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