Who Still Does Hand Soldering? Industries Still Soldering By Hand

With the advent of wave soldering as well as selective soldering automation, the need for hand soldering on an industrial scale has all but died out.

Just like riding horses, making solder joints by hand has been relegated to the hobbyist(s)…for the most part. A lot of components in consumer electronics, however, are getting too fine for the amateur tinkerer.

However…a small cadre of hand soldering still takes place in commercial operations. It is increasingly rare, but there are still a few who practice it.

Quality Control In Manufacturing

One of the most common jobs that uses hand soldering is part of quality control systems in electronics manufacturing, though it’s more that hand soldering is a skill that may have to be used rather than the preferred skill to have.

If components aren’t soldered correctly, it may be possible for a technician to clean the joint and then hand-solder through-hole or SMT components by hand in case of an error in an automated system.

This is more of a backstop role, and also requires that the board be otherwise undamaged. Rework does have to occur, so hand soldering is only an option in the right circumstances and if reworking the board would take far longer than simply soldering one or two components by hand.

Having technicians that can hand solder is a vital part of the QC process, as it does allow for some rework to be avoided.

Boutique Electronics

Another common use of hand soldering is in boutique electronics, as some manufacturers in various verticals don’t have the manufacturing volume to justify investment in automated soldering.

Some examples include musical equipment – some manufacturers are still using vacuum tubes as its posited they create superior sound – and custom electronics for other markets.

Whatever the reason may be, small shops turning out boutique or bespoke electronics for clients often assemble by hand as their production volume just isn’t high enough to need an automated system and all it entails.

Smaller output can also ensure scarcity, of course, but also allow for the producer to have the utmost of quality control.

Some manufacturers are deadset on ensuring that every single piece that leaves the shipping bay is made to exacting specifications, and soldering every piece by hand can give them the control they feel is warranted.

Electronics Servicing And Repair

While the model in the modern age is that electronics are disposable goods (and in fact many employ planned obsolescence to ensure their replacement) there are still some servicing and repair that has to be done to ensure equipment stays functioning.

While your iPhone is made to be replaced every few years, the control panel of an injection molding system is not. Both items are controlled by a printed circuit board, and components of both require soldering to assemble.

Technicians will need to be able to solder in the field or in their own repair shop to keep various pieces of equipment running. Hand soldering will probably never completely fade from its role as a maintenance skill.

Reflow And Selective Soldering Are The Dominant Forms

While hand soldering will never fully die out – there’s just too much utility in it – it’s also true that reflow soldering and selective soldering are the dominant methods of soldering components at scale, and will remain so until soldering ceases to be necessary.

Since electronics dominate the life of man in most parts of the world…it’s always going to be necessary.