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Why You Should Leave Soldering to the Professionals

Most experts agree that soldering should be left to companies that specialize in professional soldering services. Soldering is essential to the engineering and manufacturing of a myriad of electronic components in the industry. It involves a level of detail and craftsmanship that is hard to find.

Many people may assume that soldering is very easy to do, based on a quick Google search, even though nothing could be further from the truth.

While we encourage people to expand their horizons and learn new skills, soldering is one of those areas where professional soldering services would be the recommended course of action to take, given some of the serious risks involved. Here, we will delve into why you should leave soldering to professional soldering services in the area.

Soldering 101

The setup process for soldering is actually quite simple. Many websites can be accessed that provide helpful step by step tutorials that you can follow if you wish. The supplies needed are quite inexpensive if you know where to look, which may explain why so many people seem eager to start soldering on their own.

However, if you are not confident in your soldering skills, have a printed circuit board that needs to be repaired, or are completely new to the world of soldering, then perhaps sending your printed circuit boards out for repair may be the ideal solution.

Burns may Occur

Soldering irons can be very hot to the touch, so the risk of burning yourself is a very real one. In fact, soldering irons can exceed 600 degrees Fahrenheit. At such a high temperature, you can expect your skin to become severely burnt if you brush against it.

Negligence or ineptitude may also cause melted solder to drip onto personal effects or one’s limbs, causing instant burns. In fact, even failing to set the iron down in a proper fashion can start a fire in record time. You will also need to worry protective eyewear while you work, as solder can splatter and cause blindness in severe cases.

Fume Inhalation

Solder can be obtained in both lead-free and leaded variants. It should also be noted that most people will opt for a lead version, even though it contains high levels of toxins. This is because the lead version boasts superior workability and strength properties over its non-lead counterpart.

Lead-free solder isn’t as toxic as it may seem but is often the only viable option in countries where leaded solder use is banned. Regardless of which option you choose, both can cause serious harm to the eyes and can also lead to severe health issues if you inhale the fumes produced by the solder.

You will need the proper ventilation set up before you begin to solder, which will likely not be an option for most beginners due to financial and logistical constraints. The general rule of thumb for those who have the proper ventilation arrangement is to have at least ten inches of space between their work and their face before they begin soldering.

Poor Technique

Many experts agree that there is a steep learning curve involved in proper soldering, so you may need to spend countless hours working on your technique until you get the hang of things.

In the beginning, you may accidentally use too much solder. The excess solder may end up inadvertently creating a solder bridge that may end up affixing 2 adjacent points.

Or, the opposite may occur, whereby you fail to use sufficient solder. In such a scenario, subpar electrical continuity may occur from the component to the board. You may also accidentally ruin the join via yanking or pulling, so you should try and avoid any quick or sudden jerking motions while you are soldering.

In addition, if you are having issues while soldering, you don’t necessarily need to panic, as creating a poor connection is very easy, and is something that even occurs to experts in some instances.

Tining is also something that you need to look into, as you will need to learn when to tin the edge of the iron. De facto, improper tinning may lead to short-lived and poor connections, or may even cause the solder to ball upon itself.

Poor connections may be triggered by a lack of proper board cleanliness or even inadequate heat levels. As an added tip, we would recommend that you keep the tip of the iron clean via a wet sponge. You should also avoid excess moisture at the same time, as too much moisture may lower the temperature of the iron for a brief duration.

Inadequate Component Knowledge

A lack of component knowledge is arguably one of the main reasons why soldering is best left to professionals. For example, a lack of familiarity with printed circuit board components or printed circuit board repair may cause certain components to be damaged during the soldering process.

What’s more, the temperatures required to solder will lead to the weakening of the glues used within the boards. As a result, they may separate and lift if your hands aren’t steady enough. If you fail to use the heat clips/sinks as intended, then the heat generated during soldering can damage some of the more sensitive parts of the circuit board.

As an added tip, the components that are most static prone and sensitive should be worked on and installed at the end, as doing so will reduce the risk of damage during the reassembly process.

To learn more about soldering and why you should leave it to the professionals, call Circuits Central at 888-821-7746 or contact us here.

