Toaster oven forgoes Pop-Tarts, reflows solder

For SMD work, solder paste and a heat gun is great. Heat guns aren’t the cheapest thing, so [Karel] decided to make cheap reflow oven out of a toaster oven. With a PCB taken from a laminator temperature control board, the build was fairly successful, so [Karel] decided to add a thermistor to his oven.

There was a problem with placing this thermistor near the board: solder melts in a reflow oven, so [Karel] needed to figure how to connect the thermistor to the control board outside the oven. The solution was crimping thin copper tubing to the thermistor leads and passing that tube through the wall of the oven. Epoxy was used to avoid an electrical short. A low tech solution, but very effective. After applying some solder paste and going in the oven, this board looks very clean. There are a few solder bridges, but nothing a wick can’t take care of.

[Karel] is now working on an update to the temperature controller that controls the oven over a serial connection. Check out the video of a few temperature cycles after the break.

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One-man SMD assembly line shares a lot of tips about doing it right

Need to use that antiquated hardware that can only be connected via a parallel port? It might take you some time to find a computer that still has one of those, or you could try out this USB to Parallel port converter. It’s not limited to working with printers, as the driver builds a virtual parallel port that you should be able to use for any purpose. But what we’re really interested in here isn’t the converter itself, but the build process. [Henrik Haftmann] posted a three-part series of videos on the assembly process, which you can watch after the break.

The build is mostly surface mount soldering with just a handful of components that need to be hand soldered. The first of his videos shows him stenciling solder paste onto the boards. From what we can see it looks like he built a nice jig for this using scrap pieces of copper-clad which match the thickness of the PCB, and hold it and the stencil securely in place. There’s a bunch of other tips you can glean from the videos, like the image seen above. It’s a clamp that holds the PCB and USB jack together while they are soldered.

If you’re ever thinking of assembling a bunch of boards you should set aside thirty minutes to watch them all.

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Reworking Ball Grid Array circuit board components at home

[Jack Gassett] is developing a new breakout board for an FPGA. The chip comes in a ball grid array (BGA) package which is notoriously difficult to solder reliably. Since he’s still in development, the test boards are being assembled in his basement. Of the first lot of four boards, only one is functional. So he’s setting out to rework the bad boards and we came along for the ride.

To reflow the surface mount components he picked up a cheap pancake griddle. The first thing [Jack] does is to heat up the board for about two minutes, then pluck off the FPGA and the FTDI chips using a vacuum tweezers. Next, the board gets a good cleaning with the help of a flux pen, some solder wick, and a regular soldering iron. Once clean, he hits the pads with solder paste from a syringe and begins the soldering process. BGA packages and the solder paste itself usually have manufacturer recommended time and temperature guidelines. [Jack] is following these profiles using the griddle’s temperature controller knob and the timer on an Android phone. In the video after the break you can see that he adjusts the timing based on gut reaction to what is going on with the solder. After cleaning up some solder bridges on the FTDI chip he tested it again and it works!

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DIY hot air reflow station

Add to you bench tools by building this hot air reflow station. [Tobi] had a difficult time and was getting frustrated with the reflow oven he was building. He ditched that and set out on this project after drawing inspiration from a hot-air pencil project.

Pictured above is the business end of the device. On the right you can see the tubing that delivers air from an aquarium pump. At the center of the probe is a glass tube containing the heating element. A thermocouple is monitored by an ATmega644 to maintain the desired air temperature which can be dialed in on the base unit. This thing can put out air that’s around 500 degrees Celsius which has cause some problems with melted tubing and singed spacers. The final design includes a cover that fits over everything and hopefully provides adequate thermal isolation for the user’s hand.

[Tobi’s] base unit include faceplates for the front and back milled out of copper clad board. This really makes the tool look a bit more trustworthy. He assures us that there is a demonstration video on the way.

Easy to build rig prevents reflow soldering mishaps

reflow_soldering_rig

[Erich aka VK5HSE] performs quite a bit of solder reflow work, but has always been concerned about bumping his circuit boards once the solder has liquified and is ready to be removed from the heat source. He says that removing workpieces from toaster ovens often results in the unintentional jarring of a circuit board full of components sitting on molten solder, and he wanted to find a solution.

Using some off-the shelf components from a local hardware store, he built a rig that fits on top of a hot plate, allowing him to move hot circuit boards away from the heat source in a smooth controlled motion. The rig is pretty simple, not only preventing unwanted workpiece movement, but also making it easy to regulate the amount of time a circuit board is allowed to heat.

He suggests that his design is not absolutely ideal, and that it can easily be improved upon in several ways without adding significant cost to the project.

Heat gun GPU reflow fixes laptop

Solder connections on processors seem to be a very common failure point in modern electronics. Consider the Red Ring of Death (RRoD) on Xbox 360 or the Yellow Light of Death (YLoD) on PlayStation 3. This time around the problem is a malfunctioning Nvidia GPU on an HP Pavilion TX2000 laptop. The video is sometimes a jumbled mess and other times there’s no video at all. If the hardware is older, and the alternative to fixing it is to throw it away, you should try to reflow the solder connections on the chip.

This method uses a heat gun, which we’ve seen repair PCBs in the past. The goal here is to be much less destructive and that’s why the first step is to test out how well your heat gun will melt the solder. Place a chunk of solder on a penny, hold the heat gun one inch above it and record how long it takes the solder to flow. Once you have the timing right, mask off the motherboard (already removed from the case) so that just the chip in question is accessible. Reflow with the same spacing and timing as you did during the penny test. Hopefully once things cool down you’ll have a working laptop or gaming console again.

Skillet reflow controller

Using an electric skillet to reflow surface mount circuit boards is a popular alternate use for those kitchen appliances. The real trick is monitoring and controlling the temperature. [Mechatronics Guy] built his own skillet temperature controller using a thermistor, a solid state relay, and an Arduino.

He was inspired by [Ladyada’s] work which used a servo to adjust the temperature dial on the skillet’s power supply. This started by attaching the thermistor to the bottom of the skillet using JB weld. since this area will be heating up he also attached a terminal block for connecting the feed wires as the heat would melt any solder joints. Those wires travel back to a control box housing the Arduino and solid state relay. To gain finer control over the heating element the relay is switched on and off, resulting in low-frequency Pulse Width Modulation, which should help maintain a consistent temperature better than just turning the temperature dial on the cord.

Pair this up with the vacuum tweezers hack and you’re on your way to a surface mount assembly line. If you want to see this process in action check out this post. It goes from stenciling, to populating, to reflowing in a toaster oven.

[Thanks Rob]