March 21, 2011 AT 1:58 pm

Manually soldering 1.0mm FPC cables

Most TFT LCDs come with FPC cables that are meant to be soldered directly to the PCB.  They do this since it’s cheaper than using an external connector, but it might seem a bit tough to solder them by hand.  All you really need is some thin enough solder wire (0.4mm is used here), and a bit of magnification (this video was shot using a microscope at 5x magnification … nothing terribly exotic and inexpensive magnifying glasses can provide similar magnification).  Be sure to use a no clean solder paste, though, or no clean flux if you want to remove any bridges since you won’t be able to wash the PCBs in water since you’ll ruin the LCD.  (For reference sake, the LCD was aligned to the pads on the PCB and secured using Kapton tape … you can see the yellow tape just above the pads on the FPC cable.)

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  1. What temperature do you set your iron to? (I assume that’s tin/lead solder?)

  2. It’s lead free solder. I’ve actually never used leaded solder so I can’t say what temperature for that, but I usually put my iron at 400°C for lead free though it really depends on the tip. A hefty tip like this does an excellent job of conducting heat (which is why tips like this one are perfect for removing solder bridges or soldering heat-absorbing components like metal USB jacks), and you can get away with less heat. The finer the tip, the poorer it gets at conducting heat so you need to increase the temperature (which also wears out the heating element quicker). For something like these FPC cables, you want a medium-sized ‘wave’ soldering tip that’s kind of flat.

    If you’re using the Hakko stations they sell here, you might want to try a tip like the 900M-T-2C (I think these are compatible with the units here). It’s got an angular tip, but it’s flat underneath. Ideally, you want to keep 2-3 different soldering tips handy for different types of work or rework.

    Sorry if I can’t offer any advice on lead temperatures … I’m sure someone else can chime in on that.

  3. What about these?

    seems like this would be a bit easier.

  4. I’m a little confused – the “yellow tape” mentioned is the film covering the tips of the pins, right? It looks very much to me like the solder is going in between each pin, but that wouldn’t make sense at all so I’m sure that I’m just looking at it wrong. It’s not like I’m going to attempt this any time soon but it bugs me that I can’t figure out what I’m looking at. Is that bright yellow background the cable?

  5. The light yellowish parts where the solder is is actually the pad … the white balance was probably just off on the camera. About 2/3 of the way up the pad it’s darker yellow which is the start of the plastic ‘cable’, and you can see the Kapton tape with the off-center line running across the top.

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