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good, inexpensive hot air station?

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Michael J. Noone, Aug 8, 2005.

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  1. Hi - I'm thinking about buying a hot air station. A couple years back I
    spent a good deal of time investigating soldering irons and eventually
    settled on the Hakko 936 as it was fairly inexpensive (just under $100)
    and had the feature set of many much more expensive irons. Now - I'm
    hoping to find a similar hot air station. I've been looking at some of
    the Hakko units and they're all terribly expensive - cheapest I've seen
    so far was about $700 new. Ouch. There are some Chinese Hakko knock-off
    brands that sell similar looking stations for a fraction of the cost
    hopefully this link works:

    http://stores.ebay.com/Madell-Technology_REWORK-STATIONS_W0QQcolZ4QQdirZ1QQftidZ2QQtZkm

    But well, I don't like supporting companies that rip off other
    company's designs, and I highly doubt that they're made with the same
    quality that Hakko's products are made with.

    I have seen some used Hakko hot air stations on Ebay for about $350 or
    so. Is this something that would be bad to buy used? Do any other
    companies make hot air stations worth looking at?

    Lastly I should mention who I am and my interest in such a station. I
    am a third year EE at UIUC. I've recently started working on boards
    that use incredibly tiny chips - the smallest being some DFNs and QFNs
    (leadless .5mm pitch chips - awful little buggers). Though I'm quite
    good with my iron, I think those may be maxing out my capabilities, so
    I think it's time to probabaly look at a more serious soldering
    solution.

    Thanks for your help,

    Michael J. Noone
     
  2. Noone

    Noone Guest

    Try one of the Faux affiliates.

    It was too good a setup :)
     
  3. TheDoc

    TheDoc Guest

    Yeh.. try the politician brand.. hedge.. er no,... bush.. mabe.. LOL
     
  4. mike

    mike Guest

    If the EE lab doesn't have a hot air station, you should lobby them to
    get one.
    You can do a lot of work with a hot plate preheater and a butane pencil
    hot air gun.
    I have a "real" hot air gun, but I never bother to get it out of the drawer.

    I think that if I were contemplating a big purchase, I'd wait for the
    dust to settle on this lead-free stuff and get a station that can do
    lead-free BGAs with vacuum pencil, etc.

    mike

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  5. Richard H.

    Richard H. Guest

    This one works very well - perhaps you can find one used on eBay... I
    use it on 0.5mm LQFP's.
    http://www.zeph.com/pencil.html

    If you have ground planes, you'll find that a pre-heater is nearly
    mandatory. These are pricey, but they work very well, particularly if
    you have parts on the bottom that would interfere with a heating plate.
    http://www.zeph.com/airbathseries.htm
    If you can find one used to meet your budget, highly recommended.

    Richard
     
  6. Dave

    Dave Guest

    One chinese brand is Aoyue. Their stuff is cheap, and in particular the
    nozzle prices are reasonable. Many of the 'name' brands rip you off, and
    then ship stuff that looks remarkably similar to the chinese !

    For me, I've decided that hot air is not the way to go for rework - too many
    problems with uneven heating and stuff being blown out of place ! I've now
    got a far infra red system (Aoyue 710) which is much better behaved, and
    doesn't need nozzles. Looking at it, I don't think that it would be a huge
    job to make one, once you have bought the special infra red lamp - available
    as a spare ...

    Don't try and use any of these systems without a back side pre-heater -
    ideally you want the backside to reach something like (solder melting
    point - 20C), and then the top gun (hot air or infra red) supplies the rest.
    Note also that using a (gel) flux even when removing seems to be a good
    idea - it appears to play some part in transferring the heat around.

    Dave
     
  7. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    The flux helps the solder wet the joint because it eats the oxide(s)
    and exposes clean metal. :)

    Cheers!
    Rich
     
  8. Flux improves solder joints by

    A. Cleaning the metal
    B. Improving heat transfer
    C. Protecting the hot joint from oxidation

    When I took my Navy soldering class, the correct answer was D: All of the
    above.
     
  9. So I'd have to get a back side pre heater (something I've never even
    heard of) in addition to the hot air station? This is starting to sound
    really expensive.

    All I want to do is be able to solder really nasty little parts (IE
    QFNs and DFNs). Is this not the correct route for me to take? Any other
    good methods for soldering teeny chips like these?

    Thanks,

    -Michael
     
  10. I've seen a couple old Wellers at the EE labs that I currently have
    access to (read: not many). I'll ask around when I get back on campus
    though (3 weeks) - maybe they're just in hiding or something, though I
    doubt it. For some reason everything they do here (at least that I've
    seen) is with through hole parts. Bleh.

    -Michael
     
  11. Ben Bradley

    Ben Bradley Guest

    Years ago I bought a hot-air gun at Home Depot for about $50. I've
    wondered about putting separate variable controls on the fan and the
    heating element, along with a few other details such as
    thermocouple-type sensors and a microcontroller, if it could be used
    for SMT work/rework. This would make a good Circuit Cellar article -
    there was just one discussed using a small toaster oven for SMT work.

    I have a hard time understanding why these SMT "rework stations"
    are so expensive.
     
  12. Michael,

    Even buying used stuff off eBay, getting set up with a hot air station and a
    preheater will likely cost you $500-1000.
     
  13. Richard H.

    Richard H. Guest

    I think the air stations are designed only to add the incremental amount
    of heat needed to melt the solder, not bring it up from room
    temperature. I'm not sure you'd have good results using an air pencil
    without a pre-heater.

    And if your work involves ground planes, without a pre-heater you will
    have a hard time even with a big iron. A via or pad connected to the
    plane will sink an awful lot of heat, requiring more heat on the joint
    than the chip is rated, and making it very difficult to get a nice joint.
    The toaster oven method is quite popular, since it tackles all sorts of
    parts for a much lower cost. A lot of folks have had good results with
    it, some even doing BGA parts, which is really impressive. There have
    been threads here recently that discussed the technique, articles, and
    websites.

    Richard
     
  14. Dave

    Dave Guest

    As an example of what you can buy in the UK - and presumably elsewhere - see
    http://shop.jabsplace.co.uk/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=5&zenid=70d24716efac53a5784a8cb0d78a7986

    The requirement for back heater is not very demanding - in the past I have
    used a variable temperature heat gun (as used for heat shrink), and also a
    domestic oven ...

    You may well get away with a kludged solution - you have to balance possible
    damage to devices and board against spending money on tools that you will
    almost certainly use again.

    The trend towards SMD and things like BGA seems inexorable - and, if you
    want to play that game, you need the tools !

    Dave
     
  15. Maybe too expensive. I do not know the brand. If it is industrial equipment
    to begin with, it will last forever, so used is fine.

    A real, physical, auction site is a better place to buy used equipment, if
    the price is important and one has the time.

    The problem with internet auctions like eBay is that it is easy to
    manipulate the bid by having friend bidding up to your target price. If
    friend should overreach and end up winning the auction, he does not have to
    buy from you after all because that part is a private agreement.

    At a physical auction, friend (or you) would end up having to pay for the
    goods, a percentage for the auction house and sales tax on the lot. That
    makes the crowd more honest - (although it happens that someone will place
    an opening bid on ones own stuff to push the price a bit higher, risking a
    25% loss of course in buying the stuff back. That is a good way to dispose
    of PC's for. ex).

    The people buying there are professionals that will not pay more that maybe
    15-20% of what they can sell for (unless they already have a buyer) because
    they know the odds are that a large part of the purchases turns out to be
    shite, that will have to be disposed off. So you, as a one-off-buyer get a
    better price.
     
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