As an electrician, connections are key – whether solid, temporary, secure or simply made. There are many ways in which to connect components, but two are particularly common in this line of work: soldering, and crimping. There are specific use cases in which soldering and crimping can be particularly useful, respectively. IN order to know which is best for which scenario, it’s important to understand what each process entails – and the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of connection.
What is Soldering?
Soldering is the binding of metal materials by way of melting a third metal substance, called solder. Solder is an alloy, typically containing tin and lead which enable it to melt at relatively low temperatures, around 350 degrees Fahrenheit.It is electrically conductive, making it a particularly useful way to fix electronic components to each other, to copper wires or to copper-traced PCBs. Soldering is achieved using a tool called a soldering iron – a powered, pencil-shaped tool with an iron tip containing a copper core. Soldering irons are rated according to their power, in Watts, where a higher wattage means more heat – but heat-adjustable soldering irons are available.
What is Crimping?
Crimping is a process by which two metal components are affixed to one another as a ‘cold-weld’ joint. Bespoke tools called crimpers are used to crimp materials together, usually with a third metal bracket or terminal involved to hold the materials in place. Crimping is useful for affixing connectors to the end of copper wire lengths, or for affixing wire ends to one another – but crimping can also be useful for cable management purposes.
The Pros and Cons of Soldering
Soldering is a supremely quick process, as solder melts and solidifies at speed. Solder provides a strong and reliable electrical connection at any size, with negligible resistance – making soldering the ideal solution for smaller, PCB-based circuits and for securely connecting copper wires. Soldering irons are small, light and easy to use, making soldering even small components to circuit-boards a relatively easy job.
Soldering is not a suitable way to fix materials that will encounter any kind of load; solder is a relatively weak material as a result of its constituent metals and low melting point, and can only be reliably used where a strong electrical connection is required. Older solder can be toxic owing to the lead it contains, while newer lead-free solders can be difficult to use by virtue of flowing less freely, even where rosin flux cores have been included. Soldering can also be dangerous by virtue of the burn risk afforded by the soldering iron.
The Pros and Cons of Crimping
Crimping provides a reliable connection, owing to the force used to cold-weld the materials together. This means crimped connections can withstand vast amounts more force than soldered joints. Crimped connections are also incredibly quick to instate, requiring mere seconds to line up the materials, crimp bracket and tool before applying force.
There are various different kinds of crimper on the market, with different and specific use cases. You may find yourself with a crimper too small for the job at hand, or missing the brackets you need to crimp something effectively. While crimping provides a secure connection, which can often take the stresses and strains of a load, it is easy to create an unstable electrical connection in error – whether by choosing the wrong size of terminal, or lining up materials poorly.