Soldering & Wiring
Last Updated: 29/AUG/2023
The Soldering Iron
This tool is crucial for sim building, and I highly recommend it. Many try to do without it, but it enables you to make reliable and robust connections between components. Don't hesitate to take charge and practice using it. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials available, and the procedure is straightforward. Even if your solder joints aren't perfect, they will still be better than not using a soldering iron.
I've been soldering for years, and my first soldering iron, the GOLD A55KJ, is now obsolete. I use a Weller soldering iron at work, which is quite expensive. Recently, I've been browsing eBay and came across a version that includes a mini hot air gun, which would be great for desoldering and heat shrink applications. However, a basic soldering iron with small or various-size tips works fine for most tasks. You don't need a large tip size for regular soldering tasks; a few millimetres will suffice. I recommend the D series Tip (Chisel tip) for its versatility.
Here's a safety tip regarding soldering: Wearing safety glasses to protect your eyes is a good idea. While soldering, it's common for excess solder to drip down, especially when working overhead or flicking the solder off the iron. I've had a few close calls myself over the years. While it's ultimately up to you, I recommend avoiding potential accidents.
Soldering Q & A:
What temperature do I set the iron to?
I use a high heat of 350 Degrees Celsius for quick short applications. However, it's important to note that this temperature may be too high for specific cheap plastic electrical components, causing them to melt. In such cases, dialling the temperature back to as low as 200 Degrees Celsius is recommended.
The solder won't take to the wire or the component?
Consider using flux to improve your soldering. You can apply it to the joint/component before soldering or opt for a solder with a flux core.
I prefer a solder of 60% tin and 40% lead with a flux core. However, due to the potential hazards of lead inhalation, I am aware that lead-free solder is available as an alternative. It should be noted that to achieve a strong joint. The lead-free solder requires a higher temperature.
My final tip: Clean the joint afterwards with isopropanol alcohol. Remove any excess flux. Probably not as apparent in the west. But out here in the hot, humid environment of Brunei. My overhead suffered catastrophically only a year later. The flux had eaten its way through the cheap Chinese wire and all the components had turned green and furry.
Soldering How To Videos
How much wire do I Need?
Simply put - Lots! More than you think. I have checked my eBay purchases going back 5 years. I have purchased 12 rolls of 100m, at around $30 a roll with shipping. That's a few looms right there. Granted some of those rolls, I will never touch again due to the bad quality of the wire on the roll. I have also used many meters of recycled aircraft wiring.
Stick with 100m or larger rolls minimum if you are building a full sim.
I have mentioned this issue on this website before. When I began my first Sim project, I scoured eBay for affordable 24 & 22 AWG wire. I discovered numerous great deals, particularly from Chinese sellers. I usually buy the wire in 100m rolls since you will need a large amount. However, it was a gamble since it was only possible to determine the wire's quality after it arrived. I have received numerous rolls that contained only three small copper strands, which quickly broke with the slightest movement, leading to numerous Sim failures. Thus, once I discovered a reputable supplier, I maintained a long-term relationship with them.
You can find good wire at a great price by searching for UL1007 wire (rated 300V) or UL1015 (rated 600V). It's recommended to use multistranded wire instead of a solid core for its flexibility and ease of routing.
For Arduino 5V systems and low current, use 28-24 AWG wire.
Please avoid using this thin gauge wire for high-current loads as it may cause safety hazards.
If you want a higher-quality actual aircraft wire option, consider the military version with part number 99M0111-24-9. It's available Here. It has super thin yet robust insulation, and the conductor is easy to solder. However, it may be more expensive at £70for 100m.
Then I bought a roll of the recommended alternatives RSONLINE and FARNELL UK suggested. The rolls had to have the following criteria: they had to be greater than 24 AWG, white in jacket colour to represent actual aircraft wire. I ended up with two clear favourites:
CPC Farnell recommended: UL1007-listed PVC Hook-up Wire 24 AWG White 304.8m (1000ft) 3050 WH001
Available here. I like the quality of both the insulation and the conductor. The insulation is quite thick, resulting in larger loom sizes. I have now bought many rolls at £27 each for 300m. My standard go-to cable.
