I get the sentiment, a highly trained technician should be able to carry out one of the most basic tasks to their profession.
I am curious though, at what point we can stop wasting time teaching every single basic step to someone who may never ever need that again. I'm sure there are engineers out there who can tell me the flow properties of hot solder at a nanometer scale and how they intend to work with that in their board design... but also have not ever had to hand solder a resistor. I personally can play an instrument and even change its strings, but I'm no luthier.
Being a rather obsessively compulsive person, in my home projects, I much prefer socketing ICs than soldering them directly to the board. It's simple. If you solder them so the solder appears to flow smoothly, then you have to obsess about whether the insides got too hot.
This subject reminds me that some time ago now, my boss at the time had a similar sentiment to this soldering thread: "I think every engineer should know how to weld." Whaaaa??
But I did like this part: "Also, since he says such nice things about me and my writings, I think it's fair to assume that he is a very clever and discerning person."
About five years ago, I worked for two years for an Electronic Manufacturing Service provider. The company hired me in order to both develop new embedded products and evolve the ones in production under customer request. Soon after, I realized that the lack of soldering skills I was suffering really slowed me at the time of building new prototypes.
Fortunately, some non high-qualified workers from the production line taught me some soldering basics and tricks that no one had explained me in my "formal" education. Even I'm so far from being a soldering expert --they called me the king of cold junctions--, the skills I learned have clearly improved my productivity as an embedded system designer.
Of course, being able to solder a QFN may be overkill... but not being able of replacing a single 0402 or even 0603 SMD component is a real disadvantage!!!
@Garcia: ...the skills I learned have clearly improved my productivity as an embedded system designer.
YES!!! I wish I had captured everything so simply -- I totally agree -- you might be able to live without knowing how to solder ... but knowing how to solder can't hurt, and can make you more "useful"...
Many years ago, at the early stages of my career, I applied for a technicians job at a government agency. Being a communications engineer by trade they asked me many different questions. Every question they asked I answered at a technical specification far beyond that which they wanted because their concept of scale was very different to the experience I had ("Oh, you wanted one channel? Sorry I gave you a thousand"). Perhaps my fault for not realising, perhaps their fault for not being specific enough. But what really shocked me was when they asked me to do a soldering test.
They took me down to a basement workshop and gave me a "magic dice" kit to build, they said I had 20min. In just a few minutes I had finished and called over the tech, he said it was one of the best jobs he had seen. When I was returned to the interviewer I was concerned that they had the wrong man and later we mutually agreed that.
The job wasn't right for me, not because they wanted me to solder, because I don't believe I would have actually done any, but because the type of work I like doing doesn't require that of me. However, even now, as an executive, I am glad I know the hot end from the handle and that I can still fixs stuff in my workshop.
I always love these stories. You never hear of things like this happening now. Frankly, I'd be freaked out if I was taken into a dark basement and told to assemble a board with a time limit. Maybe that is why you don't hear about it anymore, all of us young kids run screaming.
The nice bit was the tech saying "are you sure you don't want more time?" and there is me thinking "Why would I want that? It's done."
That saying, I wish we had been taught SMD, it was only 2001 when I graduated and while we did get enough (good) through-hole experience I am still struggling along with SMD. Heck, if I thought there was an amateur soldering course in London which updated people like me of an evening I would pay a little. But I can't justify a professional course in soldering because it doesn't impact my work.
I graduated electrical engineering in 2011. In all my 5 years of study they never showed or mentioned soldering. Luckily I got some practical soldering skills during my high school years and got a good mentor once I started working.
After reading this article I think I should inform myself more about soldering.
Being able to UN-solder any component without pulling pads off the board is an art in itself. I've worked at places where engineers were not allowed to solder unless they first proved their skills to the boss, and with good reason! Will never forget the young eng who butchered about 10 prototype boards replacing "bad" DRAM controllers before finally concluding that maybe there was an error in his design.
Engineers may not perform much actual soldering but they do choose the fluxes and component surfaces that the actual soldering personnel must use. Engineers evaluate the performance of soldering personnel. Engineers lay out the assemblies. Most soldering problems begin with engineers who don't understand the consequences of their actions. That's why engineers need to understand soldering.
Jim Smith President Electronics Manufacturing Sciences, Inc. www.emsciences.com
Another consideration is the handling of components before soldering. Everything has a shelf life. Sometimes it will be documented and sometimes not. This holds for components, PC boards and the materials used to join them.
Parts and PC boards absorb moisture over time and the metal surfaces collect impurities or react to impurities over time. Boards and parts can be baked to mitigate the moisture issue, but sometimes the only solution for old parts is to discard them.
Silver finish PC boards are great when fresh, but can and will tarnish over time, especially if not stored properly (sealed in a cool, dark place). PCB manufacturers tend to say that silver boards don't tarnish, but empirical evidence says that they do.
ENIG (electroless nickle immersion gold) is a great surface, but can be degraded too. I've seen fingerprints etched into a component land on gold boards.
Part leads can oxidize, collect dust or react to contaminants in the air. And, of course, rework is best prevented before it's needed. As Jim says, each heat cycle takes a toll on the component and PCB.
My best friend presented to the engineers from his workplace valuable soldering tips that would allow them to create more durable electronic components. The small company he is working for is well known for it`s quality chips and the managers try to keep this way by sending their engineers to make soldering trainings.
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