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'[EE] SMT Equipment Advice and Experience'
2007\11\15@112409 by DSELEC

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My company is soon to receive an order to populate a series of prototype
PIC-based circuit boards with about 120 SMT components, some with very fine
pitch (ssop and tsop) packages.

I are currently upgrading lab facilities to handle this type of work and
would appreciate some advice on appropriate boom microscopes and soldering
equipment.

What item or tool have you found indispensable for doing high quality SMT
work?

Any particular fluxes/adhesives to recommend or avoid?

Thanks in advance!

Dave Siegel
Radex Electronics
http://www.radexelectronics.com

2007\11\15@120258 by PAUL James

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Dave,

I don't do very much production SMT work here, but I do build prototypes
and proof of concept units in my lab.
As far as soldering equipment goes, we aren't very sophiscated.  We have
a couple of Weller Temperature controlled
Soldering irons (soldering stations) that we use, as well as a PACE MBT
system.    

We also have a couple of illuminated magnifiers for quick soldering
jobs, and quick inspection.

But our most valuable tool is an OC White "Inspector"  Superscope 2000.
Ths is a video microscope with a large depth
Of field so we can actually work under it while it is in use.  The mag
range is ~4X to ~40X.  Once it is focused, you
can zoom between the two extremes and stay in focus all the way.   This
is an indespensible tool.   I believe the cost
was about 6K USD when we got it about 2-3 years ago, and outfitted the
way we have it outfitted.   If you're interested,
I can put you in touch with the rep we used to get ours.   Just let me
know if you are.  
Here is the link to the mfg.....
http://www.ocwhite.com/html/superscope.html

And as an FYI, I don't hand solder anything usually smaller than 0603.
Ocassionally I will hand solder an 0402 part,
but that is about the limit as our soldering tips are too big to hit
only the pad, so they transfer too much heat to the part.
This can cause delamination and other problems down the road.   It's
better if we let out contract mfg do the production
SMD work.

Hope this helps.




       
Regards,

       
Jim




{Original Message removed}

2007\11\15@132033 by Vasile Surducan

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On 11/15/07, DSELEC <spam_OUTdselecTakeThisOuTspamcomcast.net> wrote:
> My company is soon to receive an order to populate a series of prototype
> PIC-based circuit boards with about 120 SMT components, some with very fine
> pitch (ssop and tsop) packages.
>
> I are currently upgrading lab facilities to handle this type of work and
> would appreciate some advice on appropriate boom microscopes and soldering
> equipment.
>
> What item or tool have you found indispensable for doing high quality SMT
> work?

Your eyes from 20.

2007\11\15@160404 by Dave Lagzdin

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On 15/11/2007, Vasile Surducan <.....piclist9KILLspamspam@spam@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> >
> > What item or tool have you found indispensable for doing high quality
> SMT
> > work?
>
> Your eyes from 20.
> --
>

AMEN

2007\11\15@171312 by M. Adam Davis

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For prototype hand builds I'd use a stereo zoom sciencescope, a
variable heat weller with a very small tip, solder paste with a
needle, a flux pen, an exacto knife, tweezers, and a straight probe
(sharp metal rod).  Everyone has their preference, but I found that a
waterless soldering iron 'sponge' works best - looks like a brillo
pad, and I've never had to tin my tip since starting to use one,
although I also store the iron with a blob of solder on the tip, so I
suppose you could say I tin it every time I turn it off..

I was doing 0402 parts with 0.4mm pitch SMT with this setup, and did
fine.  I have a video somewhere of a time lapse build that shows how I
used these tools.  Let me know if it is of any interest.

To do a big build I'd prefer a solder stencil and an oven, even if
placement is done by hand.

-Adam

On Nov 15, 2007 11:23 AM, DSELEC <dselecspamKILLspamcomcast.net> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

> -

2007\11\15@171412 by M. Adam Davis

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Oh, and solder wick, with a pair of forceps to hold the wick.

-Adam

On Nov 15, 2007 5:13 PM, M. Adam Davis <.....stienmanKILLspamspam.....gmail.com> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2007\11\15@174216 by Vasile Surducan

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I knew the forceps is for taking out the baby, if he/she don't want to come...

