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Cutting and sodering RGB Strips

Discussion in 'RGB Lights - Intelligent Pixels and 3-Channel RGB' started by ColonelChristmas, Mar 13, 2013.

  1. ColonelChristmas

    ColonelChristmas New Elf

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    So my goal for next year is to add RGB to my display. I really appreciate all the knowledge on this fourm so I am asking for some help. I have spent the last three evenings trying to cut and sodier your run of the mill 5 meter 5050 SMD waterproof strip lights. I have watched the videos in other threads here and I am not a novice with a sodiering iron and this is not easy. I first tried the snap-on 4 wire connectors and found the fail rate was not acceptable. I would no sooner get one connection working and then another would work itself loose. I am working on a 5 foot start. So then I went to sodiering wires to the copper pads. I found that thin copper could not hold up to the angle I was trying to turn from the stress from the wire. I would get a joint all sodiered and the copper pad would lift off of the light strip. I also found that when you strip off the water proofing the copper pads have a thin corrosion that must be scrapped off to get the sodier to stick. I have pretty much destroyed a full set of light experimenting. My solution is to actually use the 4 wire connectors and only partially slide tem on the pad and then sodiering the to the remaing pads. Haaving the extra plastic supporting the connection seems to be the trick. Has anyone done this and has it held up. We deal with winter winds in the 30-50 mph range and I need something that is going to hold up.
     
  2. AAH

    AAH I love blinky lights :) Community Project Designer

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    Can you post a link of the specific strip that you are working with. A closeup of the point where you are soldering would help too.



    Now that I've working on helping you out I'll have a rant about 3 words that annoy me and the pronunciation of them.
    1st 1 is solder. Despite what some people believe the "l" in that word isn't silent.
    2nd 1 is aluminium . The word has 2 i's in it and they are both audible.
    3rd 1 is lieutenant. The word contains the word lieu not the word left.

    Rant done :)
     
  3. kel

    kel Dedicated Elf

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    lol ... hear, hear ... :D
     
  4. JonB256

    JonB256 Full Time Elf

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    I used the four wire snap on connectors. Also found that they don't hold well. But, if you soLder them (use extra flux) once installed and then shrink wrap for lateral support, it becomes very dependable.
     
  5. Bill Ellick

    Bill Ellick Full Time Elf

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    Please do post a link to the strip that you are using as well as what type of wire you are trying to solder onto the pads.
    A couple of pictures would speak volumes for people to be able to see what you mean and what you are trying to accomplish.
    I have done a couple dozen solder jobs onto strips using wire ranging from 24 awg solid copper cat cable to 18 awg stranded and have yet to have the problems that you are saying you have. Granted this does take a bit of finesse to do but it is not impossible. You should have your wire bent at the angle you need before you solder it though is the only thing that I get from your post. Once you solder to the strip you don't want to try and bend or flex the wire at all if you can help it.
    You may find that you need some form of backer for the strip and wire to be fastened too to help hold it in place and rigid.
     
  6. OP
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    ColonelChristmas

    ColonelChristmas New Elf

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    Re: Cutting and soldering RGB Strips

    Thanks for comments all. The strip I am using is at this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007K6SNXS/ref=oh_details_o01_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    I have attached some pics of what I tried to describe last night.
    The first is my star project frame, second is my strip, the next is hard to see but is a wire with the solder pad broke off the strip, the next is a junked strip with wires soldered, and the last is the strip with a 4 wire connector acutally soldered.
    I tried both 20 gauge and 22 gauge and both pulled off the solder pads from the strip.
    After looking at it again today I think soldering the the clips are the answer.
     

    Attached Files:

  7. fasteddy

    fasteddy I have C.L.A.P Global Moderator Generous Elf

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    Re: Cutting and soldering RGB Strips

    I would be cautious if this is the strip that has 3m tape on one side and the resin coating on the top side as its been found that it can allow water in due to the coating lifting off. May be worth sitting a bit outside and seeing how it handles after a few months.
     
  8. tuppetsdad

    tuppetsdad Funding & Tech Support

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    Yep we have done the same with our RGB strips- slide on connector and solder it. Then we fill the lot with silicon to seal it
     
