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Soldering (S) is a group of joining processes, which produce coalescence of the
materials by heating the assembly to the soldering temperature in the presence of a
filler metal, which is subsequently drawn between the surfaces by capillary action.
Parts are joined by creating a metallurgical bond at the molecular level between the
solder and the surfaces of the two metals being joined. The temperature ranges are
above the liquidus temperatures of the solders and below the solidus temperatures
of the base metals. The difference between brazing and soldering is in the liquidus
temperatures of the filler metals. For brazing, the liquidus temperature is above
450oC (840oF) and for soldering, it is below 450oC.

Soldering is a widely used joining method. Applications range from simple consumer
products to the aerospace industry. Many different types of materials can be joined
by soldering including carbon steel, stainless steel, cast iron, copper, aluminum,
beryllium, brass, nickel and nickel alloys, zirconium, gold, silver, etc.

2. Process Principals
The underlying physical principle of the soldering process is capillary action between
closely spaced faying surfaces, usually in a lap type joint. The faying surfaces are
cleaned and properly spaced to permit efficient capillary action to take place. The
clearance between the faying surfaces is in the range of 0.003" to .005" (0.07 to
0.12mm). The solder flow characteristics are influenced by the liquid solder fluidity,
viscosity, metallurgical reaction between the solder and base metal, and gravity. A
suitable type of flux is generally applied to the faying surfaces in order to dissolve
solid metal oxides and prevent new oxidation. As the joint is heated the flux melts
and cleans the base metals. Solder is then melted on the surface of the joint area.
The flux and oxides are pushed out of the joint by the high capillary attraction of the
solder. Upon cooling to ambient temperature, a thin film of solid solder fills the joint
between the faying surfaces. The flux residue is found on the joint periphery where it
can easily be removed.

3. Joint Design
When designing a component to be soldered the following must be considered:

- joint type: The lap joint is the most commonly used joint for soldering. Butt joints
are not often used. Lap joints are very efficient and easy to fabricate. Many
variations of the lap joint design are possible as indicated in Fig. 1.

The strength of the solder is much less than the base metal. Therefore, a soldered
joint should not be relied upon for its strength. One way of increasing joint strength
is to lock the parts together by also using some other process such as:

- Press fitting the members

- Screwing or rivetting
- Pinning
- Welding
- Staking
- Expansion
- Swaging

Fig.1 Typical joint designs for soldering

Fig2 Typical joint designs for

increased strength

Fig.2-a Fig.2-b

Fig.2-c Fig.2-d


- joint clearances: If the joint clearance is too small capillary action cannot occur.
If it is too large the solder may flow right through the joint with a resulting loss in
joint strength.

- placement of the solder: for manual soldering operations the solder is fed into
the open side of the joint by the operator. However, for many automated soldering
processes or where soldering takes place inside a furnace or bath the operator no
longer has control over solder flow. For such situations the workpiece and joint
designs must allow for the preplacement of the solder so that when melted it flows
into the joint. Figure 3 shows some typical joint designs that allow for the
preplacement of solder.

Fig.3 Preplacement of solder

- placement of the flux: flux is available in liquid, paste and powder forms. It can
also be contained in the core of the solder wire. The application method will be
largely determined by the part design and soldering method.

4. Fluxes
The use of a flux is essential in the soldering operation. Heating of a metal
accelerates the formation of oxides; the result of the chemical combination between
the hot metal and oxygen in the air. If not removed the oxides prevent the solder
from wetting and bonding to the surfaces. The flux shields the surfaces from the air
thus preventing oxide formation. It will also dissolve and absorb any oxides that may
already be present on the metal. The molten solder will displace the flux from the
joint at the soldering temperature. After joining, the flux residue must be removed
from the metal surfaces. This is especially important for the acid type fluxes
because they will corrode the metals. Flux can be applied in many different ways.
Common methods include brushing, spraying and dipping.

Fluxes are classified into three groups:

- Inorganic fluxes: These are known as acid fluxes. They are used where a highly
active fluxing action is required. This type of flux remains active after the soldering
operation has been completed and must be removed otherwise it will corrode the
metal surfaces.

- Organic fluxes: These fluxes contain acids and bases and are less active than
the inorganic type. They are not well suited for torch soldering since they tend to
burn off.

