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Max The Magnificent
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Re: Alan can't solder
Max The Magnificent   11/25/2013 3:15:44 PM
@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

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Somebody can solder
MeasurementBlues   11/21/2013 10:02:08 PM
According to IPC, someone can solder.


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

David Ashton
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Re: Modern Methods
David Ashton   11/7/2013 8:19:21 PM
Good points, lakehermit & Riverbank.

You just have to look at TVs.  How many of them end up in landfill just as a result of a bad capacitor in the power supply?   And lack of someone who can (a) find the problem and (b) fix it......

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Re: Modern Methods
lakehermit   11/7/2013 7:45:23 PM
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.  

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Modern Methods
Riverbank   11/7/2013 8:02:00 AM
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.

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It's the skill , not the tools
salbayeng   10/24/2013 10:57:40 PM
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.


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Alan can't solder
salbayeng   10/24/2013 8:49:00 PM
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)


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EE's can't solder
analogrules   10/17/2013 1:12:39 PM
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.



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Solding skills and new technologies
DrQuine   10/6/2013 10:12:22 PM
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.

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Soldering iron review
MeasurementBlues   10/1/2013 8:55:27 AM
Read my review of a Weller soldering iron with LEDs to light up your work. Video included.


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