Fusing Our Business and Making Aspirations

In the ongoing three-part series at the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab, our class this week primarily focused on the process of soldering, yet another making activity that I was previously unfamiliar with. While the instructional course ultimately proved to be very time consuming and required incredible delicacy, there is little doubt in my mind that this is a crucial tool in any maker’s arsenal of building tools. Soldering allows for more accurate and uncluttered connections between various electronic parts, such as wires, resistors, and other components. An additional benefit of soldering is the ability to maintain the original shape of the soldered metals, considering that the solder has a much lower melting point than the adjoining metal. Since the fusing occurs at much lower temperatures (albeit still incredibly hot), the metals that are being connected do not warp in shape or size, nor do they melt. Lastly, soldering allows for the joining of multiple wires using a single focal point. This can allow electricity to be conducted, as all the wires have been bonded together.

To begin, we were each given a simple kit consisting of numerous wires, six resistors, six LED lights, a lead coil and a photoresistor. Our group leader then demonstrated the actual process of soldering: the heated iron was applied to two overlapping wires, and, when hot enough, the lead coil was briefly touched to the juncture. The heat would melt the lead and fill the joint, essentially bonding the two wires together. We were also shown how to use two different “tricks of the trade”, one being a device fondly called the “helping hands” (pictured in the above photo), the other being double-sided scotch tape. When using the helping hands, one wire would be secured by one of the claws, while the other wire was placed in the other claw. Once the claws were positioned so that the wires were aligned, the process of soldering was made exponentially easier, as the claws were able to maintain a steady hold of the wires. The duct tape worked in a similar fashion, perhaps with less precision. I personally favored the helping hands device, as the setup time was minimal and it allowed for the soldering of more complex joints.

After soldering each wire to a resistor and subsequently each resistor to a LED light, we then connected certain wires to the Arduino board. This effectively produced the same light dependent resistor that we created last week, however the resulting product had a much different appearance. The soldered wires gave the resistor a much more streamlined, uncluttered look, one that made it significantly easier to track and identify connections.

While at first the process seemed laborious and too precise, I quickly learned the added benefits of utilizing a process like soldering. The resulting product boasts useful and concise connections while maintaining its shape and size. Going forward, I hope to incorporate soldering in some capacity into our final project.

2 thoughts on “Fusing Our Business and Making Aspirations

  1. Chase,
    I loved your in depth description of the soldering process! This was definitely my favorite session in the Fab Lab, and I believe it will also be integral to my group’s final project. I had the same initial impression that the required processes would prove too tedious, and that I would get impatient; however, I found each step so rewarding that I was increasingly impatient, which served me well towards the end of the project when we had to make more complex connections. I am excited to improve my soldering skills in future work on our final project!

  2. Hey Chase, loved reading about your experience with soldering! I’m personally very excited to get that hands on with the product. It also seems like we’re nearing the end of our box forming experience. Just like you I’m pretty excited to put the whole thing together and figure out we can use this experience in our own final project moving forward.

Leave a Reply