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.)
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.
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
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.)
@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).
@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...
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