“Solderer” – Is that even English? Not sure.. I’ve just seen the release trailer for the Kraken in Star Citizen and I got carried away..
Anyway, part 5 ended with every component allocated and screwed in its location. Now it’s time to replicate the wiring diagram into reality.
Soldering the wires is not difficult at all, it’s just a matter of practice. Here are a couple advices that might help you:
- Don’t overheat! don’t leave the soldering iron in contact with wires and components for too long. You can melt the plastics of both the components and the wires.
- Leave the Arduino board for last. Especially if you are not used to solder, it might happen to drop drops of melted solder wire. If one of them falls on the board, it might cause severe damages to it.
- Place the wires first. Most of the components have a small hole on their pins. You can usually place your wire there before soldering it.
- Pre-solder wires and contacts of any component that haven’t the aforementioned hole. By doing that you will need to hold your wire with one hand, the soldering iron with the other and that’s it: the solder material is already in place.
To pre-solder just place the iron and the solder in contact with the uncovered core of a wire. You will notice that it will be quickly covered by the solder; making your life much, much easier.
- Clean your soldering iron every now and then. Solder and antioxidant might accumulate on the iron after a while (they usually form a black mass). Hold the soldering iron tight with your hand, make sure there’s nothing in the area underlying the iron and hit your table with your fist: the burnt material will drop from the soldering iron. Nice and easy.
- Save your furniture! Melted solder and the iron itself are hot, easily more than 300+ deg C. Although the solder becomes cold in milliseconds, it can still damage your furniture. Place some cardboard or do your soldering on an appropriate surface. You will thank me when your wife won’t kill you for damaging her precious table 😉
- If you have to connect a wire where another one is already soldered, add some solder and pre-solder the new wire. The new material will help spreading the heat.
- Same as the previous point, if you do a mistake and can’t remove a soldered wire, add some solder: it may sound unintuitive but it helps spreading the heat uniformly.
That being said, this phase is quite straightforward as long as you follow a plan. I usually follow the same order I adopt when designing the wiring diagram; therefore I start from the wire that comes from the top pin of the board (although the board is always my last step) then proceed with every common connection such as GND. When the matrix is completed I then solder the encoders.
After completing the soldering of the circuit we can proceed and perform a quick test the continuity of GND, lines and buses by means of a multimeter. Do this check before connecting the board to the USB. The board is protected and we are working with low tensions but you know, better safe than sorry.
If the test doesn’t show any issue we can plug the board, load up Arduino IDE and write our firmware.