- Resin fluxes: Resin fluxes are primarily used in the electrical and electronics
industries because of their non-corrosive nature.

5. Cleaning
Fluxes are not intended to clean the joint surfaces. Instead they are designed to keep
them clean and prevent oxide formation during soldering. All grease, oil, dirt, paint,
rust or other contaminants must be removed from the joint surfaces prior to the
application of the flux. Chemical cleaning can be used to remove dirt and oils. Oxide
can be removed by mechanical methods such as grinding, sanding, wire brushing,
sand blasting and machining. Cleaning should take place just prior to soldering to
prevent possible recontamination of the parts. Flux should be applied as soon as the
parts are cleaned.

6. Selection of Solders
Selection of a solder is based on the following factors:

- Types of base metals

- Service requirements of the assembly
- Soldering temperature required
- Method of heating.

The requirements for solders are found in ASTM Standards:

- B32 - Standard Specification for Solder

- B284 - Standard Specification for
Resin Flux-Cored Solder
- B486 - Standard Specification for
Paste Solder.

Solders are categorized according to the major elements present:

- Tin-lead solders: these are the most widely used solders for joining metals.
They are designated by the percentages of tin and lead present. For example, a
15/85 solder has 15% tin and 85%lead.

- Tin-antimony solder: this solder contains 95% tin and 5% antimony. It is used in
plumbing, refrigeration and air conditioning applications.

- Tin-antimony-lead solders: a small amount of antimony is added to tin-lead

solders to improve the mechanical properties.

- Tin-silver, tin-copper-silver, tin-lead-silver solders: the 96% tin 4% silver

solder is used for soldering stainless steel in food handling equipment. The tin-
copper-silver solders are used for soldering copper pipe used for carrying drinking

water. The addition of lead to these solders makes them suitable to use at elevated
temperatures such as in automobile radiators.

- Tin-zinc solders: these solders are commonly used for soldering aluminum.

- Cadmium-silver solder: these solders are used for joining copper and
aluminum. They have good corrosion and heat resistance properties.

- Cadmium-zinc solders: these solders are used for joining aluminum.

- Zinc based solders: the zinc-aluminum solder is used for joining aluminum.
They have a high melting point which makes them suitable to use at elevated
temperatures such as in automobile radiators.

- Fusible alloys: these alloys have a low melting point and use a large percentage
of bismuth. They are used in applications where high soldering temperatures would
affect the base metal or damage components near it and in temperature sensing
devices such as fire sprinkler systems.

- Indium solders: these solders are used in electronics industry and for glass to
metal and glass to glass soldering

Solders come in many different shapes and sizes in order to suit the wide variety of
joint designs and the types of heating sources in use. These include rods, strips,
rings, pellets, disks, wire, powder and paste to name a few.

7. Soldering Processes
Soldering processes are customarily designated according to the sources or
methods of heating. Industrial methods currently in use are the following:

- Dip soldering
- Furnace soldering
- Induction soldering
- Infrared soldering
- Iron soldering
- Resistance soldering
- Torch soldering
- Ultrasonic soldering
- Wave soldering

7.1 Dip soldering

Soldering is accomplished by immersing clean and assembled parts into a molten
solder bath. The molten solder is contained in a pot type furnace which is heated by
oil, gas or electricity. This method allows numerous joints to be soldered in one
operation. In many cases the parts and/or assemblies must be held by fixtures to
prevent their movement. Parts must be fluxed prior to immersion. Dip soldering is
suited for automated production whereby the parts are placed into and removed
from the bath by a conveyor system.

7.2 Furnace soldering
Furnace soldering (FS) is suitable for use when:

- The parts can be preassembled or held together by other means

- The solder and flux can be preplaced in the joint
- Multiple soldered joints are to be completed simultaneously on an assembly
- Many similar assemblies are to be joined
- The parts are very complex and must be evenly heated to prevent distortion.

