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Preheater for hand soldering

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Preheater for hand soldering | 20 February, 2013

I'm looking for a preheater for hand soldering, but haven't used one before so I could use some advice. Does anyone have any preferred styles or brands? Is there anything in particular that I should either look for or should avoid? I've seen prices ranging from a couple hundred to couple thousand dollars. I'd prefer something on the lower end, but also want to make sure it will do the job.

I'll be using this to help with hand soldering either on boards with large ground planes or when using HMP solder. Typical boards will be no more than 6"-8" on a side.

Thank you.


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Preheater for hand soldering | 20 February, 2013

Depending on your requirements, you could range from a hair dryer, heat gun, toaster oven, hot plate, on up to digitally controlled surfaces and convective systems. You'll have to gauge for yourself whether you are just trying to add some heat energy and speed up the soldering, or whether you have a higher aspiration, such as overall surface temp control due to heavy ground planes, or a target of 100% fill of through hole barrels...etc.

In a simplistic way, $$ will equal temp control, the very best preheating (more $$) should have some sort of closed loop to monitor and maintain the temperature. On the low end, a hot plate with a fixture might suffice.

You can use a thermocouple to get your board temp setup close enough. (For example, I might discover that setting the hot plate at 5 of 10, 90C can be achieved and maintained on the board after 2 minutes.) One of those situations where I have seen miracles done with little $$, and have also seen lots of $$ used to achieve unsatisfactory results.

Lots of room for your own input and ideas, as you can see.

For our hand Soldering preheating, 90% of the time we use heat guns, on stands that limit how close the heat gun is to the board, and thus the ultimate temperature available at the PWB.

Good luck, there should be a lot of opinion on this.


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Preheater for hand soldering | 21 February, 2013

Thank you for the advice Hegemon. I agree that there is a wide range of options available. I'm looking for something that can give me some repeatable surface temp control, is easy to work with, and has at least decent build quality. I don't necessarily need closed loop control, but it would be a bonus.

I was thinking of something a step or two above a heat gun on a stand, but it's good to know that that is an effective technique.

I'm not sure if you or others would be able to offer your thoughts on specific products, but I'm considering the ones below. Any thoughts on the style, brand, etc would be useful. The prices largely seem to be driven by brand recognition, but might also be related to build quality. It's hard for me to tell, since I haven't used any of them before.

Thank you again!


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Preheater for hand soldering | 21 February, 2013

We had the same problem with one of our boards with ground planes so that it required preheat using a hotplate before hand soldering. Then I learned about the Metcal MX-5000 series soldering irons. I was skeptical at first but we can now solder the same boards without any preheat at all. This iron running at 700 deg. outperforms TWO other irons at 850 deg. (you can get higher or lower temp tips). With so much positive feedback from our assemblers, I'm a believer now. They won't let me take these irons away! Ask your local Metcal rep to come in and demo the MX-5000 on your toughest boards and see what you think. Hopefully you can eliminate the whole hassle of preheating altogether.

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Preheater for hand soldering | 21 February, 2013

My own preference in this arena is towards the forced air convection style preheat, the key being the forced air. Radiant preheat is too slow for some, and IR preheat can have other issues that convection (or radiant) will not.

Zephyrtronics has been building that same simple forced air unit for decades, and from experience they are quite efficient, and long lived. From the sound of your requirements, it might be a good fit.

I see postings on powerful soldering irons that are purported to eliminate the need for preheating, and the high mass tips do help, but I have concern with applying that much heat and capacity to the board thorugh a single point, to the through hole part itself, the PWB barrels, etc... IMHO stick with preheating, and maintaining the targeted preheat temperature throughout the soldering process.

I receive no benefit from any company listed in this post. 'hege

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Preheater for hand soldering | 22 February, 2013

Thank you for the advice. I have the same concerns with applying that much heat from a single point, so I will probably go with a Zephyrtronics preheater.


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Preheater for hand soldering - GET REAL!!! | 24 February, 2013

Aw, spare me!!! You guys have too much money to spend.

Go to Walmart, KMart, where eva. Buy a electric fry pan griddle thing. Plug that suka in. Turn up the heat. Cook some boards, components [grilled cheese sammy??]. Get to work doing what eva. Live well. Live long.

I receive no benefit from the manufacturer of the device pictured below. Nor does this model offer any perceived benefit over other similar models. It was selected for inclusion here because it was the first one that came up on Google.

BR, davef


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Preheater for hand soldering - GET REAL!!! | 25 March, 2013

Thats a good one Dave. Sorry to say, but I have seen setups very similar for the mass repair of Playstations. Just add a heat gun over the top and you are ready for some rework! . And just LOOK at the controller! With E-Z turn knurled knob for setting those pesky "offsets" !

LOL you made my day. 'hege

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