Wave Solder - Small production - Opinion| 27 October, 2007
We do very little wave soldering, maybe once a week. We have been running a Novastar Spartan 8S for years with very good results. I do wish we had the wider 12S for the wider boards, but it has only come up once in 7 years.
I think there is a lot to be said for running a small wave solder machine like this. With less flux and solder you can keep the machine very clean with fresh flux and solder, much easier than a large machine. Heat up time is minimal and with little pot contamination due to the small pot and fresh solder, the solder joints are great.
But to your point on complex boards, we really have not run anything too complex.
These machines are around on the used market as well, often with very little use.
Wave Solder - Small production - Opinion| 31 October, 2007
Small waves are fine, biggest problem is the little to no preheat length. This is reason that complex boards cannot be soldered without defects. They also do not handle thick PCBas very well either because of same issue. Most of these "benchtops" have very short laminar flow wave nozzles as well that can induce bridging when the leads are longer than about .1 or so.
They work good for getting the majority of your solder joints formed but they will never perform at the level of a grown up machine.
ATF in Germany had some decent units that may fit the bill for you. They are basically electroverts that are downsized. Electrovert parts are used in many areas which is a plus in my opinion.