Automated Soldering: Bringing Automation in Wire Harness Assembling

FACTS CHECKED BY  Jose George​

Nowadays, industries use various techniques to help in efficient production, like CAD design, advanced input/output technologies/simulation, computer modeling, and automation and control techniques. However, when it comes to wire harness manufacturing, modern machinery and computer technology are not enough, and you need more innovative methods and a personal touch. Let’s understand one such innovative technology, automated soldering.

Custom Quick-Connect Wire Harness
Custom Quick-Connect Wire Harness

Wire Harness Manufacturing

Wire harnesses are complex assemblies of multiple pairs of multiconductor cables with straps, lacing, tubing, ties, coaxes, sleeves, and conduits that help keep these assemblies and wiring systems organized. Automated manufacturing is not enough in the production of these assemblies. It will help if you put some personal touch to get desired products. 

Manual Processes 

Different processes require hand precision in wire harness manufacturing, from schematic design to assembling. Manual production is still the most cost-effective solution as it is tough to automate those processes. The following procedures require hand perfection only.

  1. Manufacturers terminate the wires in various lengths.
  2. They manually run the wires and cables through conduits and sleeves.
  3. They manually conduct crimps to the specified wires going into the terminals.
  4. They need to tape the harness with fabric tape and the final saddle bounding through clamps, cable ties, and video.

Processes that can automate

Some steps in wire harness production do not need manual processing. 

  1. First, manufacturers can use a cutting machine for cutting and stripping wire ends. 
  2. Secondly, they can also solder wires through automation. 
  3. Further, machines also have a role in crimping and plugging. 
  4. Lastly, electrical safety testing procedures also use automated machines to detect any electrical faults.
robot soldering circuit board

Image: robot soldering circuit board

Look at the Automated Soldering

Soldering is a process wherein you can bond/join two materials using high heat. It would help if you had a soldering iron or laser to perform soldering, and you must apply high heat to melt the solder to form solid soldering joints. With soldering, you can join several components, such as copper, steel, nickel, iron, and aluminum. Any metal that melts quickly acts as a bonding material for soldering joints.

Benefits of automated soldering innovations

Now, automation in soldering is bringing new benefits. 

  • Firstly, the inconvenience of performing solder through hands does not exist anymore. A soldering robot will apply the right amount of solder, correct heat, and create an exact solder bond. 
  • Secondly, hand soldering was costly, while automated soldering led to lower costs and lesser material waste. Further, hiring skilled labor for soldering is gradually becoming difficult.
  • Thirdly, you can resolve issues like unique solder alloys and high conductor counts with automated soldering.
  • Further, with automated soldering, you can resolve the issues related to the soldering of nitinol alloy wires. 
  • You can also use laser soldering robots to overcome the technical challenges of nanosized assembly of components. Further, automated laser soldering also sells circuit boards facing harsh environmental conditions. 
  • Lastly, the traditional wire assembling methods, such as soldering through-hole, filling solder cups on connectors, and soldering wire to USB connections, use iron-tip soldering systems. These robots have accessory items like position calibration, temperature control, and highly technical wire feeders.

Types of automated soldering

The hand soldering process is not suitable for mass production. You can use it for thru-hole components that use a soldering station or iron and repair the rejected and faulty PCBs. When you need mass production, you must choose automated soldering. 

SMT soldering in electronics

You can solder SMD or surface electronic mount components to the circuit boards with the help of surface mount technology. And you can use a reflow machine or automatic pick and place machines for the process.

BGA Soldering in electronics 

Ball grid arrays are tiny electronic components without leads, and you will find a small ball under the ICs. For soldering these ICs or BGAs to PCB, you can use an automated BGA soldering machine or reflow machine. 

PCB after full assembly moves to reflow oven machine for heating soldering paste

Image: PCB, after complete assembly, moves to reflow oven machine for heating soldering paste

Why Should You use Robots in Soldering Operations?

For years soldering has been a reliable process of setting connections between wires and different components. Now, with the soldering robots, manufacturers can get a lot.

Soldering robots for speed

The Soldering robots are fast and do not need any breaks, leaves, or does not slow down, and they can work 24/7 if required.  

Soldering robots to save

Another advantage is that it is easier to program robots than train laborers. Also, it costs less than skilled labor. 

Soldering robots for accuracy

Electronics are becoming smaller and smaller to make the appliances light in weight. As a result, printed circuit boards are densely populated with components. If you use hand soldering for soldering such tiny components, there is a high chance of error. On the contrary, if you program the soldering robot for a particular path and quality, it will repeat the same, providing the same precision in all joints. If any error occurs, manufacturers can immediately reprogram the robot and correct it. 

Soldering robots for versatility

Numerous robots are suitable for soldering applications, from single pins to massive battery cables. SCARA robots with varying soldering heads can easily mount the charges to the SCARA robots and use them for various soldering types. You can mount laser soldering heads for soldering heat-sensitive electrical components, flame soldering heads for micro-flame soldering, and high-frequency heads for compact induction heating. These heads also come with nozzles. 

What’s the Difference Between iron-tip Soldering and Laser Soldering?

On the basic level, there is not so much difference in the soldering methods. However, there are a few things that need your attention.

  • Firstly, the heat source in iron-tip soldering is soldering iron, while lasers provide the required heat in laser soldering.
  • Secondly, in robotic iron-tip soldering, a pre-tinning step allows the main feed to flow correctly. In laser soldering, there is no need for a pre-tinning action. It is good to preheat the pre-tin. 

Image: soldering iron

Conclusion

Automated soldering technology has become an indispensable part of wire harness manufacturing. If you are looking for cable assemblies and wiring harnesses, contact Cloom. You can get them here if you need special cored wires for soldering applications. 

Get a free Cable Assembly Quote.