Soldering

Soldering is a joining process that occurs at temperatures below 450 C (842 F). It is similar to brazing in the fact that a filler is melted and drawn into a capillary to form a join, although at a lower temperature. Because of this lower temperature and different alloys used as fillers, the metallurgical reaction between filler and work piece is minimal, resulting in a weaker joint. Soldering is a process in which two or more metal items are joined together by melting and flowing a filler metal (solder) into the joint, the filler metal having a lower melting point than the workpiece. Soldering differs from welding in that soldering does not involve melting the work pieces. In brazing, the filler metal melts at a higher temperature, but the workpiece metal does not melt. Formerly nearly all solders contained lead, but environmental concerns have increasingly dictated use of lead-free alloys for electronics and plumbing purposes. Soldering filler materials are available in many different alloys for differing applications. In electronics assembly, the eutectic alloy of 63% tin and 37% lead (or 60/40, which is almost identical in melting point) has been the alloy of choice. Other alloys are used for plumbing, mechanical assembly, and other applications. Some examples of soft-solder are tin-lead for general purposes, tin-zinc for joining aluminium, lead-silver for strength at higher than room temperature, cadmium-silver for strength at high temperatures, zinc-aluminium for aluminium and corrosion resistance, and tin-silver and tin-bismuth for electronics. A eutectic formulation has advantages when applied to soldering: the liquidus and solidus temperatures are the same, so there is no plastic phase, and it has the lowest possible melting point. Having the lowest possible melting point minimizes heat stress on electronic components during soldering. And, having no plastic phase allows for quicker wetting as the sold r heats up, and quicker setup as the solder cools. A non-eutectic formulation must remain still as the temperature drops through the liquidus and solidus temperatures. Any movement during the plastic phase may result in cracks, resulting in an unreliable joint. Common solder formulations based on tin and lead are listed below. The fraction represent percentage of tin first, then lead, totaling 100%: 63/37: melts at 183 C (361 F) (eutectic: the only mixture that melts at a point, instead of over a range) 60/40: melts between 183190 C (361374 F) 50/50: melts between 185215 C (365419 F) For environmental reasons (and the introduction of regulations such as the European RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive)) lead-free solders are becoming more widely used. They are also suggested anywhere young children may come into contact with (since young children are likely to place things into their mouths), or for outdoor use where rain and other precipitation may wash the lead into the groundwater. Unfortunately, most lead-free solders are not eutectic formulations, melting at around 250 C (482 F), making it more difficult to create reliable joints with them. Other common solders include low-temperature formulations (often containing bismuth), which are often used to join previously-soldered assemblies without un-soldering earlier connections, and high-temperature formulations (usually containing silver) which are used for high-temperature operation or for first assembly of items which must not become unsoldered during subsequent operations. Alloying silver with other metals changes the melting point, adhesion and wetting characteristics, and tensile strength. Of all the brazing alloys, silver solders have the greatest strength and the broadest applications. Specialty alloys are available with properties such as higher strength, better electrical conductivity, and higher corrosion resistance.