Soldering at LAVA

9th Thursday, 2012  |  Life at LAVA  |  no comments
surface mount machine

surface mount machine

It’s how we make our cards and boards: soldering is a part of the manufacture of all of LAVA’s electronic hardware. Soldering is in fact a couple of distinct types of soldering, as described in a couple of articles we’ve put together.

The first type of soldering, “surface-mount soldering,” is how components such as chips, resistors, and capacitors are typically fastened to a flat printed circuit board (a PCB) — in effect they are secured by the melting of tiny dabs of solder paste. That paste is applied to the PCB through a thin metal screen that has holes that match the solder pads on the PCB. Components are then placed precisely onto this prepared board, with the components’ contacts seated on the solder paste. This assembly is then passed through an oven that melts the solder paste, soldering the components to the board.

Surface-mount soldering

The second type of high volume soldering we do is “wave soldering.” This process is used for components that have conductors that pass from one side of the PCB to the other: “through-hole” components. Once these components are placed, the boards travel on a conveyor over a pool of molten solder. The solder adheres to the pins and contacts that touch it as they skim over the surface of the solder pool.

Wave soldering

After these two types of soldering are done, the electronics of a particular board are essentially complete. That doesn’t mean that they are ready to sell however: they might in fact be parts of a larger assembly, or they might need to be programmed (as with firmware and MAC addresses). At the very least, they need to be cleaned of solder flux, inspected, tested (and yes, we test every one), and packaged.