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Soldering new controllers


MikeA
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Planning for next year I will buy 3-6 new controllers. I originally bought the kit already soldered and it only needed assembly.
My question is, how easy is it to solder the controllers? I am handy and good with tools and have more spare time than I do money. So if it takes me 2 days to solder it, I don't care.

How do most people buy their additional controllers once they have their feet wet and their first year under their belt?

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If I were in your shoes, I would go ahead and buy the kits. They are easy to solder once you get the hang of soldering and if you have the right tools. You will need to make sure you have a good soldering station, one that you can control the heat and one with a fine tip on the iron itself.

Once you get than, then your good to go. Follow the instructions and you should have no issues. I tried building a controller with the wrong tools, and it doesn't work, so it is VERY important you have the right soldering iron.

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MikeA wrote:

How do most people buy their additional controllers once they have their feet wet and their first year under their belt?

I buy the boards fully assembled, and then scrounge my own demarc boxes and power cords. For me, it's a no-brainer all the way. I do custom sequencing for people and I can make more than the 15 or 20 bucks extra it costs to have the boards pre-made and pre-tested by experts in the time it would take me to do it myself.
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My vote is like George's. I tried the soldering route and decided my time was better spent building other elements of the display. Unless you are making many boards purchasing the correct tools etc. I don't see it's worth it. But I do understand the more time than money argument and there is a satiisfaction factor of building the boards. I had a couple problems which were actually bad parts and were solved by LOR which complicated my build.

If you build I would recommend purchasing one completed boards and the rest as kits. That way you have a model to refer to you know is good.

I purchase completed boards with the high power heat sinks. Sometimes I use LOR cases sometimes I use custom cases.

Jeff

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I built all of mine. As kits go, it is a well-laid out design and assembly manual. And for me, building/wiring/soldering/etc is one of the best stress reliefs and escape from the day job stuff that I have found.

If you have no experience soldering, would not recommend learning on a LOR kit..get something cheaper, or one of the soldering training type kits to learn on. It is not a difficult skill to learn, it will become second nature with some practice. Make the LOR kit the kit you build after you feel you have become comfortable soldering.

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I bought three of the CTB16PC kits and put them together. I already had the soldering equipment so there wasn't any extra expense. I am glad I had a solder sucker (desoldering tool) because I got a component in backwards on the first board and had to redo it.

The cost difference is $70 over the completely assembled controller. It took me about 3 hours on the first one and the other two less than two hours each. That was about 7 hours work to save $210. The math worked out for me, about $30/hour.

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DonFL wrote:

I built all of mine. As kits go, it is a well-laid out design and assembly manual. And for me, building/wiring/soldering/etc is one of the best stress reliefs and escape from the day job stuff that I have found.

If you have no experience soldering, would not recommend learning on a LOR kit..get something cheaper, or one of the soldering training type kits to learn on. It is not a difficult skill to learn, it will become second nature with some practice. Make the LOR kit the kit you build after you feel you have become comfortable soldering.
+1

Don you stole my words.
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I've attached a soldering presentation I was going to give at the FL Mini this past April, but I had to leave early. It is presented in the first person, hence the reason for the questions at the beginning. I personally solder all my boards, I do it to save some cash as well as I like to do it. The cash saved is just a bonus. Like Don said, it is one great stress buster. The key to soldering is preparation and using the correct tools, they make all the difference is ease or difficulty in doing the job. Hope this helps.


Attached files Soldering presentation2.pdf

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+2 on doing it yourself, relieving stress and saving a lot of $$!!!! I have 9 controllers, 'built 8 from kits.. my first one was just plug an' play.. the second (and subsequent ones) were total you-builds, including finding your own cases with that first one as a model.. I saved $20 per each kit over the fully assembled ones which "paid" for the last 2 kits..

As long as you have a good light, magnifying glass, soldering station and tools, you will be able to knock out your first kit in a few hours. The grin you get when you make your test lights go blinky blinky is priceless!

Oh, and welcome to the greatest group of just-not-right-people on the planet!! =)

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I taught a soldering class at the Pacific NW Mini Plus last year in Olympia WA. . I encourage folks to buy a kit and give it a try.. Dan's kits are very well laid out and the instructions are quite good. Just follow the directions and mark off on the sheet each step and that will guide you through a successful job. I make two recommendations - first when you place the chips on the board, only solder one lead - solder in each one - so they are ALL on the board, then stop - take a break - get a cup of joe - then from the top of the board verify that each chip is in the board in the proper direction. Its way easier to unsolder one lead and turn the chip around then 6 leads or more. And secondly, grab a flashlight to help you verify the color coding on the resistors. Under different lights its hard to distinguish the difference between purple and brown or some other colors.

