Surface Mount Soldering Practice For Budding Electrical Engineers

Front of PCB for "SMT Garden" with glowing LEDs

Electronics components are steadily moving away from through hole parts to using surface mount technology (SMT) exclusively. While the small size of the SMT components can be intimidating, with a little practice, soldering can come pretty naturally. To help folks get over their fear of soldering small parts, [Alpenglow Industries] have created a charming board to practice SMT soldering skills on.

Back of "SMT Garden" PCB with only the 555 timer chips and inverter chip populated

[Alpenglow Industries] board, called the “SMT Garden”, combines a variety of SMT sizes ranging from 0402 to 1206 with beautiful PCB artwork to highlight the variety of LEDs on board. [Alpenglow Industries] provides detailed instructions on the various aspects of SMT soldering including what the terminology is and providing various techniques to help in soldering. The boards have practice “stalks” of surface mount component pads, so that folks can practice on columns of similarly sized SMT components to perfect their technique. The training stalks themselves aren’t functional but are there to provide practice for when folks feel comfortable soldering the LEDs, 555 timer and inverter chips to make the board functional.

[Alpenglow Industries] have provided all the KiCAD project files, gerbers and schematics available online. SMT soldering is more accessible than ever and when you can even use your phone as a microscope, it’s a good excuse to try it out, if you haven’t already.

10 thoughts on “Surface Mount Soldering Practice For Budding Electrical Engineers

  1. Err, there’s a whole bunch of such kits on aliexpress. And that has been so for a while.. Usually similarly named “smd practice kit” or so. Very similar, with columns for practicing, and some 555+74h* to animate some leds. Leds are though to solder :-( They die very quickly.
    I bought some when I started using smd components..

    1. True, but they’re not as pretty or as well-documented as this one, which definitely counts for something. I’ve worked my way through a couple of those AliExpress kits and while functional, they are a bit lacking.

      1. No more lacking than these ones, they are probably cheaper too so you can get more practice in for less.

        It would be good to see a board with different footprint components as well like QFN or even BGA as part of a functional circuit so you can test it works right.

  2. I found that most “engineers” are seriously lacking in the hands on skills. The ones I worked with (and have seen work from) couldnt pass a basic soldering skills test (SMD ir otherwise).
    I always saw it as my job to bring their ideas to life. I LOVED work ng in the labs, different things all the time, making prototypes or “one offs” for trade shows.
    If youre good at it, you can really be in demand. Ive seen even a lot of techs with lousy soldering skills.

    1. Engineers aren’t ‘super techs’. It’s a completely different skillset.

      Engineering is multidisciplinary, contains ‘business’. Anybody who spends Engineering payrate when soldering tech payrate would do has slept through too many Monday morning classes.

      That said, I can old school solder well enough, but I learned in HS. Hence ‘budding EEs’ in title. Gives them a soft landing if they flunkout or switch to easier major. Stats don’t lie. Freshman class is often as big as the rest of the school.

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