Electronic – Need recommendation for a first hot air station


I have a pretty nice soldering station, but now that I am finding the need to work with non-DIP type packages unpreventable, I am beginning to think that purchasing a hot air station would be a good idea. I know shopping questions are not allowed (though links to recommended products would be appreciated), but what I really want to know about is the kind of specifications that I should be looking for when searching for an appropriate station.

I won't be using the hot air station too much (maybe once a month), mostly to solder SMD components. I have some QFN chips which I would like to solder as well.

Any recommendations/tips?

Best Answer

A few basic things I would like a hot-air rework station to have:

  1. A min temperature range of ~100C. This allows you to use the gun for heat shrink.
  2. A max temperature of at least ~350C, though higher is better (within reason, of course). I think most low-end hot-air rework stations are spec'd at ~450-550C max, but don't quote me on this.
  3. have the ability to change out nozzles, in particular smaller nozzles for focusing the air stream and larger nozzles if you need to soak a region (say a large BGA package or a packages with large exposed pad heat sinks).
  4. Some temperature regulation. It doesn't have to be too precise since it's dependant on air flow and distance of gun from the target, but I would imagine better than 10C accuracy is good. You can probably even get away with less accurate temperatures.
  5. Adjustable air speed. It's no good if your gun blows all your small SMD parts away, or doesn't have the oomph to transfer enough hot air to the target.

Other bonus features:

A. "Auto-shutdown" which will automatically powerdown the unit if you place the gun back into the holder.

B. Some units have a cooldown before shutdown feature which will turn the heater element off but leave the fan on until the temperature drops below a certain temperature. I believe the theory is that this will extend the life of the heating element.

You can check out Dave Jone's EEVlog #167 for a review of the Atten 858D+. He explains the basics of what a usable gun should have.