Beyond that - the kits are fun to do. A good soldering iron and your good to go. I have assembled close to 30 of these kits and every one has worked, and still working.

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texascop wrote:

I bought three of the CTB16PC kits and put them together. I already had the soldering equipment so there wasn't any extra expense. I am glad I had a solder sucker (desoldering tool) because I got a component in backwards on the first board and had to redo it.

The cost difference is $70 over the completely assembled controller. It took me about 3 hours on the first one and the other two less than two hours each. That was about 7 hours work to save $210. The math worked out for me, about $30/hour.



Just personal preference, but I can think of the last time I used a solder sucker..too many past experiences with tearing up traces, along with the solder. Never really got comfortable with the squeeze bulbs...I'm solder wick all the way..:D
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Been using them for 40+ years. Hard to break old habits. There are some PC (printed circuit not Planet Christmas by the way) boards I wouldn't use them on because they are made so cheap. Seems a lot of tan boards are cheaply made. The LOR boards have really nice runs on them and the danger of damaging one is a lot less likely. Like you said, preference. The one I have is a soldering iron with a hole in the tip and a suction ball attached. Works a lot better than the old stand alone squeeze bulb.

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DonFL wrote:

Just personal preference, but I can think of the last time I used a solder sucker..too many past experiences with tearing up traces, along with the solder. Never really got comfortable with the squeeze bulbs...I'm solder wick all the way..:)

The bottom line is - your going to need something from time to time to remove the soldered in component - its just going to happen. If you find something that works for you GREAT - they all work. I have 3 different devices - depending upon the situation. I have a bulb, I use wick, and I have a trigger gun that you cock and when you pull the trigger it sucks fast and hard.

But like I said - don't let the error factor chase you away. Half the fun (for many of us) is building. No matter if its the display piece or the controller - get out and have fun with it. I assemble radios (transmitters) too, they are more tricky, but still a lot of fun.

Happy Trails!
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I soldered 2 boards and they took about a day each, but it was really easy to do. I used the $5 soldering irons from Radio Shack and they were adequete for me, but probably need to be replaced soon. They worked fine, but don't look like they will last much longer. I would definately reccomend soldering your own boards.

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I've gone all battery powered iron, still pull out the older weller pencil for the heavier stuff..

But yea...something about stuffing a board, those toxic rosin core fumes (though, I did go buy a pound of the Kester solder LOR provides..not the standard rosin core stuff...but great solder...and maybe healthier..:cool:), firing it up for the first time...after 40 years of "building stuff" it is still a kick...

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It's rewarding doing it yourself, besides if you screw up LOR has great customer service and will ship parts out to you quick.

PS. My Kirby vac makes an awesome solder sucker! :dude:

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Wont be able to give you an actual number just some guide lines. First needs to be said is that the bigger the tip, the more heat is available to be transferred to the joint quickly. But at the same time. You do not want a tip so big that it heats up two adjoining pads. Also in the case of the PC board. There are those quick connector males that need to be soldered to the board. They require a lot of wattage where as the IC pins do not need much wattage. If you use to low of wattage while trying to solder in the male connectors. You can start to burn up the board or lift a trace. Or create a cold solder joint that will fail you later.

I recommend a 40 watt pencil iron for everything except for the male connectors and the fuse holders. For these a 80 - 100 watt pencil is my recommended iron. See it works like this. You go in with a wetted tip (just a drop of solder on the iron before touching anything) that will help transfer the heat to the wire and pad. So you go in hot and fast and then get off of it quickly. The surrounding area is still cool and will help lower the temperature to the joint. Thus you do not destroy the IC that is connected to the wire/pin. The copper trace will not try to de-laminate from the board.

Been soldering for years and when it comes to the big stuff I just pull out a soldering gun and hit them real fast. But I do not recommend the solder gun to newbies. You can destroy a board real fast with that kind of heat if you linger on the joint to long.

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I used Radio Shacks cheap 30W iron without any problem on the small or big solder joints. The thing that bugs me is the tips. Tips wear quickly. If you keep grinding the tip, you won't be able to put in a new tip because the threads will corrode and won't unscrew therefore having to buy a new iron. New tips run about $2, so it's a catch-22. Some irons have a screw that locks the tip in instead of threaded tips, this would be a better iron, but finding replacement tips after grinding them down might be a challenge.

If you find an iron that uses a lock screw for the tip, be sure to buy replacement tips right away and remember where you store them.

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