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Old 23rd March 2010, 12:40 PM   #1
bst is offline bst  United States
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Default Best way to solder gold-plated components?

I'm running across more and more components (e.g. tube sockets, coupling-cap leads) which have gold flashing or plating. A quick web search opened my eyes to the problems associated with gold-contaminated solder joints. I'm trying to find the best way to remove this layer so that I can assemble circuits which won't deteriorate after just a few months.

Some technical papers recommend repeatedly tinning and wick-wiping the surfaces, others recommend multiple passes through a solder pot to prepare the components for final assembly. I have been mechanically removing the gold flashing with a Scotchbrite pad or wire-brushing with a Dremel tool, but this is tedious at best.

Anyone know of a quick chemical means of stripping gold without damaging the substrate? I'm increasingly frustrated with the time wasted removing gold flashing, which seems to serve no purpose other than marketing hype.
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Old 23rd March 2010, 12:42 PM   #2
AndrewT is offline AndrewT  Scotland
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if it's gold flashed then I have read that this is so thin that simply flooding with molten solder removes the problem.
They are certainly easy to solder onto. I hope I have done it right.
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Old 23rd March 2010, 02:02 PM   #3
poynton is offline poynton  United Kingdom
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Don't forget that all good joints should be mechanical first, solder second!
This is especially true where heat is involved eg tube sockets.

Personnally, I have never had any problem soldering to gold-plated contacts or components. As AndrewT says, they are easy to solder to.


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Old 23rd March 2010, 02:22 PM   #4
rknize is offline rknize  United States
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NASA removes gold from gold-plated contacts for solder joints. I'm generally too lazy to do it and have not had an issue yet.
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Old 23rd March 2010, 03:01 PM   #5
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Default gold removal

There are methods to chemically strip gold from base metalls, but they use pretty toxic and caustic ingredients... not recommended for the non-chemist

If I metioned reverse current in concentrated sulfuric acid is the least hazardous method, that'd give you an idea of the problem amateurs using these techniques would have...

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Old 23rd March 2010, 03:42 PM   #6
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Hi bst,
Please could you cite your sources.

There are many pcb's out there that I have built using components that had gold plated pins. Should I worry?.

I've always believed that solder joints between gold plated components were just as good as solder joints between tinned copper components

The only tip I can give is that if your that worried then use a flux pen.

Brgds Bill

Last edited by Soonerorlater; 23rd March 2010 at 03:52 PM.
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Old 23rd March 2010, 03:46 PM   #7
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The only real issue I am aware of is a mechanical one. The solder bonds to the gold plating, however if the gold plating delaminates from the core material you will loose that connection. I don't generally worry about tube sockets, though. They are made in China and probably have no more than a few atoms worth of gold on them. I doubt it survives soldering, but that's just a guess.
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Old 23rd March 2010, 03:52 PM   #8
kevinkr is offline kevinkr  United States
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Never had a problem with gold plated anything and solder in over 40yrs of more or less continuous tinkering. I have stuff I built more than 10yrs ago with gold plated sockets, and still in continuous use, no problems so far.
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Old 23rd March 2010, 04:05 PM   #9
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Quality unpopulated pcb's sometimes come gold plated. How can you get round that if it's a problem.

Besides isn't lead free solder a bigger issue to poor joints these days.

Brgds Bill
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Old 23rd March 2010, 05:18 PM   #10
bst is offline bst  United States
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This inquiry started when I overheard a conversation between two test engineers grumbling about how long it had taken them to isolate the fault in a complicated lab measurement set-up. I later saw a reference to the necessity of gold removal in one of John Broskie's blogs.

Here's a reference to a paper where SMDs were literally falling off PCBs due to gold embrittlement:

http://www.semlab.com/goldembrittlem...lderjoints.pdf

And a reference to the removal of gold by tinning and wicking:

Circuit Design - Gold Embrittlement in solder joints

It may be that I'm looking for a problem where none actually exists; most likely, the flashing is so thin on most audio components that the solder joint alloy wouldn't reach the concentration required to cause trouble. I'm just trying to prevent signal degradation and eventual failures down the road.
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