The right soldering iron is the best tool in your toolbox for manual soldering tasks. With proper cleaning and maintenance, the soldering iron can provide hours of reliable service. The solder tip is the commercial end of the soldering iron, which acts as a heat transfer element that melts the solder and heats the workpiece to fuse everything. In order to achieve the longest service life and continuous efficiency, the welding head should be fully observed and maintained. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of solder joints and ink cartridges.
Oxidation is a naturally occurring process that occurs at the tip of a typical iron-plated solder. The production of iron oxide occurs at room temperature, but at a slower rate. When the tip is heated, the rate at which oxidation occurs also increases.
By operating the soldering iron at a temperature above the desired temperature, the rate of oxidation of the tip is unnecessarily increased. Overheating of the solder tip also increases the likelihood of damage to the workpiece, so try to keep the temperature within the proper range of solder.
Lead-free solders may require higher temperatures than other solders, so be sure to check the device temperature when switching solder types.
It should be noted that not all welding tools have temperature control. Those who do not do this often heat the excess tip and shorten the life of the tip. Therefore, upgrading to a temperature-controlled workstation can be more cost-effective and trouble-free.
There are advanced welding systems on the market that use microprocessor controls to precisely adjust tip temperature. These systems use sensors on the tip to control power flow, not just power. The end result is that the tip maintains a constant temperature as the power flow changes.
The microprocessor-controlled tip will provide maximum tip life while also protecting the job from sudden temperature rises. For typical soldering irons that use a constant power source, different heat transfer conditions can cause sudden changes in tip temperature. Avoiding these allows for more precise control and protection.
Turn off the soldering iron when not in use
As we said, when the solder temperature is higher than room temperature, the oxidation will increase sharply. Simply turn off the soldering iron when you are not using the soldering iron to prevent large amounts of oxidation.
Turning off the soldering iron is also easier on the heating elements of the device and is a good practice to maintain a safer working environment.
Today's advanced soldering tools incorporate automatic sleep into their designs. These tools will automatically close the tip when not in use, extending the life of the tip.
Keep the welding head clean
A clean soldering iron has a longer life and higher efficiency. Ideally, the tip should be cleaned during use and after each use and kept clean. Developing this habit will greatly extend the life of the welding head.
There are several different ways to clean the weld head. One conventional method is to use a wet sponge during use to keep it free of contaminants. Some soldering iron brackets even have a built-in sponge holder for easy work.
When cleaning the tip with a damp sponge, be sure to return the tip to the set temperature between the wipes. Moisture in the sponge will slightly cool the tip. By waiting for a moment, the material on the tip will return to a flowable state, making it easier to remove.
The use of brass wool is a common method of cleaning the tip. Wool can gently scrub the tip without damaging the iron, making it an easy-to-use alternative. Many automatic tip cleaners use brass wool brushes (and other metals) during mechanical cleaning.
Some welding stations and workstations provide a sponge and brass wool bracket built into their base. This type of bracket provides maximum flexibility to keep your weld heads in place because the sponge can be easily cleaned and the wool can eliminate material build-up when it occurs.
Avoid using anything that is too aggressive when cleaning the solder joint. The iron plating needs to remain intact to protect the high temperature copper below. If the iron is cracked or holed, the copper will begin to dissolve into the solder, significantly affecting the life of the tip.
Therefore, items such as sandpaper and trowels should not be used to clean modern plating tips. In the case of pure copper tips, as seen in older or cheaper irons, these can be used for cleaning without damage. However, in these cases, be sure to apply the tip correctly after cleaning.
One of the latest innovations is the automatic tip cleaner. Simply place the weld head into the opening and the tip cleaner senses the tip and activates automatically, saving operator time. These types of systems typically have replaceable brushes that pull excess solder out of the tip and remove oxidation from the tip.
Protect the tip with solder
Once your tip is clean, you should first protect it with a layer of solder and then remove it. This layer serves to seal the iron coating from the air and substantially inhibits oxidation. The best solder type for iron protection is solder with a large amount of solder.
Oxidation will occur, which is the life of the soldering iron. The first sign of oxidation buildup is a drop in solder performance. If the iron does not seem to become hot enough, the oxidized thermal barrier may prevent the tip from completing its work.
Oxidation also causes other signs before significant problems occur. If the solder tends to collect (here considered mercury) rather than flowing correctly through the tip, it may be due to oxidation problems. The insulation also prevents heat from being transferred to the workpiece, creating more problems.
There are many products on the market that can help remove oxidation from the solder tip. Many people use cutting-edge tinting agents or cleaning pastes for this purpose. These products contain a mild acid that helps break down oxidation without damaging the underlying iron plating.
Know when to replace the weld head
Even the best solder joints need to be replaced. As long as the iron plating remains intact, the fully clean tip can be used without problems. But once cracks or holes appear in the plating, the tip is borrowed.
The problem is that the hot copper under the iron plating dissolves into the solder. Removal of this material will leave vacancies at the tip, preventing proper heat flow. In some cases, you will find pits or even holes in the tip surface. When this happens, the tip or filter element should be replaced.
Keeping the weld head clean and maintained will ensure that your equipment lasts longer and provides a high degree of weldability. We have a comprehensive range of quality hand soldering and rework tools, using advanced HAIRUI® microprocessor controls to provide precise service even in the most demanding applications. Contact us today to find out how we can help you with soldering project.