The three-day UK Southern Manufacturing and Electronics show in Farnborough’s airfield closed today, and I had the chance to visit it briefly. There were hundreds of exhibitors – from all corners of the UK and beyond. It really made one feel that manufacturing is still alive and well in the UK!

For electronics engineers the show was particularly useful – a great opportunity to see some of the products you might want to incorporate in designs and the types of tools and hardware you might want to use. Aerospace, defence, automotive, medical and contract electronics manufacturing categories were covered. Injection moulding, 3D printing and prototyping, laser cutting and CNC machining and robotics firms were presenting their products too. Probably more than 400 different exhibitor stands on the day I visited. There were also plenty of free to attend seminars (I counted around 30).



(Image source, cropped and shrunk)


Here is an extremely small photo summary from a few of the exhibitors.


Midas Displays

Midas Displays had plenty of displays on show. The ones in the photo below (click photo to enlarge) are liquid crystal technology. The upper half of the photo shows ‘VA’ technology displays which are like a low cost alternative to OLED (brighter/sharper than conventional LCD displays, but not as good as OLED in these respects).



The photo below shows the OLED range. In terms of display lifetime, yellow and green displays last longest. Also the larger the pixel size, the longer the lifetime. There are also sunlight readable displays (provided it is not full-on direct sunlight).



Wurth Elektronik

Wurth Elektronik had on display some of their product lines too. I liked their connector demonstration PCBs; sometimes it is hard knowing what a connector looks like from datasheets so here are some photos with product numbers mostly visible that can be used as a quick reference. The photo below shows predominantly terminal blocks:



The red PCB here shows wire-to-board, terminal blocks and some miscellaneous connectors:




PACE had their soldering and rework products on display. This very nice workstation uses infra-red heating and a laser aid for visualizing where the infra-red energy will be concentrated (the laser spot is visible on the PCB in this photo):



There is a very much more affordable hot-air based workstation here, it is in the Farnell catalogue too (would be nice to road-test !)



Soldering: What Temperature? What Power?

I asked the PACE and JBC guys on optimal soldering iron temperature since I wasn't sure. In their opinion, 330-340 degrees C is about expected for leaded solder, and higher for lead-free solder. Some other bits of advice; use a larger tip if possible for your work, although even 0.4mm tips are possible, something bigger is generally preferred. Don’t drag-solder if you don’t want to; conventional tips and conventional soldering is totally fine if that is what you are comfortable with. Why should you upgrade to a new system? One reason is power related. With a higher power soldering station, you can afford to lower the tip temperature because you have a lot of power in reserve to push heat into your workpiece. So with (say) a capability of 70-80W or so, a 320-330 degree C tip temperature is very feasible for leaded solder. But with 120-130W of power capability the tip temperature can be reduced by a further 10 degrees, down to about 310 degrees C for leaded solder, and no more than 350 degrees C for lead-free solder. The temperature reduction also prolongs the tip life.

The benefit of having immense power was easily demonstrated with a tiny tip and a coin. It was possibly to warm the coin despite the tip being so tiny because of the high amount of dynamic power-on-demand that was available to transfer heat into the coin.



In summary there was lots to see at the show. And you get to see some aircraft since it is right next to the airfield. It is probably worth spending a couple of days at such a show to see all you want to. I will definitely try to visit again next year. (It is free to attend but bring your own food and drinks, that was very pricey!).

This was a very short blog post on the exhibition, I would have loved to do it more justice but unfortunately I was only there for a few hours. But I hope it shows that it would be worth visiting in future because it was great!