Max Maxfield recently wrote "What? Electronics Engineers Who Cannot Solder?" Well Max, I too have a story about engineers and soldering. The following, which originally appeared in January 2013 on another UBM site (now offline), I reprint below. But, I'll go a step further and challenge Max to tell us if he has any scars from soldering, for I do. Read on.
I grew up around soldering irons and soldering guns, given my father's interest in CB and ham radio. I was soldering PL-259 connectors from about age 12 or so. At age 17, I acquired a scar on my left arm from a wave-solder machine while working in a printed-circuit board factory. I still have the scar.
Although I never had a formal course in soldering, I always considered it a required skill to become an electrical engineer. In college, a friend told me that at some companies, engineers weren't allowed to touch soldering irons. Union rules forced engineers to get a technician to solder even two wires together. I knew then that such companies were not for me.
This week, I learned that the Boston section of IEEE is offering a course in soldering. The course is given over two nights. Session 1 will cover things like types of soldering irons and choices of tip. The second session will give students a chance to solder components such as LEDs, transistors, and resistors.
The course description says that "Soldering is a must skill for all sorts of electrical and electronics work." That's certainly true, which is why I wonder if it needs to be offered at all. What am I missing here? Do today's engineers do all their work using software simulation and don’t build prototypes anymore? Well, I can understand if you’re designing ICs, for they're kind of hard to breadboard. That same holds true for, say, linecards where the signal bandwidths are too high for breadboards.
I find it almost incomprehensible that anyone working as an electrical engineer would feel a need to take this course. I can’t imagine life as an electrical engineer who doesn't know how to solder. Even after moving off the bench and into an applications engineering position, I always found a need to build a custom test cable or modify a board.
Tell me please: who should take this course?
That's my story, but while you're here, be sure to read Product Review: Weller LED soldering iron, which includes a video of the tool in action.