Other soldering courses consist of nothing but lectures and memorization. But Science of Soldering© is genuine education. With experiments and demonstrations as well as comprehensive videos and a thorough workbook, the course explains the essential science, exposes the myths, and develops a powerful “recipe” for perfect soldering.
The course teaches by troubleshooting a multifaceted hands–on soldering process problem. In solving the problem (which involves several causes rather than a single root cause), the class learns the critical scientific forces that control all soldering from simple hand soldering to the most complex machine soldering. The class then develops quality and supplier management systems to prevent defects rather than allowing process mistakes and hoping inspection will find the defects.
And we'll roll up our sleeves to help you implement the new knowledge on the shop floor.
The following draft curriculum has been designed to meet the special needs of production, quality, design and supplier quality engineers. As with all Science of Soldering© classes, it can be modified to meet your specific needs and interests.
Until recently, electronics "soldering" has actually been low-temperature welding. When surfaces melt, the process is not soldering - it is welding. Soldering is the process that works with surfaces that do not melt. Historically, most leads and other surfaces being "soldered" were plated with tin or tin/lead - and they melted when heat was applied to melt the solder. The process was easy because the melted surfaces and solder flowed together.
Not surprisingly, the electronics industry's processes were based on techniques that work well when surfaces melt. But those techniques do not work when the surfaces do not melt (i.e., during real soldering).
Because of RoHS legislation and concerns about tin whiskers, tin and tin/lead component surfaces are disappearing. And the new lead-free surfaces do not melt at soldering temperatures. This means they must be soldered rather than welded and the traditional "soldering" process doesn't work. However, training programs still teach the techniques from the days when surfaces melted (i.e., welding).
The arrival of lead–free components has produced an epidemic of wetting defects that technicians disguise by using the iron to push the solder into an acceptable shape, using higher temperatures, and leaving the iron on the connection longer. (At soldering iron temperatures, solder will stick to an oxidized surface and give the false impression of reliable work.)
Lead–free parts make solderability, solderability management and flux selection critically important. As with heat control, few people have meaningful operational understanding of this essential topic.
Science of Soldering© is the only course that teaches flux selection and use, solderability and solderability management in detail.
Successful soldering begins with picking the right flux. It's a decision that many companies get wrong, often with serious consequences.
Some of the potential consequences of poor flux selection include:
At one time, almost all electronics fluxes contained rosin. (Rosin seals the surface being soldered and prevents reoxidation of the surface after the flux acids remove the original oxides.) And there were, in essence, only two - RMA and RA. (Type R flux is impractical for production purposes.) The tests for categorizing RMA and RA fluxes were determined by the U.S. Department of Defense and Bell Laboratories.
Today, other materials are often used in place of rosin. The qualification standards have also changed. And some of the new flux formulations can cause field failures even though the new qualification system indicates that the fluxes are low risk.
The challenge of selecting the ideal flux has become is compounded by what we consider deceptive advertising by some flux manufacturers. For example, "neutral pH" flux sold by several companies is actually highly acidic and should not be used on most electronic products.
We applied some "neutral pH" flux on a penny. The penny was quickly deoxidized (below left). However, serious corrosion occurred in less than 3 hours (below right).
Before surface mount parts arrived, quite strong (highly acidic) fluxes could be used and the residues washed off after soldering. But surface mount parts sit so close to the circuit board that flux gets trapped beneath the components and cannot be completely removed.
There are new cleaning systems that claim to be able to thoroughly remove flux residues from under all surface mount parts. Whether this is true can't be known because there is no way to measure the results. However, these systems are costly to buy and even more costly to operate. The better strategy is to use fluxes that are safe to leave on the assembly and dispense with post–soldering cleaning entirely. In other words, use a "no clean" flux.
Flux companies sell fluxes designated "no clean." But, again, there is considerable risk in taking the flux manufacturers' word. Many fluxes labeled "no clean" actually contain sufficiently strong acids that they can cause failures. They are "no clean" only in the sense that they leave behind little visible residue.
Where can you turn for meaningful guidance for flux selection. J-STD-004 provides some (very) rough guidelines but is inadequate?
The answer is Science of Soldering© which thoroughly explains flux selection and the related topics of solderability and solderability management.
We will help you pick the best flux for your needs. Our clients have produced millions of circuit assemblies using the no clean fluxes we helped them select. Those assemblies operate in the most extreme environments (high and low temperatures, high humidity) without failing.
Jim's class, Science of Soldering, was an eye opening experience that taught our group what makes a good solder joint and the techniques to achieve a good joint along with other interesting techniques to minimize damage to components. Jim covers the science behind soldering with language that everybody in our group (intern, production, technicians, & engineers) understood. Even our 15 year old summer intern, her first time soldering, was able to follow along. The course material and hands-on sessions were presented in a logical progression that kept the participants engaged.
My advice about the course: Clear your mind of what you have learned in the past about soldering. You'll probably have a few head-slapping moments as he unfolds the "obvious".
Chief Gizmologist (Engineer)
As a US Air Force certified aircraft welder, I learned the process of soldering in 1990 and through subsequent 20+ years of experience and training, and industry association seminars, I thought I had learned everything there was to know about it...I was wrong.
Jim Smith from Electronics Manufacturing Sciences just concluded his Science of Soldering© course here in Skaneateles..He wowed me and our technical team with his practical, comprehensive approach and truly unique insights into the science of the soldering process. We are now in the process of updating all of our soldering process specs in Skaneateles to reflect our new knowledge. This is NOT A-610 or J-STD-001 certification/training! That’s not what we need.
It’s been my experience that soldering, especially hand-soldering, is a forgotten process in most manufacturing facilities, using the same techniques, tools, and training that were used 20 years ago when I started soldering (these were even old back then!). However, in those 20 years the components being soldered have become far smaller, and much more sensitive. This leaves a significant opportunity for improvement in our processes to reduce heat damage, touch-time, rework, out-of-box failures, latent failures, and scrap.
Jim develops and teaches all of his courses personally. He knows his stuff and stands out, among the many programs that I’ve evaluated. I highly recommend the Science of Soldering© hands-on program for any GE facility/ supplier, worldwide, who solders and experiences failures/latent-failures/defects and has struggled to find the true root-cause.
Lean Leader/Sus. Proc. Engineering Manager
GE Inspection Technologies
Skaneateles, NY 13152
Electronics Manufacturing Sciences helped us in many, often surprising, ways. The most significant contribution was the creation and implementation of a user–friendly reliability criteria document. This was not a minor accomplishment. Nor was it a tool we had anticipated needing because our existing quality criteria formed the base for most standards used throughout the electronics industry. Our workforce was mature, extensively trained and very . The original standard filled hundreds of pages and covered every imaginable condition. The document produced by EMS was less than 40 pages, including large, clear computer graphics, yet it covered every important requirement. Important conditions with previously ambiguous wording were restated so effective evaluation became easy.
The results were impressive. The amount of rework dropped dramatically because inspectors stopped rejecting reliable connections, test yields increased because assemblies were subjected to less handling, and production cycle time decreased.
If this had been the only improvement EMS provided us (and it wasn’t), they still would have been an excellent investment.
James H. Mosher
Manager, Switching & Network Products
Manufacturing and Engineering
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I've been soldering electronics, from vacuum tube lugs to fine-pitched SMD, for 45 years learning by trial and error and from people teaching MIL-SPEC classes. If the joint looked bright and shiny, it was good - or so I thought.