After recently working with reflow ovens and reflow units I thought i'd touch on a couple of DIY or extremley cheap versions.
Don't get me wrong, if you are having to solder hundreds of circuit boards in one go, then open your wallet and pay for an industrial unit, try and stay away from the Chinese import versions which although work, give you no guarantee on temperatures, both heating and cooling times, and also no warranty 🙁
An industrial oven is going to set you back somewhere in the region of £3000 but is probably worth it if soldering is your job… If you are just a hobbyist or simply don't have the money to spend on an industrial unit, then it is worth considering some of these cheaper although somewhat less precise options..
A Reflow oven is usually used in one of two ways, either to remove components or more commonly to solder BGA components onto a PCB, they work by heating the PCB to a specified temperature depending on the PCB or components being installed. They are usually expensive and not something your average DIYer can afford.
There is a cheaper somewhat less elegant solution though, by hacking a standard oven you can precisely control the temperature allowing you to solder tricky components at home. Components which would otherwise be impossible. By creating a PIC controller you can get these ovens to successfully emulate professional reflow ovens, in particular the heat conditioning process which brings the entire board and components to optimal soldering temperature and also control fans which cool everything evenly without causing any breaks in the soldering joints.
If you want to find out more about this process then check out the following links….
Paint Stripping Gun
Using a paint stripper is a quick and dirty solution to get the components you need off a PCB. It is pretty useless at soldering but can be used effectively to remove items. You have to be careful when using on as they can get real hot real quick, and depending on the item you are planning to desolder, it can sometimes damage them.
Be especially careful when using this method to remove heat sensitive components or connectors which are largely made up of plastic. As before, if you want to find out more information about this method then check out the following links….
UChobby.com – Quick and easy way to strip components
Anatek Corporation – Quick text guide on using a paint stripping gun
This method is not as precise as the aforementioned methods, but get the job done and can surprisingly effective if you take your time. With a little tweaking you can solder most BGA surface mount components using this method. Grab yourself a cheap skillet oven from your local hardware store and some solder paste. Then simply paste up your connections and place the PCB on the oven.
You have to keep a constant eye on it to ensure it doesn't get hot and the addition of a digital temperature gauge is probably a good idea. If you want to find out more then check out Sparkfun's website which gives you a full description with photo's on how to effectively use this method, you can go directly to this page by visiting this link http://www.sparkfun.com/tutorial/ReflowToaster/reflow-hotplate.htm