A soldering iron is perhaps the best tool for soldering a variety of components to the PCB (Printed Circuit Boards). It can also provide dependable service and will possess a long life if it is properly cared for. The soldering tip of the iron is its most important component. It transfers the heat to the solder and soldering areas and provides for an electrical connection. Therefore the tip area of the iron should also be cared for adequately and through the best measures and resources possible.
Avoidance of Excessive Heat
The iron-plated soldering iron will suffer from oxidation when it heats up. While oxidation occurs at all temperatures, it is maximum when the component is heated. If the temperature of the tip is too hot, the components of the board can be damaged. Because the rate of oxidation increases excessively at higher temperatures, the tip also wears off before its normal life. Therefore you should ensure that you are operating at required temperature. As the lead-free solder may require a higher temperature, you may want to check this aspect while soldering.
Because not all soldering irons have temperature-control features, you would want to switch to a better device or a soldering station.
Choosing the Microprocessor-Based Soldering Iron
Choosing a microprocessor-based soldering iron can be the best option. These automated and sophisticated irons have features that help them control the temperature of the tip automatically, in-lieu of the project and components you are working on.
Switching Off The Soldering Iron When It Is Not In Use
Switching-off the soldering iron when it is not in use will provide for least oxidation, as the chemical process is quite slow at the normal room temperature. The step will also provide for long lasting tips of the soldering iron. The new soldering irons, from leading brands including Hakko, have the auto-sleep feature. Through the feature, the temperature of the tip of the soldering iron reduces to the lowest possible temperature. The feature preserves the components, as well as enhances energy efficiency. Another benefit of a switched-off soldering iron in idle time is safety.
Improvising The Temperature With A Change In Solder
As said earlier, it is important that the right kind of soldering iron and temperature is used for a particular soldering project. For instance, you might be working with lead-free solder and at a higher temperature. When you switch to the standard leaded solder, the tip of the iron would be excessively hot. This will increase the oxidation rate and will deteriorate and wear-off the tip and heating element of the soldering iron. Therefore temperature should be adjusted in-lieu of the soldering project.
Keeping The Soldering Iron Clean
Cleaning the tip of the soldering iron regularly by using the wet sponge, or by using the commercial tip cleaners will also enhance the life of the soldering iron. But you should remember that apart from the tip, the whole soldering iron should also be cleaned regularly. Any material that accumulates on the hotter parts of the soldering iron still causes its deteriorating and breakdown.
Restricting Yourself From Applying Excessive Force
Unskilled beginners often apply more than necessary force while using the soldering iron, which damages its tip, cartridge mount, and other components. Therefore you should ensure that no heavy-handedness accompanies the soldering process.
Be gentle while soldering and do not rush things. The skill and mastery of soldering will come to you gradually and in due course of time. Buy a good quality soldering iron kit from a reputed supplier, to ensure that the equipment is reliable and long-lasting.