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HARD WIRED Pro tips for

HARD WIRED Pro tips for perfect solder joints BY GERRY YARRISH Soldering is one of those tasks that people either love or really hate! Like anything else, joining electronic components is much easier if you understand the basics. For basic drone wiring, where you need to power four or more motor controllers, it is more efficient to use a printed circuit board called a “power distribution board.” This eliminates several standalone wire connectors while it lowers overall resistance in the power system. 48

TOOLS OF THE TRADE Here are the tools and supplies required for any soldering project you may have. n 40/60 rosin-core solder n 25 to 40W soldering iron n Moist sponge for cleaning the soldering tip n Basic holding fixture n Tube of soldering flux for soldering and tinning metal parts The basics: soldering station/iron, rosin-core solder, a holding fixture soldering flux and some fine sandpaper. Heat is our friend More heat is always better than not enough. If your solder takes more than a couple of seconds to start flowing, you’re not using enough heat. Always keep your soldering iron’s tip clean. A damp sponge is usually included with a soldering stand and you should always wipe off the tip between each use. It is also important to use the correct solder. For most electronics, be sure to use rosin-core solder or thin solid core solder with a dab of flux paste. You should also keep your work area neat and clean. This helps the task go more quickly without anything getting in the way. Holding fixtures known as “Third Hands” are also a great accessory to have. With the solder in one hand and the soldering iron in the other, a holding fixture comes in real handy to steady your parts. TECH TIP A good solder joint will be shiny and smooth. Allow the joint to cool and don’t move or budge until it has fully solidified. If the parts move while the solder is still hot and fluid, you’ll form a weak “cold joint” that’s dull and rough in appearance. It can fail easily due to vibration. Good joints Start by gathering all the parts you want to solder together and if the power leads on your speed controller isn’t already tinned, strip the insulation off the ends of the wires using a wire stripping tool, or a sharp hobby knife. Be sure to cut only the plastic insulation, not into the wire strands. Remove about 1/8- to 3/16-inch from the end to expose the wire. If the wire is old and worn, cut away the end and then strip back the covering to expose fresh, clean wire. Tinning the ends of the wires prepares them so the solder flows more quickly into the joint. Secure the wire in your holder and apply a very small dab of flux to the wire. Apply heat to one side of the wire and touch the solder to the opposite side. When the wire is hot enough, the solder easily flows into the strands. As soon this happens, remove the heat and solder and let the wire cool without touching it. Now repeat the process for all the other leads. The distribution board has thin brass sections called “races” that form the power circuit. For this board, there are two main races with several solder pads and holes drilled in each race. The races end at two points where the battery leads are soldered. When the battery is plugged in, power is supplied simultaneously to all the controllers. One race is positive and the red controller wires are soldered to it, and the other race is negative and the black wires will be soldered to it. Use a fine marker to help identify the races. Note that this board has enough solder attachment points for up to eight controllers. We’ll be using four controllers for this quadcopter setup. Before tinning the wire, add a little bit of flux paste with a toothpick. This helps the wire accept the solder and makes it flow into the strands easier. Here’s a new distribution board (available from with the races marked for positive and negative wiring. To tin the wire, simply apply heat from below and add the solder from above. When the wire is hot enough, the solder will flow into the wire strands. Gear & Gadgets 49

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