It's Hot Solder Summer
Welcome to the FANTM Microupdate, this week we're going to dive into the bread and butter of electrical prototyping: soldering. We'll focus on the microelectronics perspective because it falls in line nicely with the hours and hours of soldering that we've done at FANTM. Soldering is fundamentally joining two things with melted metal, and in this case it's the process of either attaching a component (resistor, capacitor, USB connector, etc.) to a printed circuit board or connecting two pieces of wire. We perform this joining in one of two ways: with a soldering iron (a hot metal stick) or with very hot air, and in both cases we're melting "solder". Solder comes in two flavors: lead and lead-free but you shouldn't eat either. Those are the basics, and while there is a lot more to learn, that's enough to get started; melt solder and connect things! Just make sure you don't hold your soldering iron like people in stock photos, it'll be too hot to handle.
FANTM does a considerable amount of soldering, especially for our early generation boards. If you've checked out our shop, you've seen the Bespoke DEVLPR; each of which was hand assembled by the founders. There are two parts to assembling a DEVLPR, and each requires a different type of soldering. First, we place all of the surface mount components, and this starts with spreading solder paste using a standard putty spreader. We spread it over a metal cut-out template so it only coats the places where components should go, and then we use tweezers to place the millimeter sized components. Once they've all been put in their place, we gently throw it in a reflow oven, wait ~7 minutes, and pop it out to double check all the connections. If they baked correctly, we're ready to move to step two: hand soldering headers. Headers are classified as a through hole component, which is different from surface mount in exactly the way you might guess. Each pin sticking through the board is soldered with a soldering iron, we're partial to Weller, and each connection is checked. From a hardware perspective the board is complete, it just needs to pass rigorous software testing and then it's off to the online store.
If all of that sounds a little complicated, tedious, or overly involved, we'd agree! That's why we're committed to delivering products to you completely pre-soldered. Often times other Arduino Shields (and development boards) require you to attach the headers yourself when you get the board, which serves as an annoying barrier between you and your next project. After all, we have a dedicated setup to do that sort of thing and all you want is to get started with EMG, not your soldering iron.
Thanks for reading and make sure to keep an eye on our website as we keep releasing new products, merchandise and information. As always we're happy to answer any questions you leave below, and we'd love ideas for topics to cover in future weeks. See you again next week!💪🤖