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Computer Circuit Board

Soldering & Wiring

Last Updated: 29/AUG/2023

gold soldering iron

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.

Soldering iron Station

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:

d series tip
flux
60-40

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.

Which solder?

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, and they are going back 10 years. I have purchased 19 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 build a full sim.

Which Wire?

 

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.

55A0811-22-9 wire

You can find good wire at a great price by searching for UL1007 wire (rated 300V) or UL1015 (rated 600V). Multistranded wire is recommended 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 fire safety hazards. 

Here is a video I created showing the different types of wires and there testing to find a good alternative aircraft cable at cheaper cost:

Many aircraft cables exist, but I suggest opting for harsh-environment cables. These cables have thin insulation that can withstand high temperatures and a high strand count for better performance. As mentioned in the video, the Aircraft Wire (ACW) in the table is a great option, although it may be costly for simulation use.

Click on any line in the table for link to buy or get the details!

Cable Name
Length
Size
Price
Price Per Meter
Price Score
Insulation Score
Conductor Score
Solder Score
Quality Score
Overall Score
M22759/34-24-9 (ACW)
100
24AWG/0.22mm
35.66
0.36
9
10
10
9
9
47
44A0111-26-9 (ACW)
100
24AWG/0.22mm
43.45
0.43
7
10
9
6
9
41
99M0111-24-9 (ACW)
100
24AWG/0.22mm
78.34
0.74
3
10
9
9
10
41
55A0811-22-9 (ACW)
100
22AWG
93.65
0.94
2
10
10
10
10
42
KY3003BL
200
26AWG/0.12mm
70.82
0.35
8
6
9
5
5
33
AlphaWire 3049
305
26AWG/0.13mm
83.92
0.28
7
7
8
5
9
36
KY3004BL
200
24AWG/0.22mm
55.08
0.28
9
6
9
9
5
38
AlphaWire UL1007
305
24AWG
43.56
0.14
10
5
8
8
9
40
Concordia EW7/0.2
500
24AWG/0.2mm
36.26
0.07
10
7
10
8
8
43
CB23582
500
28AWG/0.1
33.18
0.07
10
9
10
9
10
48
872-4473
100
26AWG/0.13mm
12.34
0.12
10
10
10
8
10
48
872-4505
100
24AWG/0.2mm
19.96
0.20
9
10
10
10
10
49

Please note that these details are only valid from my date of purchase for the video (02/02/2024). These prices will vary over time, and availability may also be an issue as demand surges.

From the video, I highly recommend avoiding the cables that cause the insulation to melt too quickly when heat is applied, like the KY wires. However, these cables are an excellent choice for crimping or screw terminals.

A cable smaller than 24 AWG will probably require cable restraints at the joint because it's so thin. After soldering, repetitive stressing of the soldered joint will lead to failure. 

Actual Aircraft Wire & Cable Colour

colored cables

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.

Wire Strippers

The Stripmaster aviation-standard wire strippers are the best I have used. They are specifically designed to strip insulation without damaging the conductors. Although the original Stripmaster aviation strippers are expensive, you can find cheaper alternatives online, starting from around £40.

 

However, it would be best to look for a set with the correct wire gauge size, as they come in different sizes. I usually buy the ones that range from 26 AWG down to 16 AWG. If you need a more comprehensive range, buy the stripper blades instead of multiple sets. 

 

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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.

rats nest
cable management

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.

heatshrink box
Cable Seathing

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 
& Eyecandy!

4200 DYMO

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.

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