Tonight, I tried one very simple way of holding an itty bitty, non-flat electronics component and some wires still while I solder the stripped ends of the wires to the pads on the component: sticky tape with the sticky side facing upwards. In the image above, unrelated gear, parts, and kipple are blurred out. This time, I used the ATTEN GT-6150 soldering station with a GT-Y130 (130-watt) “wand”.
Each of the two horizontal strips of tape in the photo above, as well as the vertical strips holding them to the ceramic plate on which I worked, are overlapping lengths of 13-mm-wide Chukoh Flo AGF-100FR Teflon-fiberglass tape.
Here we go…
I thought that I was being gentle but, in the process of liberating the button from the tape adhesive, first one and then another of the wires elected to stay behind on the tape. The loss of the corresponding solder pads (they’d remained stuck to the wire ends) made the problem infeasible (for me) to try to solve without resorting to heroic levels of effort and significant time investment.
A final pair of images (combined into a single file) showing both faces of the component (one is buttony-looking, with the button “plunger” and indicator LED visible), accompanied by the business end of a mechanical pencil for scale. Yes, the component (and solder pads) are vewwy vewwy small. If it had been bigger or even the same size but with meatier solder pads, I might have been able to get it off the tape intact. On the other hand, I use lead-free solder, which necessitates a higher soldering iron temperature (340 degrees Celsius usually) and likely overheated those pads more than the others, which I may well have also scorched, just slightly less. For the record, while the sticky tape method doesn’t seem worth pursuing further, I did use the same setup for a couple of other small components and managed to get them together. Partly, that’s likely because they were a bit less minuscule.
As the old (not-attributable-to-Einstein) saying goes,
Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results. Sometimes, though, you do get different results if you do nearly the same thing. For example, the card above is covered with white globs and multiple instances of the word “Test”, inscribed in various amounts of oil-based white pigment.
Some time back, I purchased a couple of Sharpie white paint pens (the sort with a depressable metal tip and which you have to shake, making a clicka-clicka noise, before use). I opened one, which always yielded terrible results like those above. Either no ink came out of the tip or, after I depressed the tip to “pump” it, it splooged out a little puddle of white pigment. Nevertheless, I held onto it. When I tried to use it recently to label the inner side of one of the polymer grips of a recently-bought tool, it behaved no differently and I finally discarded it. Expecting much the same in terms of disappointment, I removed the plastic shrinkwrap from the second pen of the same model and, lo and behold, it worked like a charm.
This is a roundabout way of saying that the idea of something grippy as the substrate for one-off soldering of tiny things still seems as though it might have some merit. But all of the high-temp tapes I’ve got that are actually sticky are as sticky as the one I used today, so I’m setting the concept aside for now.
There’s another technique I’ve thought up for soldering wires onto minute components. It employs small pieces of silicone foam and small (palm-sized or smaller) squares of stainless steel mesh. I’ve got the former on hand, but not the latter. As of now, a few pieces of stainless steel mesh of varying grid sizes are on order. When they show up, I’ll test the workability of idea #2.