in the 1970s and use it today more for home projects than electronic ones. Thanks for the memories...
My pleasure -- now you hav eme thinking about how many soldering irons I've been through over the years -- in fact I just purchased a new one last weekend at the Huntsville Hamfest I attended -- I purchased a LED cube kit that was very specific about soldering at 350C with a temperature-controlled soldering iron -- just a little later I saw a really good deal on (you guessed it) a temperature-controlled soldering iron :-)
@Max... "I still have my original Weller soldering iron that I got in the 1970s "
Hey, I have a Weller iron from the '70s too....a TCP, is that what you have? With the magnetic tips for temperature control? Very clever - the tip has a slug of magnetic material that holds the power to the element on until it reaches a set temperature, at which point it loses its magnetic properties and switches the element off, until it cools down enough and switches it on again. You can get tips in various sizes for varous temperatures. Of course now you can get irons with thermistors built in that give much more precise control, but I've never had a problem with the TCP. Got through a few elements and lots of tips, but both are still available.
@bbaudis021: ...while us lowly embedded software engineers learned to solder in order to get some real hardware to run our software!
Don't be sad ... even though I'm a hardware designer by trade, some of my best friends are embedded software engineers .... well, some of my friends ... well, I've met some embedded software engineers at conferences (in bars) and they seemed to be reasonably normal ... well .... (LOL)
Max, it looks, you have been in hibernation for at least Two Decades...
Since the Software bug cought on with the so called engineering community, no one ever bothers about hardware... or for that matter Electronics... Studying & Persuing Electronics is below their dignity.. it is for the tech support team n technicians to know the electronicsn hardware... they only want a board delivered to them on which they can simply run their softwares...
why blame the engineers? Tell me, Do the teachers in any engineering college or university know how to solder? how many persons you can find on the campus of any tech university who can solder? I am you count them in Single Digit...
Let us first train the teachers before trying to train our upcoming engineers with importance of Practical Aspects of Engineering... what say ???
What can you learn about soldering in 45 minutes? Earlier this year, IEEE offered a two-night soldering course. I'll write about it in "Soldering for Engineers" tomorrow here at EE Times. I'll post a link when it goes live.
I taught myself to solder as a kid and it proved invaluable in college and graduate school developing circuits for my experimental work in biology. That said, times have changed. While it used to take 3 solder joints per transistor, today a billion transisitors may be resident on a single integrated circuit which gets wave soldered onto a board. Like being able to test and replace tubes, some skills become less frequently used as technologies evolve. Having a working familiarity with soldering is useful (to be able to recognize soldering problems on a board and to avoid causing any damage) but I'd understand an upcoming engineer deferring to a skilled technician if a circuit needed repairs.
About 15 years ago I brought up this subject with a student at an elite institution that will remain go unnamed. I asked him if he knew how to solder, and became quite indignant, saying "I'm an XXX graduate! They will pay people to solder for me!"
I enjoyed talking to this young man. the irony was this class conscious student who considered soldering beneath him was the child of Chinese doctors living in this country. His grandparents could have lived through Mao's Long March, and he was indignant at the thought of someone of his stature having to solder. At Dalton (one of, or the most, prestigious Manhattan private schools) they made him work in a soup-kitchen for the homeless, which he regarded as an annoying imposition. He noted people came in nicely dressed wearing suit and ties, and he thought they were just taking advantage of the free food.
He was a EE - Finance double major, and probably would have been best suited to take the Wall Street offer and become a Master of the Universe in Manhattan.
An interviewer told me of another grad of this university who could not identify components the manager spilled out on his desk. He said he knew about this stuff - but it was all "paper" (or should I say "computer memory"?) SPICE simulating and he had never actually seen examples of the components.
Another student told me the one time they had to solder was because a crystal had lead spacing that wouldn't go in the 0.1" spacing protoboard. They asked the graduate student assisting in the lab, and he couldn't solder either, and after watching him try to solder wires onto the crystal leads for a bit, they told him they thought they had it figured out and would take it from there.
Years ago, riding up Jay's Peak gondola one winter, I overheard a college faculty member describing chemistry lab's with Asian grad students in it. These students, the elite cream of the crop from their Asian Universities, had never touched a hand tool or done anything but study and test in their lives! Now they're trying to set up glassware for chemistry and things are breaking, clamps over tightening, an amusing disaster. Other cultures have much different views and values of class and manual labor.
I've not read all 20 pages of comments, but has any one else noticed the second image shows an example of how NOT to solder , specifically by applying solder to the iron and not the pad.
It is surprising how many EE's can't solder , and scary how many have never heard of IPC-A-610
I taught myself to solder while in Primary school, and managed OK for 4 decades doing lots of hands on work, and perfectly functional soldering. But recently I've been helping out a friend with a PCB assembly business, (He has some of those magical induction irons!) and for me soldering ihas transcended to an art form. I now have 5 reels of different types of solder on my bench (and 1 roll of lead free in the cupboard) , and a little squeeze bottle of liquid flux, and a 5ml paste syringe. I have a few soldering irons, but I now almost exclusively use an Altronics $20 mains powered magnastat iron, with a 3mm chisel tip (you can solder 4 to 8 pins SMD pins at a time with this tip)
@salbayeng: I've not read all 20 pages of comments, but has any one else noticed the second image shows an example of how NOT to solder , specifically by applying solder to the iron and not the pad.
