Looking At The Reflow Soldering Oven

By Marci Glover

Everything you purchase today that is electronic uses circuit boards to keep them running. How these circuit boards are made demands use of complicated specialty equipment designed specifically for making the components for tablets, smart phones and virtually every other electronic devise available. One of the machines needed to create these mobile connections and ensure they work is the reflow soldering oven.

This machine is used to permanently solder two flat components together. The process uses a powdered solder mixture that is placed at critical locations on the board and circuits to be soldered. The prepared board is then heated to the point of melting the solder to permanently affix the two components together. There are four stages in conventional processing typically called zones.

The beginning zone is called a preheat period. As the name implies it serves to find the proper temperature needed to complete the task. The ramp up rate is important because if the temperature is too hot or too cold it will create problems with the finished product. When the heat rises too fast or too high it can cause solder to crack or spatter and too low or slow can create problems with the melting process of solder leaving it dull or brittle.

A thermal soak zone is next in the process. This soak usually lasts no longer than two minutes and is designed to remove paste volatiles and activate the flux components to begin oxide reduction on leads and pads of circuits. Again the temperature must be precise to prevent spattering or balling of solder from heat that is too high. When the soak is complete a thermal assessment of the entire board is required before it moves to the next zone.

Next is the reflow zone. This is one of the most sensitive zones in the process. It is when the highest temperatures will be used on the board. Every piece has a temperature where the most fragile component is damaged by heat. If this temperature is surpassed thermal damage will occur making the piece non-functional. Operators must closely monitor the process to ensure this does not happen.

Finally the cool down zone where the board gradually cools allowing solder to solidify. Although not as critical as the ramp up process an appropriate cooling process can also help prevent damage to the boards. Specialists recommend a rate of under five degrees per second for cool down.

Most equipment used in this process allows the operator to see what is happening inside the closed unit. Some are equipped with viewing windows and others can be attached to a screen using a USB connection. This viewing allows the operator to adjust the temperatures while monitoring the progress of each board.

These ovens make it possible for you to enjoy the technical electrical gadgets that make life easier. As the technology advances they will become more streamlined and advanced to keep pace.

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