On 11/15/07, M. Adam Davis <stienmanspamspam_OUTgmail.com> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

>

2007\11\15@190407 by Vitaliy

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M. Adam Davis wrote:
> For prototype hand builds I'd use a stereo zoom sciencescope, a
> variable heat weller with a very small tip, solder paste with a
> needle, a flux pen, an exacto knife, tweezers, and a straight probe
> (sharp metal rod).  Everyone has their preference, but I found that a
> waterless soldering iron 'sponge' works best - looks like a brillo
> pad, and I've never had to tin my tip since starting to use one,
> although I also store the iron with a blob of solder on the tip, so I
> suppose you could say I tin it every time I turn it off..
>
> I was doing 0402 parts with 0.4mm pitch SMT with this setup, and did
> fine.  I have a video somewhere of a time lapse build that shows how I
> used these tools.  Let me know if it is of any interest.
>
> To do a big build I'd prefer a solder stencil and an oven, even if
> placement is done by hand.

It's been a while since we did any SMDs by hand (at least not since 2005).
For anything above 50 components, I'd say "bake it". A good toaster oven is
your friend, and a stencil is not necessary -- use a small syringe to
dispense the paste.

<<www.seattlerobotics.org/encoder/200006/oven_art.htm>>
<<http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/present.php?p=Reflow%20Skillet>>

-->By the way, the Sparkfun article is dated. They're using a nice
production type reflow oven for their stuff now (not the Madell shown in the
picture, but one with an actual belt). Nathan did say that they use the
skillet occasionally, for protos.

I mentioned that we had a problem with smelly RoHS solder paste recently. We
found that using a different type of paste (different resin) solves the
problem almost completely. Having a nice temp control unit helps too, and
we're planning to install a HEPA filter to bring the smell even closer to
zero.

Vitaliy

2007\11\15@221653 by Dwayne Reid

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In no particular order:

Metcal soldering system with sttc-125 & sttc-126 tips

Vision Engineering Mantis or Dynascope stereo microscope.  We have an
older TS4 (zoom to 40X) which is invaluable.

Lead-based solder if you can.

Liquid flux (rosin or water-soluble, depending what your solder uses)

Fresh solder wick.  Make sure its fresh - stale solder wick is just awful.

Good quality tweezers.  Spend way more money than you would ever
think such things are worth ($10 or so) 'cuz the cheap tweezers just
don't work.


Nice-To-Have:

Metcal Talon system with tatc-601 tips (used for removing incorrect
or damaged resistors & capacitors).

Various SOIC and blade tips for the Metcal station.


I've probably left out some major items but the above list pretty
much describes what we use for our prototype and repair stuff.

dwayne


At 09:23 AM 11/15/2007, DSELEC wrote:
>My company is soon to receive an order to populate a series of prototype
>PIC-based circuit boards with about 120 SMT components, some with very fine
>pitch (ssop and tsop) packages.


--
Dwayne Reid   <RemoveMEdwaynerTakeThisOuTspamplanet.eon.net>
Trinity Electronics Systems Ltd    Edmonton, AB, CANADA
(780) 489-3199 voice          (780) 487-6397 fax
http://www.trinity-electronics.com
Custom Electronics Design and Manufacturing

2007\11\16@001918 by M. Adam Davis

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The videos are here:
http://www.ubasics.com/build/index.html

I messed up the time capture - instead of every 2 seconds it's one
image a minute, so it's pretty quick with not too much insight into
what I'm doing.  But it was fun to make, and perhaps one of these days
I'll go through the 3GB of images captured from a later build at the
desired 2 seconds per image.

For the curious (now that it's out) this was the USB Card Reader:
http://rabbit.com/products/usb_card_reader/index.shtml

It was the only Rabbit product I designed that actually made it - the
other 3 died in infancy or are, last I heard, on hold.  Fun times...

-Adam

On Nov 15, 2007 5:13 PM, M. Adam Davis <spamBeGonestienmanspamBeGonespamgmail.com> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2007\11\16@100508 by Peter Todd

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On Thu, Nov 15, 2007 at 05:02:10PM -0700, Vitaliy wrote:
> -->By the way, the Sparkfun article is dated. They're using a nice
> production type reflow oven for their stuff now (not the Madell shown in the
> picture, but one with an actual belt). Nathan did say that they use the
> skillet occasionally, for protos.

Do you know what they use to place the parts?

They sell sparkfun branded things with BGA's and QFN's on them...

- --
http://petertodd.org
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2007\11\17@132333 by Vitaliy

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Peter Todd wrote:
>> -->By the way, the Sparkfun article is dated. They're using a nice
>> production type reflow oven for their stuff now (not the Madell shown in
>> the
>> picture, but one with an actual belt). Nathan did say that they use the
>> skillet occasionally, for protos.
>
> Do you know what they use to place the parts?
>
> They sell sparkfun branded things with BGA's and QFN's on them...

They have a pick-n-place machine, so I assume that's what they use.

Earlier that day I also visited Advanced Assembly (a shop about one mile
west of Advanced Circuits), and was told that companies that do their own
assembly often ask AA to populate their BGAs.