Another favourite is the CPC Farnell 28AWG for Arduino applications. Yes, it's thinner at 28AWG compared to 24AWG. But on inspection, it also has a thin jacket. Both the insulation and conductor are strong. Seven cores of 0.1mm strands. Perfect for most Arduino connections of buttons and LEDs. Also, many wires together make for a small loom diameter too. It can be found here. It's currently; £27 for 500m, allowing many wires to fit into smaller, tighter spaces.
There is a downside to this wire. It needs cable restraints at the joint because it's so thin. After soldering, repetitive stressing of the soldered joint will lead to failure.
Good luck! Kind regards, Karl
Actual Aircraft Wire & Cable Colour
A few years ago, we were fortunate enough to upgrade our helicopter fleet, which led to discarded but reusable white aircraft wire availability. This wire has proven superior to the ones found on eBay from China. If interested, you can find this wire on TE.com or Onlinecomponents.com with the part numbers 55A0811-22-9 or 55A0811-24-9. The cost ranges from 0.21 to 0.53 cents per meter.
When I started on my first sim build, I used a different colour for each connection type:
Yellow = Leds
Switches = Grey
Rotary Switches = Brown
Servos = Purple
+5v = Red
GND = Black
+12V = Orange
I discovered an efficient method of connecting wires even if unsure of their correct placement. I assign a colour, such as yellow, to signify LEDs and then label the corresponding PIN in Mobiflight. I can quickly test the connection by illuminating the LED by doing so. This approach also works for switches. I have now switched to all-white wire and cable but continue using the same labelling technique. I use Heatsshrink Labeller to label the ends of the white cables, which results in a tidy and well-organized wiring system.
Cable Management & Record Keeping
For building a sim, keeping your cables tidy and maintaining good record-keeping is essential. Even a single part, like an overhead or pedestal, can require hundreds of cables. Tidy cables make it easy to trace their routing, and record-keeping ensures you know what each wire does and where it goes. It adds a professional touch to your work. Avoiding a "rat's nest" of cable management is best in the aviation trade, as pictured to the right.
A tidy neat wired sim looks like eye candy! It's a pleasure to look at and prevents those with OCD from having a mini-meltdown.
Im jesting, this is only a suggestion and I admit to rats nests during my build. This usually happens when I just want to get something done quickly, or it's just for testing. But going back, spending a little time to tidy it all up makes a huge difference. If you then ever want to try and sell your items in the future, cable management is an exceptional selling point.
Heat Shrink & Loom Sheathing
When soldering cables and components, it's essential to apply heat shrinkage for protection against shorts and to give a neat appearance. If you're new to this, using an assortment box of heat shrink is best. You can shrink them by rubbing them with a soldering iron, which may leave marks. A lighter can also be used, but it poses safety concerns. The recommended way is to use a hot air gun. Remember that heat shrink comes in specific lengths, so cutting them into smaller sections can increase the amount in your box.
Regarding wiring, the final step in this section is to add cable sheathing. You may have already seen me use this in several of my videos. This is a product that originated from the aircraft mods programme, and it is perfect for separating various cable looms. For instance, in the overhead, each panel would have its own set of wires in a wiring loom that runs down to its Arduino. This loom would then be covered with an expandable sheathing, which helps with loom routing and identification and creates an even more visually appealing look.
If you decide to use this product, melt the cut ends with a soldering iron or lighter to prevent it from unwrapping and becoming a mess.
The Ultimate in cable management
One of my go-to tools for organizing wires is the DYMO Rhino 4200 label printer. This product helps me label the cables accurately while keeping everything tidy and protected. This versatile printer can even print on heat shrink, which is very useful. I typically use a 6mm yellow and white heat shrink.
While the DYMO Rhino 4200 usually retails for $100, during Christmas time, Amazon sold them for $75. This package was a great deal, but remember that the cost of heat shrink tape can add up quickly. There are more cost-effective options than this if you're only working on a single project. However, this tool is worth the investment if you're building an entire cockpit.
For those looking to save money on heat shrink tape, I recommend checking out eBay for "100% Genuine COPY" versions. These are typically much cheaper than buying directly from the manufacturer.