Electronic – DIY Reflow soldering


This is related to this question.

I'm trying to get started with a DIY reflow soldering station intended for my personal use. I'm planning on starting small and improving the system as time goes on (basically just the unit to begin with and better temperature control as time goes on).

I'm thinking of getting this 1000W hot plate. It has decent reviews and at $20 is pretty cheap, too. I would like the setup to be able to handle lead free solder paste, though I'm not sure if I'll go that route to begin with.

I have 2 questions:
What pros/cons should I consider when choosing between a hot plate/skillet or a toaster oven?

The two I've identified so far are:

  1. for the same rated wattage hot plates/skillets are cheaper (~$20 range vs. ~$30 or higher)
  2. According to Sparkfun toaster ovens might melt plastic parts, though I wonder if this may be due to user error/flawed designs.

My second question is related to temperature and power. The devices I've seen are rated in Watts, not maximum temperature. From what I've read a decent reflow system should be able to reach at least 230-260C if it's intended for lead-free work. However, I'm not sure how this translates into what wattage to be looking for.

Anyone with experience have recommendations on what power ratings I should look into and any other factors I should consider?

Best Answer

I reflow in a Skillet. Most skillets and toaster ovens I have seen go to 350-400 Farenheight, which I don't think is enough for lead free solder.

The real benefit of a skillet is you can watch the parts on the whole PCB as they reflow, so you are not depending as much on your temperature profile being right. You can see the solder paste first turn a grainy/shiny and then shiny. I also use an infrared temperature gun to maintain the right temperature for soaking.

In my case I had to buy a piece of plastic and put bolts in the corners for leveling the skillet. I also had to run a fan on the skillet after reflow because it didn't cool quickly enough.