Vitaliy

2007\11\17@151430 by Peter Todd

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On Sat, Nov 17, 2007 at 11:20:54AM -0700, Vitaliy wrote:
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Ahh, too bad. I've seen some pretty impressive soldering tutorials from
them, but I guess bga's are too much for even the wizards.

Then again, you know, I've got a pick-n-place machine. It's just called
a sherline cnc mill. I should get some BGA practice boards sometime and
start experiemnting; there's two interesting videos on youtube I
recently found of a guy using such a mill to do pick-n-place and solder
paste dispensing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__dEMKzkLYc <- homebrew pick-n-place
machine

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdqVt0jCBHk <- homebrew solder paste
dispenser

> Earlier that day I also visited Advanced Assembly (a shop about one mile
> west of Advanced Circuits), and was told that companies that do their own
> assembly often ask AA to populate their BGAs.

Just did some online quotes with those guys... ~$50 a board minimum?
That's it? The $185 one board wonder looks pretty good too.

It says to do a one off of a board with 800 parts would be ~$300

That's way cheaper than I was expected, even I can afford that.

- --
http://petertodd.org
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2007\11\18@183221 by peter green

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> Earlier that day I also visited Advanced Assembly (a shop about one mile
> west of Advanced Circuits), and was told that companies that do their own
> assembly often ask AA to populate their BGAs.
>
>  
IIRC the big problem with BGAs is it is virtualy impossible to inspect
them properly without x-raying the board using very expensive equipment.

2007\11\25@022226 by Vitaliy

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Peter Todd wrote:
>> They have a pick-n-place machine, so I assume that's what they use.
>
> Ahh, too bad. I've seen some pretty impressive soldering tutorials from
> them, but I guess bga's are too much for even the wizards.

Yeah.

I was really impressed by what I saw at Sparkfun. I certainly did not expect
the company to occupy an entire floor of an office building, employ 30
people, or own industrial-grade equipment. I was fooled by the tutorials
Nathan put together in 2004 -- they made it sound as if Sparkfun still used
the $20 hot plate to build their circuits. But the biggest surprise to me,
was the founder's age. :)

> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__dEMKzkLYc <- homebrew pick-n-place
> machine

Eeeek!... It's like watching the real thing at 1/1000 framerate, with
Robocop sound effects.

> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdqVt0jCBHk <- homebrew solder paste
> dispenser

I can apply the paste twice as fast, by hand. Seriously. I know a guy who
can do it four times as fast. And if you ever need to do it on a
semi-industrial scale, use a stencil! :)  Sparkfun's website has a link to a
company that can make you a plastic one for $30 + $1/sq. in.

> Just did some online quotes with those guys... ~$50 a board minimum?
> That's it? The $185 one board wonder looks pretty good too.
>
> It says to do a one off of a board with 800 parts would be ~$300
>
> That's way cheaper than I was expected, even I can afford that.

Yup, rapid assembly of low volume prototypes is their market niche. By the
way, many of AA's employees (IIRC, at least one of the founders as well)
transferred there from AC.

We used them only once: back in 2005 they built us 10 prototypes of a double
sided mixed SMT/PTH board, for roughly $500 (we supplied the parts and the
bare PCBs).

Vitaliy


2007\11\25@221502 by Peter Todd

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On Sun, Nov 25, 2007 at 12:21:38AM -0700, Vitaliy wrote:
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He's younger than me isn't he?

Damn, what am I doing with my life... :)

> > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__dEMKzkLYc <- homebrew pick-n-place
> > machine
>
> Eeeek!... It's like watching the real thing at 1/1000 framerate, with
> Robocop sound effects.

I think those mini-cncs in general are like watching the real thing at
1/1000 framerate, with Robocop sound effects...


This benchtop pick-n-place is kinda interesting though:

http://www.stencilsunlimited.com/product_info.php?products_id=188&osCsid=95eac1eb287f92f2b8eddd648413f213

Notice how it says it's stepper-based? The accessories, especially the
strip-style parts feeders would be pretty easy to build:

http://www.stencilsunlimited.com/images/aps/pick_and_place_L-SS-8.jpg

Mechanically the whole thing is simple due to the low forces involved,
not much metal in it basically, it could be all done as a set of
accessories to a mill.

For part placement I think the best thing to do would be use a simple
camera and some machine vision software. The price of a usb-connected
macro webcam can't be that bad, and an optical mouse might even suffice.
That "alignment well" was cool, but...

> > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdqVt0jCBHk <- homebrew solder paste
> > dispenser
>
> I can apply the paste twice as fast, by hand. Seriously. I know a guy who
> can do it four times as fast. And if you ever need to do it on a
> semi-industrial scale, use a stencil! :)  Sparkfun's website has a link to a
> company that can make you a plastic one for $30 + $1/sq. in.

You're totally right of course, but at least the homebrew one can be
left alone for a few hours rather than waiting a few days for a stencil
to arrive.

{Quote hidden}

I remember there being some sort of partnership between them when I
first heard about AA. Is that over now?


You didn't by chance get a peak at their pick-n-place machines? I'm very
curious how exactly does the loose-feeding system work. I'm assuming
it's some sort of machine vision system myself for the truly loose
stuff, or a bunch of vibratory small part handling tooling.

Let me guess though, it's a trade secret locked away behind armed
guards? :)

> We used them only once: back in 2005 they built us 10 prototypes of a double
> sided mixed SMT/PTH board, for roughly $500 (we supplied the parts and the
> bare PCBs).

Not bad. I'll probably try them out for my upcoming t-12h project, which
will have 800 PLCC-4 leds on a 7 inch by 7 inch board. Hand soldering
would likely only take a few hours, but given that the leds alone are
going to cost about $300 another $300 for someone else to assemble it is
something I think I can convince the buyer to go for.

- --
http://petertodd.org
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2007\11\26@072456 by Apptech

face
flavicon
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> Not bad. I'll probably try them out for my upcoming t-12h
> project, which
> will have 800 PLCC-4 leds on a 7 inch by 7 inch board.
> Hand soldering
> would likely only take a few hours, but given that the
> leds alone are
> going to cost about $300 another $300 for someone else to
> assemble it is
> something I think I can convince the buyer to go for.

Or have them hand soldered in China for 10% of that :-)


       Russell


2007\11\26@083056 by Djula Djarmati

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Yes, that's very true, we would charge $40 for that job in Serbia (but
using stencil and pick&place). If you are making only one then $300 is
reasonable (for US).

Djula

Apptech wrote:
{Quote hidden}


'[EE] SMT Equipment Advice and Experience'
2007\12\04@030709 by Vitaliy
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Peter Todd wrote:
> But the biggest surprise to me,
>> was the founder's age. :)
>
> He's younger than me isn't he?

No, he is four years your elder.

> Damn, what am I doing with my life... :)

IMO, we all get this feeling sometimes. In fact, I got it just a short while
ago, while looking through your website and the resume. I am a few years
older than you, but slightly younger than Nathan.

Nathan is a very smart businessman. The thing that impressed me most is
that, unlike the majority of small business owners, he seems to have a very
balanced approach to work. Forty hour workweek, with plenty of time to work
on interesting projects, while sipping beer. One gets the illusion that the
company runs itself, and it's probably not far from the truth -- but it
takes a management genius to set it up to work this way.

Nathan's company stands in a stark contrast to another company I visited in
California, where the owner is running the company pretty much by himself,
and as a result ends up working crazy hours.

I think I'm somewhere in the middle. :)

>> Yup, rapid assembly of low volume prototypes is their market niche. By
>> the
>> way, many of AA's employees (IIRC, at least one of the founders as well)
>> transferred there from AC.
>
> I remember there being some sort of partnership between them when I
> first heard about AA. Is that over now?

I think AC used to put AA's flyers in the box with the PCBs, kind of like
what Amazon does for their advertizers. They're in direct competition now.
:) AC has its own small proto assembly area now. It's right next to the
pallet of popcorn.

> You didn't by chance get a peak at their pick-n-place machines? I'm very
> curious how exactly does the loose-feeding system work. I'm assuming
> it's some sort of machine vision system myself for the truly loose
> stuff, or a bunch of vibratory small part handling tooling.

Sorry Peter, it's a lot more trivial than that. :) The loose parts are put
in special trays, then fed to the machines.

> Let me guess though, it's a trade secret locked away behind armed
> guards? :)

No, it's quite the opposite. I was given a full tour of the facility, and
the folks there were very nice. They seemed quite busy, sales must be good.

> Not bad. I'll probably try them out for my upcoming t-12h project, which
> will have 800 PLCC-4 leds on a 7 inch by 7 inch board. Hand soldering
> would likely only take a few hours, but given that the leds alone are
> going to cost about $300 another $300 for someone else to assemble it is
> something I think I can convince the buyer to go for.

We're finally getting to the point where it's becoming cost effective to do
prototypes and short runs in-house.The way to reach this goal, is to have
people without engineering degrees do the work. ;)

AA exists for situations where you're in a crunch, resource- and time-wise.
Plus of course the quality is better, compared to hand soldering.

Vitaliy

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