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Judging the IPC APEX Soldering Competition

As I awaited the finals on Thursday morning, I was reflecting back on the last two days of the competition and I still firmly believe that hands-on solder training is a major necessity and the competition proved me correct. Different techniques, methods, efficient movements and print readings are all things we need to continue to work on to help our customers improve yields and product/process quality.

The contestants displayed a variety of techniques which held us in complete awe, as to how they were able to complete the tasks at hand in the required time period. It also appeared that experience was not the only element needed to assemble and solder the boards, techniques were varied, and nervousness was evident in many of the participants, or as I would call it, butterflies. The audience’s noisy support did not help as conversations could be heard from all sides. The participants were really not used to this level of commotion, which only added to the tension of the competition.

Each contestant had thirty minutes to complete the board, seven (7) PTH LEDs, fourteen (14) 0603 resistors, one (1) two pin connector, one (1) 16 pin IC and one (1) jumper wire. Many participants had trouble completing the board in the required time frame due to their particular techniques, yet needless to say it was an adventure. Yes a winner was declared and that individual from the APEX competition did go head to head with the other winners and won the overall competition. Congratulations are definitely in order for their efforts.

If you do anything after reading this blog, please take my advise and be proactive, check the work your people are doing, check their defect rate, check their techniques, check their tools and trust me, your customers will thank you for this effort. Have the operators go through a training program to learn the basics and/or advance techniques, as I’m sure you won’t regret the investment.

Leo Lambert
Vice President and Technical Director