Hi there -- actually this was covered in earlier comments -- it only appears as though Alan is applying the solder to the iron -- this is one of a series of photos and if you saw the whole series you woudl see that he's not actually applying the solder to the iron -- also all of his text says "don't apply the solder to the iron" LOL
There's been a theme , touched on in some posts in this blog, about the class divide between "engineers" and "workers"
I've worked in the R&D department of a "Big Australian" company for nearly 3decades before branching out on my own. And clocked up ~ million flyer miles around the globe. Seems there are two types of Engineers, those who don't mix with the workers , and those who do. The latter of course are the guys who "get their hands dirty" , but more importantly the second group are those that learn and understand.
So I visit a worksite some 5years ago, (and it's like a Kung-Fu movie scene...) , Tim on the workfloor greets me with something like "oh great master what pearls of wisdom do you have for us!" I thought he was being facetious, but he was fair dinkum, my reply was something like " No, I am here to learn from you"
It's funny how this works, for example on the first visit they treat you like a busybody from head office, checking all the finicky detail of the wiring to match the drawing, on the second visit you've simplified the drawings, and you now match their standard methods. On the third visit (armed with an enhanced controller that helps them test and calibrate the machines) you get to wander un-escorted over the shop floor like one of the guys, and you learn all sorts of stuff.
Here are some pearls of wisdom I've picked up from the "workers" over the years:
"clean the corners and the rest will look after itself" From a cleaning lady, when I was mopping floors at the fish and chip shop, this actually works in so many situations!
"it's not how good you do the job, but how well you cover your mistakes" From a concretor , showing me how to rescue a partly cured concrete slab using cement powder and sand, used this approach repeatedly during home renovations, and it underpins the magic of "rework".
"use your skill, not the settings" from a welder on top of a blast furnace (to avoid running up and down 5 flights of stairs to change the settings on the welding machine) . This is about selecting the diameter / flux type of rods, the angle and arc-length, how it is moved up and down, or round and round , and where the rod is applied. Similar principles can be applied to soldering, no amount of fiddling with knobs can substitute for a lack of understanding.
"To find the quickest way to do a job, give it to the laziest guy in the shop" I didn't believe this till I saw it with my own eyes, yep they do it as quick as possible so they can get back to goofing off, the hard part is surreptitiously observing the guy to figure out his approach.
Hand soldering has diminished with the advent of Computer Aided Design and Design Simulation. Prototyping is less an issue these days when a computer can model whatever you want . Do I have a soldering iron and know how to use it? Sure, but then I learned how in the Dark Ages of technology too. Do I use it anymore? Rarely, and usually only for things that break at home. Given what degreed Engineers get paid these days, soldering may also be below thier pay grade too and left to the techs. Worthwhile skill? Sure, but not so much anyomore for the college educated.
The problem is not just an inability to solder. Many new graduate EEs have no ability to properly use test equipment or hand tools and have no basic problem solving skills such as troubleshooting intermittant errors and failures. I believe that is why we have so much spaghetti code, Rube Goldbrick hardware and patchwork designed products. It is no wonder the world has to deal with, and come to accept as normal, problems like crashing computers and run away acceleration in vehicles.
IPC Hand Soldering Competition Winner Crowned at productronica 2013
BANNOCKBURN, Ill., USA, November 21, 2013 — Despite chilly temperatures in Munich last week, things got "heated" as 43 competitors went soldering iron to soldering iron at IPC's Hand Soldering Competition at productronica 2013, November 12–15. Emerging victorious and taking first place, a cash prize of €500 and a new soldering station from JBC Tools, was Jacek Majchrzak, PartnerTech, Poland. In addition, Majchrzak earned a coveted spot at the IPC Hand Soldering World Championship at IPC APEX EXPO 2014 in Las Vegas.
Second place and a cash prize of €300 went to Baigyou Tamas, GÉMOSZ Elektronikai Kft, Hungary; Halil Ibrahim Demir, Tai Tusas Aerospace, Turkey, took third place and a cash prize of €100.
Participants in the hand soldering competition were tasked with building a functional electronics assembly within a 45-minute time limit. A panel of independent judges from Institut IFTEC and PIEK International Educational Centre evaluated each assembly based on workmanship, overall functionality, compliance with IPC-A-610E Class 3 criteria and speed of completion.
"Judges and spectators got a first-hand look at the best-of-the-best hand solder talent in Europe. Competitors displayed workmanship, quality and speed and put on quite a 'heated' show," said David Bergman, IPC vice president of international relations. "The competition was a great success and we plan to continue with this highly popular event at locations across the globe in 2014."
Bergman added, "IPC thanks hand soldering Gold Sponsors: Kurtz Ersa, JBC Tools, PACE Worldwide and Thermaltronics; Silver Sponsors: Almit GmbH, Balver Zinn GmbH, and Elmatica AS; Bronze Sponsors: Institut IFTEC, PIEK International Education Centre, Reeco, O.C. White Co., Purex and Microsolder; and contest contributor sponsor DNZ Ltd., for their support of the IPC Hand Soldering Competition at productronica."
For information on upcoming IPC Hand Soldering Competitions, visit www.ipc.org/hsc