If you'd like to build your own drone from scratch, you're going to need to know how to solder. It can be a bit daunting when you first start out, particularly if it's not something that you've done before. There is a lot of misinformation about damaging your gear, but for the most part, you have nothing to worry about and need to be doing something very bad to break something. In this article, we will be looking at the basics of how to solder, so that you can get started building your drone.
As with most DIY, the preparation before the actual work takes the largest amount of time. This is also true for soldering. The key steps with soldering are:
- If it's a wire, cutting it to the correct length.
- Tinning the wire and the component, or both ends of the wire if joining two together.
- Joining the two pieces together and applying an appropriate amount of heat.
When you break it down like that, soldering is very straightforward. So let’s look at each of the steps.
Step by step process:
Cutting the wire to length
It's important that your wires are only as long as they need to be, as any extra length will add to the weight of your drone. When you are first starting out this may sound a little bit ridiculous, but as every gram of additional weight slows you down and reduces your flying time, it can all add up very quickly. I recommend test mounting your components and measuring up the length for each of the wires that are required. This will also make sure that you don't cut the wires too short, which can be a real pain if one end is already soldered to a component.
Tinning the wire and the component
This is an important step that will make it a lot easier to join the pieces together. Once you have your component and your wire, you need to add some solder to them before joining them together. To do this, heat up the component first with your soldering iron, and then bring your solder onto the heated component, not onto the soldering iron itself. This should cause the solder to flow evenly onto the component towards your iron. Do this for both the component and the wire.
Joining the two pieces together
Now that the component and the wire are both tinned, it should be a lot easier to solder them together. Bring the wire on top of the component and then add the soldering iron, to touch both the wire and the component. Don’t squash the wire onto the component, and you don't need to press the two together, only add heat. Since we tinned the component and the wire, the existing solder should flow from one to the other, joining them together. For larger components, you may need to add some additional solder.
It's important to use the right amount of heat when learning how to solder. Using an iron with a large tip that's too hot for the size of the component could damage the component. The larger the component, or the more metal that needs to be heated up, the larger soldering iron tip and the hotter your iron should be. For small components (on your drone this will be everything except the main power lead really), you should use a fine tip and a medium to high heat. You want enough heat so that you can touch the component for no more than 5 to 10 seconds before the solder flows and you can remove your soldering iron.