an up-close of the PCB hotplate

Using A PCB To Reflow PCBs – Take 2!

It’s not too hard to make your electronics project get warm. Design your traces too small, accidentally short the battery inputs together, maybe reverse the voltage going to your MCU. We’ve all cooked a part or two over the years. But what about making a PCB that gets hot on purpose? That’s exactly what [Carl Bugeja] did in his second revision of a PCB hot plate, designed to reflow other PCBs.

[Carl’s] first attempt at making a hot plate yielded lukewarm results. The board, which was a single snaking trace on the top of an aluminum substrate, did heat up as it was supposed to. However, the thin substrate led to the hot plate massively warping as it heated up, reducing the contact against the boards being soldered. On top of that, the resistance was much greater than expected, resulting in much lower heat output.

The new revision of the board is on a thicker substrate with much thicker traces, reducing the resistance from 36 ohms on the previous design to just 1 ohm. The thicker substrate, paired with a newer design with fewer slots, made for a much sturdier surface that did not bend as it was heated.

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Iron Becomes SMD Hot Plate

Few things have changed our workshops more than surface mount components. In 1980 it would have been strange to see a hobby bench with a microscope, hot air equipment, tweezers, and all the other accouterments that are a necessity today. [Electronoobs] wanted a reflow hot plate and decided that he could repurpose a consumer laundry iron for the job. You can see the results in the video below.

Opening the iron revealed surprisingly simple circuitry, so the build has some additional parts along with a controller and an LCD, of course. The power requirement for the heating element is significant — 13 amps — so the plate uses a solid state relay to turn things on and off.

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