  9. Bill Ellick

    Bill Ellick Full Time Elf

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    Well unfortunately I can't tell from the pictures as they are somewhat out of focus and hard to see. But I soldered 22 awg, 4 core phone wire onto strip that is identical to that for my weather testing of sealants and it held up to 11 months outside with no problem at all.
    Krylon.jpg
    One thing I did when soldering the wires to the strip was to pre-tin the wires and the pads with solder so that I only had to touch the iron and wire to the pad fairly quickly to get a good connection. They are fairly fragile spots so you don't want to spend much time on the pads with the heat if you can help it.
    You can see the results of the test on this thread:
    https://auschristmaslighting.com/threads/sealing-connections-for-rgb.2042/page-2 Towards the bottom of the second page you will find a pdf that I wrote up on the testing.
    You can see that the strip has clouded up quite badly after 11 months in the weather but the solder joints held up fine. The resin coating on the strip has started to pull away from the circuit facing though so you will want to take care and seal the area well with neutral silicone or some form of sealant to protect it and keep it from peeling up as it will tend to do. As Eddy said, these types of strip do tend to separate after time. But I think that you will be able to use if for quite a while if you take some care and a little extra TLC with it now to make it last.
    Another thing you might consider is using the clear silicone tubing over that strip to protect it from UV and weather for protection too. https://auschristmaslighting.com/threads/silicon-tubes-or-silicon-coating.3858/ is a good thread on the tubing you might want to look at.
    There is a link in that thread for the tubing from Ray if you are interested as well.
    I guess I don't have a really good answer why you are having such trouble with the soldering on your strips but there are so many different suppliers of them on the market now that it is possible there could be some strange problem with that particular strip or it just does not take to soldering very well. Hard to say without an actual piece of it to examine and tear apart to look at. But this is also why I tend to recommend that people use the strip that has the epoxy coating and is encased in the silicone tubing to get the maximum lifespan and durability out of it.
    But you also want to use what you have so go to it and don't let it bother you. You will still get a nice display item for your display no matter what you use. It does seem like you will end up using the end connectors on your strip if you can get them to solder on there easily and they don't come off.
    I would love to see a test of that star once you get it all hooked up. Looks like it is going to be a very nice one.
    Bill
     
  10. harrison0550

    harrison0550 Full Time Elf

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    Oh the wonderful world of strips.......

    I personally hate the strips, I know Eddy and many others love them but I tossed several in the trash last year. They were just a pita to cut, solder, and replace bad sections. Seems everyone attached them to pvc or inserted them in pex tubing for support and needed to add silicon to them for waterproofing the end caps on the tube models or where they cut them at.

    Since doing all that was so much work. I opted out of the strips mid summer last year and bought all modules. I couldnt be happier with that decision. They are water proof champs and cutting them is 1000 times easier than the strips. Plus you can fudge the LED's around an inch here or there to make them fit perfectly on your props since they are connected with wire between sections rather than a fragile pcb.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Trafficman used them on his star here...............
    [​IMG]

    The video of it at night looks amazing! Unless you have already purchased a bunch of those strips you may want to look at switching to the modules in an area with such high winds etc that may easily snap those strips or cause them a lot of movement that will eventually lift the silicon cover right off them.

    Just my .02 cents worth but I do know some swear by the strips. :eek:
     
  11. fasteddy

    fasteddy I have C.L.A.P Global Moderator Generous Elf

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    Yes i am a big fan of the strips for a few reasons (modules are a close second) its because

    1: On an LED/price basis, strip is the most cost effective
    2: Mounting to conduit makes this very easy to put up, pull down and pack away
    3: I use the silicone tube strip because its easy to cut, solder and rejoin, its also easy to repair any suspect solder joints
    4: Less voltage drop to deal with strip compared to modules due to the cable in between each module adding to the overall circuit resistance


    I have also used the modules extensivly as well, all my roof tiles are modules, my candy canes and candles are all modules. The modules are just like the strip cut into individual sections and they work well. The issue with the modules is voltage drop and if using these you will require a lot more power injection as you also have to consider the resistance of the cables connecting them. This is one of the reasons the modules only come in a string of 20 instead of 50
     
  12. OP
    OP
    ColonelChristmas

    ColonelChristmas New Elf

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    All, thanks for all the feedback. I am kind of committed to strips for the star project and another mega tree. I am sitting on 20 strips. Based on the feedback I am ordering a bunch of the connectors and soldering them on. I will need to check into the tubes because with the effort I what this to last a few years.
    I really appreciate this fourm and gota say you guys do some amazing stuff. My sister and I have been doing animated lighting for the past 7 years. We live across the street from each other and are pushing 34 Light-o-Rama boxes and about 200k of lights. RGB seems to be the next step for us so I may be back for help.
    I am not really good at uploading videos and have not done so on this site but if you want a look at what I am doing you can find it here Lights on Chestnut 2012 Amazing Grace or do a YouTube search for Lights on Chestnut 2012.
    Thanks guys! :)
     
  13. fasteddy

    fasteddy I have C.L.A.P Global Moderator Generous Elf

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    My tube strip has been going strong after 3 years of use and has shown very little discolouration. The solid silicone strip has yellowed but still works and looks good.
     
  14. Bill Ellick

    Bill Ellick Full Time Elf

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    Wow, excellent display!
    Yea you have got the talent for this for sure - LOL. A very grand looking display that will certainly grow with the addition of RGB.
    Good luck with the strips. I think you will be fine with them as you are taking the time to research and get answers before you waste too much stuff on trail and error.
    We will be looking for you on the forums.
     

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