Common Causes of Printed Circuit Board Failure

When it comes to electronic circuit design services, designers need to work meticulously and prudently in order to reduce the risk of printed circuit board failure. Even highly skilled electronics designers may run into issues that have nothing to do with their skills or expertise, such as certain environmental factors.

Here, we will delve into some of the most common causes of printed circuit board failure in the industry, with some being the result of negligence or ineptitude on the part of electronics designers, while others are caused by environmental problems.

What are Printed Circuit Boards?

Virtually all electronic devices or units will have a printed circuit board. They are considered essential components for airplanes, satellites, wearables, medical devices, and other electronics to work as designed.

It is for this reason that printed circuit board failure is a pressing issue that should not be taken lightly. It is also why measures must be taken to avoid printed circuit board failure in the first place.

Component Design Issues

Sometimes, electronics designers may accidentally place certain components in the wrong place. Or, a lack of space on the printed circuit board may lead to overheating in some cases.

Another common cause of component design failure is an outright power failure. Some related issues may ensue during the manufacturing and design phase of printed circuit board manufacturing.

For instance, burned components can cause issues, as can component barrier breakage. In addition, chemical fluids may sometimes leak, or there may be some soldering issues that transpire during the design and manufacturing stage.

However, poor component placement is arguably the most common cause of component design failure, something that can be easily corrected with the proper know-how, patience, and technique.

Poor Quality Component Issues

While the skill of electronics designers is paramount, so is the quality of the actual components that they work with. There are also closely situated pathways and traces to worry about, and cold joints and subpar soldering may also lead to poor quality components.

What’s more, the thickness of the boards may not suffice, or there may be shoddy connectivity between the printed circuit boards in question.

Unfortunately, a fairly common culprit for mediocre printed circuit board quality is the manufacture and sale of contraband components on the market, which is a multi-million dollar industry.

Environmental Causes of Printed Circuit Board Failure

It is important to note that circuit board failure may also be the result of a myriad of different environmental factors. For example, an accidental impact, such as a fall or drop, can cause circuit board failure in some cases. Exposure to moisture, dust, or extreme heat may also lead to eventual printed circuit board failure.

Even power surges or overloads can cause a printed circuit board failure, so electronics designers need to be on the lookout for such environmental causes of printed circuit board failure.

However, it should be noted that the most common cause of environmentally induced printed circuit board failure is ESD (electrostatic discharge). ESD usually takes place during the assembly stage of printed circuit boards and is the most damaging cause of printed circuit board failure at the premature phase.

As can be seen, thermal stress and other environmental factors can lead to printed circuit board failure. However, there is one environmental factor that is inevitable, and that factor is age.

In other words, circuit board failure that is brought upon by age cannot be reversed. However, you can mitigate most of the component replacement costs by swapping out the old components for brand new parts. This approach is far more effective than starting from scratch a new printed circuit board assembly.

What to Do When a Printed Circuit Board Fails

If your printed circuit board fails, there are a bevy of different solutions at your disposal. However, the best way to deal with a faulty or damaged circuit board is to repair it.

Unfortunately, many companies opt to replace the entire board instead of taking the time to repair it. Repairing a defective or damaged board is far more cost-effective than a full-on replacement, and it is also the fastest way to get your board to work to its full potential.

You can also opt for a third party repair enterprise over more conventional repair companies, as some original equipment manufacturers may charge repair prices that are above the average. They also may not be able to provide exceptional turnaround times due to an excessive workload.

In sum, the vast majority of failure problems can be taken care of via some reworking, which should take place after a thorough and careful analysis and inspection have been performed.

Most experts agree that the absolute best way to prevent — or at least reduce — the risk of printed circuit board failure, is to partner with a reputable and established printed circuit board assembly company in the area.

To learn more about the causes of printed circuit board failure, call Circuits Central at 888-821-7746 or contact us here.

Hardware Design and Its Relevance Today

Hardware design has, and always will be, very relevant and essential to the fabrication of various hardware components. That having been said, the software currently rules supreme in the embedded design process, which leaves some experts wondering what the current state of hardware design is.

