There are various soldering equipment available in the market. It ranges from the traditional soldering iron, up to the specific automated soldering machines available for wave solder and soldering reflow. All of the soldering equipment is essential for PCB assembly. This article will discuss some of the basic soldering tools that are used by the electronics industry.
Soldering iron, or gun, is the traditional and manual tool for soldering. It is a hand tool that is used by skilled workers, or electronics enthusiasts. It is a manual PCB assembly tool used to connect electronics components to a PCB.
Its common form is the iron, which is handled like a large pen. There are also some instances in which a soldering gun is preferred. Both the iron and the gun are composed of a heated metal tip, a heating element, and an insulated handle.
Common power ratings for electronics and electrical tasks are between 15 to 30 watts. Higher power ratings, though, do not mean higher temperature capacity. It just mean that a higher powered iron can sustain heat longer than a lower one. Soldering irons run at a fixed maximum temperature. If they solder something large, their temperature drops. An iron’s temperature, in this case, might not be enough to melt a soldering lead.
A simple soldering iron has a fixed power rating. A soldering station, or a temperature-controlled soldering iron, on the other hand, can be used to control its output temperature. These advanced soldering equipment have a temperature sensor that controls and maintains the selected temperature. It has LED indicators for display, and selector knobs for controlling the temperature.
Reflow Soldering Oven (or Reflow Oven)
A reflow oven is primarily used to connect surface mounted devices, or SMDs, to a surface-mount technology-type PCB. The technique that uses the oven is called reflow soldering. This PCB assembly technique is used in modern devices like tablets and laptops.
The reflow soldering technique uses soldering pastes to temporarily “glue” the electronics pins, or leads, to the pads of the board. It then uses the oven to “bake” the solid solder, up to the point that it becomes liquid. The reflow part is when the solder flows freely to the solder joints. The board will then undergo cooling, thus, solidifying and fixing the solder joints.
The reflow oven basically has an apparatus that holds the PCB. It also has a conveyor belt for moving the board from different zones, or stages. An oven would not be complete without a heat source and thermometer.
The heating system is used for warming and maintaining the temperature of the solder. To maintain the quality of the soldered joints, an optional nitrogen pump is also used. This is, however, optional. Nitrogen treatment can reduce oxidation, which gradually degrades the joint’s quality over time.
The reflow tool also offers some optional sets of stencils. These stencils are used for specific integrated circuits that contains specific solder patterns of their pins. Without these stencils, the liquefied solder may go settle in unwanted locations. The stencils are, therefore, used to lead the liquid solder into its rightful place.
Wave Soldering Machine
A wave soldering machine is used to solder any type of PCBs in an automated manner. It boasts of many advantages as compared to other PCB assembly techniques like manual soldering, and sometimes even to the reflow oven. Its main usage is for boards that rely on through-hole mounting. They are PCBs where boards are drilled, and components are inserted to those drilled holes.
Wave soldering literally allows a board to “surf” through a “wave” of liquid solder. Same with the reflow oven, the machine also has a mechanism that holds and transports the PCB to go through different stages, or zones.
The wave soldering machine also has a tank that contains the molten solder. It has a pump that makes the wave, various heating systems that warms and maintains the solder temperature, and also sprayers that are used for flux application and board cleaning.
There are various tools that can be used in soldering. Each of the above equipment is essential to soldering, which are very necessary to PCB assembly. A businessman who wants to produce his own electronic devices should understand the tools behind his trade.