A Gentle Introduction To Surface Mount Soldering

In my electronics projects to date, I’ve avoided surface mount devices (SMD) as much as I could. They require custom circuit boards because, given the absence of through-hole legs, they don’t work on prototyping breadboards. They’re small, which makes them difficult to handle without specialized tools. Tools like microscopes to see them, fine-tipped tweezers to handle them, and specialized fine tips soldering irons to solder the tiny connections.

That avoidance came to a crashing end at Layer One, where I had to face SMD head on or be left out of the fun on the Layer One badge add-on kit. The tools were provided at the event, as well as some guidance, so I got over the very beginner parts of the learning curve. It doesn’t make me an expert by any means, that would require more practice.

In the spirit of keeping the momentum going, I decided to check out a beginner-friendly SMD soldering electronics kit. The “I Can Surface Mount Solder” kit was designed by someone who also wanted a gentle introduction to SMD and decided to design a circuit for the purpose. All information is open source so I can make my own. And catering to lazy people like myself, the designer has also put kits up for sale on the maker marketplace Tindie.

There’s a volume discount for buying ten or more, with no increase in shipping, so I decided to buy ten and bring them to share at my local hobbyist meetup. I knew I wasn’t the only one who wanted to practice SMD with something simple. Before the event I had one taker for a kit besides myself. During the meet, a third one was put together by a SGVHAK regular and two more were put together by people who have never attended a SGVHAK meet before. They came because they read the meeting information on Meetup.com and wanted to try SMD soldering. I count this as a publicity win.

The kit itself was far easier to put together than the LayerOne LED add-on kit. The SMD components were about the largest sizes available. So they could be seen by the naked eye and while we still needed tweezers to handle them, we could solder them with regular-sized soldering tips. The only real technical challenge was determining the appropriate orientation of the lone red LED, something that took us a while to figure out. Fortunately we all determined the direction correctly before soldering.

At the end of the night, we had five little pulsing heartbeat pendants and five people who had the satisfaction of a successful SMD soldering project.

I Heart SMD

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