Soldering & Wiring

What do you need to get started electrically:

The Soldering Iron

I can't tell you how important this tool is for sim building. I have seen so many people try to do without. This is essential! This will enable you to connect components that have reliable and strong connections.

Don't be afraid to "grab the bull by the horns". Afterall practice makes perfect. There are lots of youtube tutorials out there, and its a very simple procedure. If you are creating the ugliest solder joints, they are going to be much better than not using a soldering iron. 

Safety Tip: Protect Those Eyes! Many people will probably think this is over the top, but I would wear safety specs when you solder. It's all too easy to flick the excess solder off the iron or try to solder something overhead and for excess solder to drip down. This is of course, down to you. But I have had many close calls over the years.

My first soldering iron was the GOLD A55KJ which I have owned for many years and is now obsolete. I use a Weller soldering iron at work but these are very expensive. I have now been looking at this version on eBay. This is because it has a mini hot air gun attached. Great for desoldering and applying heat shrink. A basic soldering iron will also do the job fine, just look for a small tip or various size tips. Were not building ships here, so a tip size of a few millimetres is perfect. I found the D series Tip (Chisel tip) pretty perfect for most applications.

Soldering Q & A:

What temperature do I set the iron too? 

I use 350 Degrees Celcius, A high heat for quick short applications. This is too high for some cheap plastic electrical components and you will find they just melt. Dail the temperature back as low as 200 Degrees C if needed.

 

The solder won't take to the wire or the component? 

Try using flux. Apply to the joint/component before applying the solder or buy solder with a flux core.

Which solder?

I use 60/40 solder with flux core. This is 60% tin and 40% lead. Im old school, but breathing in lead is apparently bad. There is lead-free solder out there (it requires a higher temp for a good joint)

My final tip: Clean the joint afterwards with 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. 

Which Wire?

 

When I started my first Sim, I searched eBay for cheap 

24 & 22 AWG wire. There are plenty of amazing deals (especially from China) I normally purchased the wire in 100m rolls as you wouldn't believe how much wire you are going to use! This was very hit and miss. There is just no way to check the quality of the wire before it arrives. I have mentioned this elsewhere on this website. I have had many rolls that only contain 3 tiny strands of copper. The slightest movement and the wire would break. This caused many many failures within the sim. Once I found a good supplier I would stick with them.

They are out there and you can get decent wire at a great price. Search UL1007 wire (rated 300V) or UL1015 (rated 600V). In my opinion, stay away from solid core and go with multistranded. It's more flexible, allows for movement of the cable and easy to route. 

For Arduino 5V systems and low current, (24/22 AWG is perfect). Dont use this thin gauge cable for high current loads. You don't want to turn your beautifully made sim into a fire pit!

Actual Aircraft Wire & Cable Colour

I was lucky a few years ago that we modified our fleet of helicopters. This meant I had hundreds of meters of discarded, reusable white aircraft wire. This wire is by far superior to anything have found from china on eBay. The part number is:

55A0811-22-9 or 55A0811-24-9.  This can be found at TE.com or Onlinecomponents.com from 0.21 to 0.53 cents per meter.

I started by using a different colour for each connection type:

Yellow = Leds

Switches = Grey

Rotary Switches = Brown

Servos = Purple

+5v = Red

GND = Black

+12V = Orange

This worked fantastically, as I didn't need to actually know what where that wire connected, I would look a colour, yellow (for example) and knew it was a LED. I would tell Mobiflight at pin 2, it was an LED. Pressing test on pin2 in Mobiflight would Light up the LED. Pin2 was the annotated as an LED and what that LED was.  The same rule applied for switches.

I have now switched to all-white wire/cable. The same rules still apply, I just use permanent markers on the ends of the white cables. This makes for very neat looking all-white wiring looms. 

Cable Managment & Record Keeping

These two go hand in hand. Tidy cables and good record keeping are essential for building a sim. You soon will be adding hundreds of cables even for a single part such as an overhead or pedestal. Tidy cables make it really easy to trace the cables routing. Record keeping ensures you know what each wire does, where it goes and where it comes from. It also gives an air of professionalism to your work.

 

Avoid in the aviation trade what we the picture to the right.

The rat's nest of cable management.

A tidy neat wired sim looks like eye candy! It's a pleasure to look at and prevents those with OCD 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

Another part to soldering cables and components is to apply heat shrink afterwards. This prevents shorts, protects the joint and provide a clean tidy look. When starting out, these huge assortment boxes of heat shrink are ideal. Did you know you can shrink these with the soldering iron itself just by rubbing it up and down the sheathing? Not ideal as it does leave marks, another way is to use a lighter. But naked flames in a sim also arises safety concerns. The proper way to use heat shrink is to use a hot air gun. 

 

Dont forget that these heat shrinks all come in a set length. I usually cut the smaller lengths into 2 or 3 sections. This adds much more quantity to the box selection. 

heatshrink box.jpg
sheathing cable.jpg

The final part to wiring in this section is cable sheathing. You have probably seen me use this in many of my videos. This also came from the aircraft mods programme. This is ideal for separating different cable looms. For example, in the overhead, each panel would have its own set of wires in a wiring loom routed down to its Arduino. That loom when then be covered in this expandable sheathing. This helps with loom routing, indenting and creates even more eye candy!

If you use this stuff, remember after you cut it to length. Melt the cut ends with the soldering iron or lighter to stop it unwrapping itself to a rats nest!

How much wire do I Need?

Quite 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 rolls minimum if you are building a full sim.

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