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Soldering - short version

A technique for joining metals using a filler metal alloy that has a melting temperature less than about 425 degress . Lead-tin alloys are common solders.

Soldering - long version

Soldering is a process in which two or more metal items are joined together by melting and flowing a filler metal (solder) into the joint, the filler metal having a lower melting point than the workpiece. Soldering differs from welding in that soldering does not involve melting the work pieces. There are three forms of soldering, each requiring higher temperatures and each producing an increasingly stronger joint strength:

1. soft soldering, which originally used a tin-lead alloy as the filler metal,

2. silver soldering, which uses an alloy containing silver,

3. brazing which uses a brass alloy for the filler.

The alloy of the filler metal for each type of soldering can be adjusted to modify the melting temperature of the filler. Soldering appears to be a hot glue process, but it differs from gluing significantly in that the filler metals alloy with the workpiece at the junction to form a gas- and liquid-tight bond. Soft soldering is characterized by having a melting point of the filler metal below approximately 400 °C (752 °F), whereas silver soldering and brazing use higher temperatures, typically requiring a flame or carbon arc torch to achieve the melting of the filler. Soft solder filler metals are typically alloys (often containing lead) that have liquidus temperatures below 350°C.

In the soldering process, heat is applied to the parts to be joined, causing the solder to melt and to bond to the workpieces in an alloying process called wetting. In stranded wire, the solder is drawn up into the wire by capillary action in a process called 'wicking'. Capillary action also takes place when the workpieces are very close together or touching. The joint strength is dependent on the filler metal used, where soft solder is the weakest and the brass alloy used for brazing is the strongest. Soldering, which uses metal to join metal in a molecular bond has electrical conductivity and is water- and gas-tight.


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