solder iron tip

Quality Soldering Irons: What you’ll need to know

Industrial Quality Soldering Irons are manufactured to handle the tough jobs that your average “economical” soldering iron simply cannot begin to handle.

Industrial Quality Soldering Irons are available in Heavy-Duty and Pencil-Style varieties.
The Heavy-Duty Soldering Irons are generally manufactured with outputs of 60 to 550 watts, while the Pencil-Style are usually produced in 20 to 60 watt outputs.
Both varieties are available in several different sizes each of which will usually accommodate a variety of soldering iron tip configurations. This gives you the increased ability to match certain tips and irons together so that you are able to more accurately meet the specific requirements of several different soldering applications.

The Heavy-Duty type of (constant heat) electric soldering irons was first developed in the early 1890’s and has gained steady recognition over the years as a more efficient tool for heavy-duty and industrial soldering applications.

The Pencil Style of (constant heat) electric soldering irons was developed around the middle of the 1930’s. During that time an increasing need arose for the development of soldering tools that could be used for smaller and more specific applications. They are commonly referred to as “Pencil Style” because of their size and the manner in which they are normally held during use.

Both types of soldering iron share the same basic design characteristics.
They use a heating element that is manufactured using special nickel-chromium wire material that is wound around an insulated metal spool. This heating element is used to generate the required heat that gets transferred directly through the tip and into the joints that are being soldered. This special nickel-chromium material is a highly resistive alloy and it is the amount of this resistance that will determine the elements actual out-put, which is generally expressed in wattage. These soldering irons should not be classified specifically by their wattage, because this information when taken alone can be very misleading. Additional information such as the size, mass, style, thermal efficiency, caloric heat content and maximum tip temperature can all be included in the evaluation process, when this information is determined or known. The specific wattage of the soldering irons is not usually considered to be a major factor when determining their maximum operating temperature so much as it tells how well they will be able to maintain their operating temperature during the actual soldering applications. Soldering irons that have a higher wattage will generally have a faster thermal recovery and the ability to more efficiently support soldering applications that require a heavier thermal load.

How to choose the right soldering flux

A General Overview
Flux is a key contributor to most soldering applications. It is a compound that is used to lift tarnish films from a metals surface, keep the surface clean during the soldering process, and aid in the wetting and spreading action of the solder. There are many different types and brands of flux available on the market; check with the manufacturer or reseller of your flux to ensure that it is appropriate for your application, taking into consideration both the solder being used and the two metals involved in the process. Although there are many types of flux available, each will include two basic parts, chemicals and solvents.
The chemical part includes the active portion, while the solvent is the carrying agent. The flux does not become a part of the soldered joint, but retains the captured oxides and lies inert on the joints finished surface until properly removed. It is usually the solvent that determines the cleaning method required to remove the remaining residue after the soldering is completed. It should be noted that while flux is used to remove the tarnish film from a metals surface, it will not (and should not be expected to) remove paint, grease, varnish, dirt or other types of inert matter. A thorough cleaning of the metals surface is necessary to remove these types of contaminates. This will greatly improve the fluxing efficiency and also aid in the soldering methods and techniques being used.
Detailed Examination
All common untreated metals and metal alloys (including solders) are subject to an environmental attack in which their bare surfaces become covered with a non-metallic film, commonly referred to as tarnish. This tarnish layer consists of oxides, sulfides, carbonates, or other corrosion products and is an effective insulating barrier that will prevent any direct contact with the clean metal surface which lies beneath. When metal parts are joined together by soldering, a metallic continuity is established as a result of the interface between the solder and the surfaces of the two metals. As long as the tarnish layer remains, the solder and metal interface cannot take place, because without being able to make direct contact it is impossible to effectively wet the metals surface with solder.

The surface tarnishes that form on metal are generally not soluble in (and cannot be removed by) most conventional cleaning solvents. They must, therefore be reacted upon chemically in order to be removed. This required chemical reaction is most often accomplished by the use of soldering fluxes. These soldering fluxes will displace the atmospheric gas layer on the metals surface and upon heating will chemically react to remove the tarnish layer from the fluxed metals and maintain the clean metal surface throughout the soldering process.

The chemical reaction that is required will usually be one of two basic types. It can be a reaction where the tarnish and flux combine forming a third compound that is soluble in either the flux or its carrier. An example of this type of reaction takes place between water-white rosin and copper oxides. Water-white rosin, when used as a flux is usually in an isopropyl alcohol carrier and consists mainly of abietic acid and other isomeric diterpene acids that are soluble in several organic solvents. When applied to an oxidized copper surface and heated, the copper oxides will combine with the abietic acid forming a copper abiet (which mixes easily with the unreacted rosin) leaving a clean metallic surface for solder wetting. The hot molten solder displaces the rosin flux and the copper abiet, which can then be removed by conventional cleaning methods.

Another type of reaction is one that causes the tarnish film, or oxidized layer to return to its original metallic state restoring the metals clean surface. An example of this type of reaction takes place when soldering under a blanket of heated hydrogen. At elevated temperatures (the temperature that is required for the intended reaction to take place is unique to each type of base metal) the hydrogen removes the oxides from the surface, forming water and restoring the metallic surface, which the solder will then wet. There are several other variations and combinations that are based on these two types of reactions.

Once the desired chemical reaction has taken place (lifting or dissolving the tarnish layer) the fluxing agent must provide a protective coating on the cleaned metal surface until it is displaced by the molten solder. This is due to the elevated temperatures required for soldering causing the increased likelihood that the metal’s surface may rapidly re-oxidize if not properly coated. Any compound that can be used to create one of the required types of chemical reactions, under the operating conditions necessary for soldering, might be considered for use as a fluxing material. However most organic and inorganic compounds will not hold up under the high temperature conditions that are required for proper soldering. That is why one of the more important considerations is a compounds thermal stability, or its ability to withstand the high temperatures that are required for soldering without burning, breaking down, or evaporating.

When evaluating all of the requirements necessary for a compound to be considered as a fluxing agent, it is important to consider the various soldering methods, techniques and processes available and the wide range of materials and temperatures they may require. A certain flux may perform well on a specific surface using one method of soldering and yet not be at all suitable for that same surface using a different soldering method. When in doubt it never hurts to check with the flux, or solder manufacturer for recommendations.

How to select the correct soldering iron tip: The Important Factors

A guide to choosing the most appropriate tip for your intended soldering application

The soldering iron tip is the part of the iron that is used to transfer heat from the element to the work pieces that are being soldered. The size, composition and configuration of the tip being chosen should be determined by the requirements of the intended application and by the work environment that it will be used in. There could even be rare instances where a custom tip may be desired.

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Choosing the correct tip will greatly increase your chances of creating a quality solder joint. It is very important for you to match both the tip and the iron to the soldering application that it will be used on. It is always a good idea to make sure in advance that the desired tips size and configuration are readily available for the type of irons that you have chosen to use. Always remember that a good quality solder joint is rarely achieved by using improper, or inappropriate tools, materials, or equipment.

How to Properly Care for your Soldering Iron Tip

Proper care and maintenance of your soldering iron tip involves tinning, wiping (and wetting) and also periodic cleaning of the tips shank. These actions are very important and quite simple to perform, but are often neglected. When performed properly they will not only ensure the longest possible working life for your soldering iron tips, but they will also have positive effects on the overall performance of your soldering iron.

 

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