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Any discussion of soldering techniques should include an explanation of solder itself. Ordinary soft solder is a fusible alloy consisting chiefly of tin and lead. It is used to join two or more metals at temperatures below their melting point. In addition to tin and lead, soft solders occasionally contain varying amounts of antimony, bismuth, cadmium, or silver. These are added to change the melting point or physical properties of the alloy. Ordinary table salt has to be heated to 1,488F before it melts. However, when a little water is added, it dissolves easily at room temperature. The action of molten solder on a metal like copper may be compared to the action of water on salt.

The solder bonds the connection by dissolving a small amount of the copper at temperatures quite below its melting point. Thus, the soldering process involves a metal solvent action between the solder and the metal being joined. A solder joint is therefore chemical in nature rather than purely physical. The bond is formed in part by chemical action and part by a physical bond.

The properties of a solder joint are different from those of the original solder. The solder is converted to a new and different alloy through the solvent action. Two metals soldered together behave like one solid metal. It is unlike two metals bolted, wired, or otherwise physically attached. These types of connections are still two pieces of metal. They are not even in direct contact due to an insulating film of oxide on the surfaces of the metals.

Temperature change does not affect the solder alloy. It withstands stress and strains without damaging the joint. An unsoldered connection eventually becomes loosened by small movements caused by temperature variations and by the gradual buildup of oxides on the metal surfaces.

To understand fully the alloy or solvent action on molten solder, look at the tin-lead fusion diagram shown in figure 2-35. This diagram shows that pure lead (point A) melts at 621F. Point C shows the lowest melting point of the tin and lead alloy. The alloy at point C consists of 63-percent tin (SN63) and 37-percent lead. This is commonly called 63/37 solder. It has a melting point of 361F. This type of solder, because of its very low melting point, is used in printed circuit boards and microminiature electronic repair. As you can see from the chart, the melting point of the alloy is lowered when tin is added to lead.

Figure 2-35. - Tin-lead fusion diagram.

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The solder used to solder wires to electrical connectors, splices, and terminal lugs is a combination of 60-percent tin to 40-percent lead (60/40 solder). The melting point of 60/40 solder is 370F, as shown at point B of the figure. Type 60/40 solder is less expensive than 63/37 solder and is suitable for all general uses.

Q.37 What two metals are used to from soft solder? answer.gif (214 bytes)
Q.38 Define the metal solvent action that takes place when copper conductors are soldered together. answer.gif (214 bytes)
Q.39 What is the tin-lead alloy percentage of solder used for electrical connectors, splices, and terminal lugs? answer.gif (214 bytes)

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