7 Best Soldering Stations | March 2017
- includes an auto sleep timer
- vacuum pickup kit
- instruction manual is poorly written
- self-test functionality
- 10 soldering tips are included
- fully adjustable hot air bracket
- durable internal heater
- built-in smoke absorber
- digital calibration
- high-contrast lcd screen
- comes with a soldering pencil
- compact and space-saving design
Don't Just Solve The Problem, Solder The Problem
If you want something done right, do it yourself. This is a phrase that makes sense if you prefer to handle your own projects around the house and/or experiment with tools. Then again, you might also be a professional repair person, plumber, or simply an amateur hobbyist looking for something to keep you busy around the house. Regardless of the situation, a soldering station comes in handy when you decide to take on such a project for yourself.
Soldering is a process by which two or more items (usually metals) are joined together by intense and directed heat with a filler metal (or solder) used at the joint. The filler metal usually has a lower melting temperature than the adjoining pieces. Depending on the application involved, a variety of alloys can be used as filler materials during the soldering process. These include alloys like tin-lead, tin-zinc for joining aluminum, lead-silver and cadmium-silver for delivering strength at high temperatures, zinc-aluminium for corrosion resistance, and tin-silver/tin-bismuth for soldering electronics.
There are 3 forms of soldering that require progressively higher temperatures resulting in progressively stronger joints. These 3 forms include soft soldering, silver soldering, and brazing. With soft soldering, the primary ingredient is lead. Heat is applied to the pieces that you intend to join, while the melting point of the filler material is around 400°C (752°F).
When the filler melts, the two pieces bond together in a process called wetting. Soft soldering uses the lowest temperatures, but does not form a joint as strong as other forms of soldering. Silver soldering is used most often by jewelers and machinists for repairing or bonding precious metals. It forms stronger bonds/joints than soft soldering and requires the use of a torch at very high temperatures. Brazing produces the strongest bond of all 3 forms of soldering, thanks to its use of a brass alloy as a filler.
Your intended goal determines the kind of station you'll invest in. For example, if you consider yourself a fix-it Felix, a hobbyist, or a hardware engineer, then strength and conductivity of the soldering bonds would be most important to you. However, intricacy and accuracy of the iron used is also important, especially if you're working with electronics.
It's Time To Form A Bond
Choosing the right soldering station isn't that daunting of a task. You just need to ask yourself what you plan to use it for. Many stations feature convenient, easy-to-read digital displays so you always know how hot your iron is, while others let you program your temperature so that it always remains constant. This ensures the most consistent bonds.
Other soldering stations include iron stands with adjustable tilting angles that come in handy when working with oddly-shaped metals. Depending on the available space in your workshop or garage, the size and ability to store the station and its components matter a great deal.
Energy efficiency is another driving factor in your decision, since low-voltage models can help prevent unnecessary electrical surges when your soldering iron reaches very high temperatures. For that reason, self-testing capabilities are also a good feature to look for.
If you've turned soldering into a business, finding a station with fast heat-up and temperature recovery functionality is also a great idea.
Soldering has its place in the home, on the assembly line, in factories, and has a range of applications that offer both practicality for fixing common items to artistic expression in the form of valuable jewelry, to the cutting-edge convenience of curcuit boards that allow your electronic devices to operate efficiently. With its extensive range of applications, soldering is a form of science and expression that won't be leaving us anytime soon.
Soldering Through Time
Soldering dates back to as early as over 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. Think of all the gold work crafted by the ancient Egyptians and their use of metallurgy. Some of the most impressive soldering achievements can be contributed to the Romans who soldered 400-km long water pipes made from lead with seams that could withstand 18 ATM (water resistance).
Many of the earliest solders available were alloys that could be found in nature, which meant that only a few solders with a severely limited range of properties were actually available for use during those times. This further suggests the idea that solders could only be worked by skilled artisans spending much of their time joining jewelry or attaching handles to decorative vessels. As the materials were considered rare and costly, only the wealthy could afford them.
Both improvement in soldering skill and an understanding for the scientific interactions involved in the process have occurred during the last century. Soft soldering, for example, developed into an independent field of engineering in the electronics industry and combined the concepts of chemistry, metallurgy, and physics.
In today's computer age, soldering techniques still play a major role in the production of printed circuit boards (PCBs), which are defined as intricately-designed pathways created by metallic insertions for the smooth transfer of electricity. This type of soldering requires detailed work on a very small scale to ensure no interruption of operation with the electronic device that makes use of the printed circuit board itself. That said, soldering can solve many problems that go beyond simply bonding 2 pieces of metal together.