Parts to be soldered are first assembled with the solder and flux placed in and
around the joints. The assembly is placed in the furnace and heated to soldering
temperature . It is then removed from the furnace and cleaned to remove any flux

7.3 Induction soldering

The heat for induction soldering (S) is generated from the induced electrical
current in the parts by a coil surrounding or near the parts. The coil, which is
normally water cooled, carries a high frequency alternating current. Each is
designed specifically to fit the shape of the parts to be soldered. It has no contact
with the parts and provides heat to the joint areas only. Thus, the heating can be
precisely controlled. The solder is normally preplaced in the joint. Heating of the
parts is rapid thus making it viable for high volume production. Mechanized systems
for moving parts in and out of the coil are common. It is used to produce a wide
variety of consumer and industrial products.

7.4 Infrared soldering

The heat for infrared soldering (IRS) is generated by high-intensity quartz lamps.
Infrared radiation is radiant heat. The lamps do not have to be arranged to follow
the contour of the joint. Instead, concentrating reflectors direct the heat to the joint
area. The infrared process is not as fast as induction soldering, but the equipment
cost is much less. Infrared soldering is designed for automatic applications only. As
in the other automatic applications, the joint must be first fluxed and contain
preplaced solder. The process can be carried out in air or in a controlled

7.5 Iron soldering

Iron soldering (INS) is a soldering process in which the heat required is obtain
from a soldering iron. The tip of the iron, which is copper, is heated by an electrical
current, torch flame or furnace and then applied against the surface to be soldered.
The tip of the iron is used to:

- Store the heat for soldering

- Store, convey and remove excess molten solder

Flux cored solder should not be melted on the tip of the iron since this ruins the
effectiveness of the solder.
There are different types of soldering irons available depending on the type of
application. One of the most common is the soldering gun which finds widespread
use in the electronics industry. In all cases the solder is applied manually.

7.6 Resistance soldering
In the resistance soldering process (RS), heat is generated in the joint by its
resistance to the flow of electrical current. The parts are held between the
electrodes of the welding machine while pressure and electrical current are applied.
During the heating process the parts form part of the electrical circuit. The
electrodes are usually made from carbon. The process is suited for the low volume
production of assemblies which have a simple joint configuration and where heating
is to be localized.

7.7 Torch soldering

Torch soldering (TS) is performed by heating the joint with one or more gas
torches. Depending on the temperature required the fuel gas is burned with air,
compressed air or oxygen. Common fuel gases are acetylene, propane, butane
and natural gas. For manual torch soldering, normally a single torch and tip are
used, but for automatic torch soldering multiple torches and tips may be required.
Manual soldering is particularly useful for repair work. Automatic torch soldering is
used for high production applications. Here multiple torches are often arranged in
different stages, such as for preheating, filler metal melting and cleaning. Filler
metal is often preplaced in the joints in the form of rings, washers or strips. The
parts or even the torches are then moved through the various heating stages. For
either method, the parts must be preassembled and held in position either by virtue
of their own joint design or by other means throughout the entire heating and
cooling cycle.

Torch soldering is commonly used in the plumbing industry for soldering copper
tubing to copper fittings.

7.8 Ultrasonic soldering

This soldering method (USS) is similar to dip soldering except for the addition of
an ultrasonic transducer which uses high frequency vibrations to break up the oxide
film on the base metals. The freshly exposed surfaces are then wetted by the
molten solder. A flux is not required with this process. Ultrasonic welding is used to
solder aluminum and other hard to solder metals.

7.9 Wave soldering

Wave soldering (WS) is an automated process used in the assembly of printed
circuit boards. Assembled boards are passed over a bath of molten solder through
which waves are generated. A soldered joint in made when the wave contacts the
metal circuit and the pigtail of the electronic component which is sticking through the
bottom of the board.

8. Advantages and Disadvantage of Soldering

- economical joining process when done
in large quantities
- parts can be disassembled at a later
time by heating the joint above the
solder liquidus temperature
- large joint areas can be soldered at

the same time
- can be used for joining a variety of
materials including
- useful for joining parts of unequal
- joints require very little preparation

- in certain cases base metal erosion
can occur
- manual torch soldering is a slow
production process. It also tends to
warp parts of different thicknesses.

9. Safety
Many of the typical safety hazards that are found with other welding and cutting
processes must also be considered when soldering such as the need for:

- Proper ventilation especially when using the cadmium based solders

- Protection from burns
- Protection from electrical shock.