Reflow ovens
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Reflow ovens

by flounder on Wed Mar 25, 2020 10:50 pm

I was following the discussion of reflow ovens, but by the time I got to the end, there was no "Reply" button shown. So I'm starting a new thread.

For reflow ovens, the tradeoff is between money and time. If you are starting out, don't have money, and have lots of time, then you can build your own. I'm at a different point in my life. I decided that the time I have I want to spend build things, not building the tools to build things. So I chose the T962A reflow oven. I had used one at TechShop during its brief existence, and losing access to it was, to me, one of the many tragedies of that closing. So I went looking for one, and found that the typical prices were under US$200 (the one I bought was US$168). The problem is that it is nominally not worth even that much. For example, it was built using masking tape, which results in a horrid smell (I am told) until it is fully "baked off". It was baked off by the time I got to use the oven, so I never noticed this. But it has many other problems, and I was advised against getting one. However, I was also pointed to ES Technical (https://www.estechnical.co.uk/t962a-ref ... de-package). This $230 package contains several improvements, including Kapton tape to replace the masking tape. It includes new software, better sensors, a replacement display, and numerous small features that make the oven a lot more credible. So the entire cost was about $400. To me, this was a worthwhile tradeoff of money vs. my time. Instead of the four profiles the basic oven comes with, the upgrade supports 32 profiles, and they are easier to edit. So far, I have been happy with the results. So if you are a hobbyist whose dollar budget exceeds your time budget, this seems to be a good choice. It gave me a semi-pro quality product within my budget.

Note that if you followed Adafruit closely, they have videos of their first reflow device, a frying pan with an open-loop temperature control. So you don't need lots of money to get a functional reflow oven; I just chose something within my budget as a hobbyist.

I was advised by my (then-12-year-old) student that not having a stencil made it much harder for him to make his first SMT board (at age 10), and the cost of stencils was worth it. There are now inexpensive stencil vendors, for the size of boards I work with (my own FeatherWings, these days). I also sprang for a low-temperature (138°C) lead-free solder paste; for as little as I need, the additional cost is irrelevant.

So for those of you embarking on your own PCB fab line, good luck in your ventures. And, in the words of the Roman philosopher Seneca, "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity".

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Re: Reflow ovens

by cking0704 on Sun Mar 29, 2020 9:10 am

Good information. I’ve been considering building my own.

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Joined: Wed Mar 25, 2020 8:09 am

Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.