Who’s the Best of the Best in Hand Soldering?


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IPC APEX EXPO 2019 will include the new IPC World Championship Hand Soldering and Rework Competition on the expo floor on January 29 and 30.

IPC's website describes the contest as follows: "Competitors will be presented with a soldered assembly that will be partially populated with components. Contestants will be required to remove six specific components, remove the old solder, and clean the area of removed components. The competitor’s time to completion is paused while an IPC master instructor evaluates the removal results and scores the board according to IPC standards. Once the evaluation is completed, time to completion will resume, and the competitor will be required to place the remaining components including new parts in place of the removed components. The competitors will have a total of 75 minutes to complete the rework and soldering of the circuit board."

Twelve competitors from Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand will compete for the crown and the title of the first-ever IPC World Hand Soldering and Rework Champion.

The IPC hand soldering competition is a growing competitive program around the globe. Hand soldering has become even more skillful and challenging as parts technologies and dimensions have evolved. As a result, local competitions in Germany, the U.K., France, China (multiple), Vietnam, and Taiwan continue to thrive, speaking to the artistry and technique shown by master solder technicians.

Though the hand soldering contest was previously a part of the IPC APEX EXPO program, U.S. participation has been low in recent years. This year’s strategy has two parts: bring the hand soldering world championships to IPC APEX EXPO and introduce high school students to this crucial professional discipline through on-site instruction.

Over the two days, five soldering stations will be set up for competitor use. Judges will be certified master trainers for IPC. The finished assembly will be judged based on the current IPC-A-610 standard. During the competition, judges will monitor competitors and evaluate habits, techniques, and rework processes based on the IPC J-STD-001 standard and the IPC-7711/7721 guideline document.

Competitors’ work will be judged first on quality. Points are deducted for flaws and problems with workmanship, work practices, and safety. In the case of a tie in points, the victor will be the competitor with the fastest overall time. Even with the difficulty of the board to be built, when more than one competitor delivers a perfect board, quality is not sufficient to win. There have been multiple instances in which the competition came down to build time. Kris Roberson, IPC director of certification programs, says, “These people are very excellent at their work! The criteria for judging the competition mirror the job performance criteria for our contestants. Even in the factory, the priority is quality first, but quality can’t take very long to achieve.”

Each year, the competition uses a different board design and parts lists and includes a variety of unexpected twists that reflect real-world situations. This year, the competitive twist is a rework requirement in addition to standard assembly. In the past, competitors have received a bare board, parts, and assembly instructions with the board required to be functional at the end of the assembly process.

This year, competitors will receive a partially assembled board with instructions to remove some of the components and prepare the reworked area for reassembly. Judges will stop the clock after component removal, inspect the work, then restart the clock as the competitors reassemble and finish the work instructions.

This competition can be surprisingly vibrant. “In other countries, spectators will bring vuvuzelas [stadium horns] and attend in large numbers. It’s a big event!” shared Roberson. “Not only are the competitors timed and judged to Class 3 requirements, but they also have people hovering over them. Meanwhile, everything they’re doing is up on the big screen.”

To read the full article, which appeared in the December 2018 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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