SMD soldering – it’s easier than it looks

The fully populated board as soldering

Recently I took a workshop at the Vancouver Hackspace on SMD soldering which is the process of soldering surface mount devices (aka really TINY parts). This is the kind of soldering usually done by robots to help shrink down our electronic devices and isn’t typically done by hand. I’ve been wanting to learn how to do this for awhile now and finally was able to catch a workshop.

Our project was to solder all the parts to a circuit board to build a Bus Pirate, which is basically a multi-tool for electronics geeks that make it easy to test various projects and prototypes on.

The bare, unpopulated board that was custom designed for the workshop by Tom Keddie:
SMD Soldering a Bus Pirate

The back of the board:
SMD Soldering a Bus Pirate

I used a little USB LED light magnifier to help see the tiny parts as I soldered them:

SMD Soldering under the magnifier

The finished board with all the parts soldered in place – the size of the parts compared to my hand in the photo:
My first SMD project - complete!

I still need to test that I don’t have any bridged connections (which are really hard to see) and then flash the bootloader onto the Bus Pirate but it looks pretty good for my first attempt. It really was easier than I expected. It was my first time using very fine solder, solder wick and flux – all things I’ve heard of but never had a need to use before. A few folks at the workshop had some great tips to make it much less daunting and surprisingly quick to solder a lot of parts in place.

If this is something you’re interested in checking out, I highly recommend coming out to a workshop. Check VHS’s calendar for upcoming SMD workshops. It’s a great way to learn new skills and build cool hardware yourself for next to nothing.

One Comment

  1. Nick says:

    I shot a series of videos about surface mount hand soldering for an amplifier board that I’m planning to sell in kit form. You might want to take a look. I’m curious how it compares to the way they taught at VHS.
    Unfortunately, the board has white solder mask, which looks cool, but is a bit tricky to film.
    Any commentary you have would be useful, too, since I’ve been doing it for a while, and may take some things for granted that a beginner wouldn’t know.

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