Some worry that hardware designers will be rendered obsolete, with the art of hardware design being in jeopardy as platform-based design has become the norm.

In addition, many variants are currently devised via software differentiation, and many ASSPs and SoCs are currently being used as black boxes, which has some hardware pundits worrying that hardware designers may become an endangered species.

Some also worry that hardware design will soon become an outsourced business. Here, we will delve into hardware design and its relevance in today’s world and economy.

Software and Hardware Resources in Embedded Design

Given the fact that today’s devices offer more features and functions than ever before, the time needed for proper software development has increased to accommodate the increased workload.

From user input via touch screens to state-of-the-art graphical displays and enhanced integrated control, the number of man-hours involved in software development has grown exponentially in recent years.

However, what is considered conventional may vary greatly from project to project and industry to industry. For example, a large military task may require off the shelf hardware that is commercially-based in order to fully support very complicated software.

As such, in this scenario it is more than likely that more software engineers will be employed to handle the project than hardware engineers.

Still, many consumer electronics systems that are built today are based on hardware that is custom-based, so the dichotomy between software and hardware design efforts will be quite different.

It should also be noted that firmware updates can be utilized in order to upgrade the software, whereas it may be hard, or nearly impossible, to upgrade the hardware that is being used. Ergo, more effort and resources may be placed to ensure that the hardware is optimized from day 1 in order to future-proof the tech.

The Hardware/Software Engineer Balance in the Future

Current estimates seem to indicate that there are 2 to 10 software engineers for every hardware engineer. The user interface is an integral part of any system and will involve more code complexity than other system components. User menus on a GI will also necessitate prudent software design, and multilayer communication systems will need extra gumption in the form of supplementary software development.

The end result is that the aforementioned steps will require extra effort to be invested in the preliminary stages of software development. This is in stark comparison to the past, where structured code could be made from the top level. Today, multitasking systems have become the gold standard, and need far more prudent planning in order to maximize maintainability and operational reliability.

It should also be noted that many companies used to rely on hardware emulators in order to debug code and run tests. Today, however, the complexity of modern systems require development systems that facilitate the performance of singular modules to be evaluated before meeting with the required hardware.

The end result is that future systems will be more reliable than ever before because performance and code quality can be validated and tested against very stringent specifications.

Is hardware design still important?

While it is true that software will always have a place in terms of ensuring the operation of a given device, the performance and hardware design are still relevant as well. For instance, faster data bus lines and processors will need hardware design input, superior printed circuit board layouts, and other features in order to adhere to EMC requirements.

To further illustrate, the integration of analogue technologies, such as audio signals and sensors, are highly sensitive to digital interference. As a result, they need to be integrated very carefully within the hardware as a precautionary measure.

In regards to hardware designers, they need to be even more pragmatic in their approach to their design concept, as today’s electronic components are jam-packed with more functionality; most consumers want a product that can handle all of their daily tasks in one compact and easy to transport package.

As such, the hardware designer will need to find new and ingenious ways to squeeze more functionality into their ever-narrowing devices, which will result in new packaging requirements and heat dissipation boondoggles that they will need to solve in order to prevent overheating, hardware damage and possible system failure.

In other words, it can be argued that there has not been a monumental shift from hardware to software design. Instead, today’s complex electronic products have necessitated that designers take into account the entire design of a product as a part of the development process.

Hardware Design Will Always Be Important

Hardware will always have a place in the electronics industry, whereas software is useless without the hardware to run it on. In addition, there is no universal black box that is currently available that will be able to handle all product requirements. Hence, the demand and need for hardware designers has not diminished over the years, but has evolved instead.

In the future, there will be an added emphasis on performance optimization and power consumption, and hardware designers will need to keep abreast of the requirements of their software counterparts and work in tandem with them in order to finalize complex designs.

In sum, product design involves a trifecta of expert teams; namely software, hardware, and industrial design teams, that will need to work together in order to fabricate products that are suitable, usable, and desirable for the purpose that they were designed for.

If you would like to learn more about hardware design and its relevance today, call Circuits Central at (416) 285-5550 or contact us here.

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