SMT Reflow Soldering Oven: How It Work

Surface Mount Technology (SMT) is a technology of soldering electrical components onto the pre-printed circuit boards. In order to make the whole process possible, SMT reflow soldering oven is usually used. This is a machine that employs high level of technology and bonding principles in its functionality. It is very complex but offers reliability and better alternative in the field of electrical assembly. This comes with advantages such as reduced board cost, controlled manufacturing and assembling process and reduced material handling.

This attaching electronics to PCB requires heating of soldering paste so that it attaches electronics on the pad on solidifying. This requires a complicated and an efficient technique, and there currently better technology to do this than an SMT reflow soldering model.

It all starts by making of solder paste. This is a mixture of small solder particles, flux and some solvent that also work as a cleaning agent. This forms a sticky substance that is used to loosely attach electrical components on to specific points on the circuit board.

SMT soldering ovens are designed with specific zones, stages which numbers to a total of four. It all starts from the preheat zone. In this stage, the melting temperature of the solvent in paste is set. The time/temperature relationship also known as ramp is determined to help control heating in other zones.

This is followed by thermal soak zone where the PCB and its components are exposed to heating at specific temperature for between 60 to 120 seconds to remove paste volatiles. The third stage is reflow zone. At this stage, PCB gets exposed to the maximum possible temperature that is tolerable by all the electronics on it. This is usually set below the liquidus temperature-the temperature above which the electronics get destroyed. At this point, the surface tension at the joints and the joints is reduced, melting the solder and as such bonding the pads and electronics.

The cooling zone is the last phase where controlled cooling is done to avoid thermal shock. This result of this is permanent bonding of the electrical components to PCB ready for use in electronic market after cleaning and testing.

The oven gets heated by ceramic heaters and heat transfer to the assembly points can be through radiation (hot air) or the infrared electromagnetic radiation depending on the machine make. Other technologies of heat transfer are also used.

SMT reflow soldering oven comes with a number of advantages such as simpler and much faster automated assemblies, very small levels of errors in component mounting, high level of production rate (some capable of placing up to 136,000 components per hour), possible to mount components on both side of the PCB, and electrical efficiency.

Electronic assembly just like any other industry is highly competitive. In order to remain a relevant market player, a firm must acquire the latest technology and most efficient production methods. The use of SMT reflow soldering oven is no longer optional in electrical assembly. In addition to higher level of production, efficiency and lower power consumption, the machine guarantees firms future survival and profitability.

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