So you're thinking of building a super-widget and wanted to use the latest QFN / MLF (micro lead frame) package parts. But then you actually LOOKED at one, realized how tiny it really is (Picture 1), and decided no way can I solder that! Think again! This instructable will show you how to design and build a circuit using truly tiny SMT devices. Not only will I show you how to build your own Hot Plate Soldering System capable of soldering the tiniest surface mount components using lead-free solder, you will learn to design the footprints, stencil on solder paste, and solder the components. I'll also point you to cheap sources for design software, PC boards, solder paste, and stencils.

This instructable is about two things: How to build and use a Hot Plate Soldering System, and general guidance on how to design circuit boards using surface mount parts. All the information you need for successful surface mount design and construction. Throughout this Instructable, many sources will be cited: like Newton, I truly stand on the shoulders of giants! (That's another way of saying others have already worked most of this out.) What I'll do is explain the methods I've used successfully to build tiny surface mount circuits. The focus is on specifics, not generalities. I believe the method and tools I'll describe are the most economical available which will yield satisfactory results.

So let's get started. Successful design and construction with those Extremely Tiny devices you've been dying to use is just an Instructable away!

UPDATE February 2010: Closed Loop Control has been added! Have a look at this Instructable.

Step 1: Order Parts

Order the parts to build the Hot Plate Soldering System. Here is the Parts List with Digikey Part descriptions and numbers:

Parts for the Pulse Width Regulation Unit: (If you plan to use a Ghetto Development System, then you already have U1.)
U2, U3 IC I2C I/O EXPANDER568-4236-5-ND

Parts for the AC Control Unit:

For the Pulse Width Regulation Unit you'll also need LED1 and LED2, resistors R3 and R4 (470 Ohm), pull-up resistors R1 and R2 (3.3K Ohm) for the I2C bus, and R5 (470 Ohm) between the MOC and the Pulse Width Regulation Unit. These can be from the junk box or Radio Shack and the values aren't real critical. You'll also need some perf board. Get the kind without any metal on it for building the AC Control Unit. One other item is some silicone heat sink grease  also from Radio Shack if you don't have any. Finally, you need S1, a momentary contact push button, and you should have C1, a 10uF cap.
<p>I initially built a box like Figure 13 with a solid state relay like this instead of the SCR circuit. I was able to turn on the SSR which activated the ac outlet which my hot plate plugged into. </p><p>But then decided to embed all my SSR and terminal block inside my hot plate for compactness So, now I have it wired like the attached photo. Before I had the hot and neutral going directly into the ceramic block shown as two lines (red and blue). Now, I have the hot and neutral going to a terminal block and then to the SSR and from the SSR to the ceramic block. But now, when I plug in the hot plate its on all the time w/o nothing hooked up to the digital inputs. </p><p>What am I doing wrong? </p><p><a href="http://image.dhgate.com/albu_216573997_00/1.0x0.jpg" rel="nofollow">http://image.dhgate.com/albu_216573997_00/1.0x0.jp...</a></p>
I can't really tell what your circuit does. What is the &quot;ceramic block&quot;? What does your new circuit look like? Perhaps you could draw a proper diagram of your circuit with some labels. Maybe I could help you then. Sorry. I just don't get it.<br><br>The SSR should break the hot wire. That is, the hot wire from the wall should come in to one pole of the SSR and the other pole should attach to the hot plate. The neutral wire should just connect directly to the hot plate. Then the PWM signal will turn on and off the SSR and hence control the voltage in the hot wire. HTH.
I don't know what the ceramic block does..I think its just a terminal block but not sure what the part in the 3rd set of terminals is for. Perhaps a fuse or something if things start drawing too much current?&nbsp; Its an Aroma brand hot plate from WalMart..maybe I could look up some schematics. Here is my hookup. Like I said, its on as soon as I plug in...I am probably doing something real stupid that I can't figure out w/regards to the AC hookup.&nbsp;
<p>Did you sort out your problem with this unit?</p><p>I can see what your wiring problem is.</p>
<p>yeah, I built the whole thing and even had it hooked up to my Arduino and processing but never used for any boards. Its just collecting dust in my shop (mostly sawdust). I am thinking of building a oven but I saw something on hackday where a guy just took a bunch of resistors and an aluminum plate and made a hot plate solder system..not sure its as nice as yours but looked simpler<br></p><p><a href="https://hackaday.io/project/1571-soldering-preheat-plate" rel="nofollow">https://hackaday.io/project/1571-soldering-preheat...</a></p>
<p>Dear, your project could be much simpler if using an AVR chip with more port pins and forget about the port expanders that gives you so much work in the programming and hardware setup. A simple AtMega8 or AtMega328 would do it with a single chip solution. The Mega can drive directly the LED of a SSR 40A module eliminating completely the MOC and the SCRs. If you chose the AtTiny over the AtMega, there are AtTinys with several more port pins, the AtTiny2313 for example. The use of any larger AtTiny or AtMega allows you to use the internal ADC of the unit and measure the temperature of the hot plate using a simple NTC (that stands 250C), or even using a thermocouple (stands more than 1000C), but then, thermocouple (type K for example) generates zeroV at zeroC and goes to 10.153mV at +250C, what requires a single op-amp to amplify this voltage to a level the AtMega or AtTiny could read into the ADC, perhaps a 100 times amplification will be enough. I build a reflow oven with a regular toaster, using a At90S2313 (before Atmel releases the Megas and Tinys), with a SSR, a buzzer and a tiny LCD display showing temperature and time. The reflow solder temperature control is automated, based on a reflow temp profile stored in the EEprom of the 2313. It is a matter of insert the boards to reflow into the oven, press the start button and wait for the beeps telling me the reflow ended and more beeps when the temperature is okay to remove the boards from the oven. Cheers. http://www.ustr.com/smt/index.htm and http://www.ustr.com/smt/oven.htm</p>
Thank you for your thoughtful response to the Instructable.<br><br>I completely agree that the AVR chips available today are much more powerful than the ones available when I wrote the Instructable. Were I to redo this, I would certainly use one of them!<br><br>Regarding use of an NTC or thermocouple. Both possible. I like the notion of having a non-contact sensor with plenty of range. I have not regretted that decision.<br><br>Sounds like you have developed a nice system! How about doing an Instructable on it?
<p>Any idea which modifications (if any) would be needed for this work with 220/230VAC instead of 115? :-)</p>
Thank you for your interest in this Instructable! The SCR circuitry would have to be designed for the higher voltage. Not difficult, but the design would be different<br><br>At the time I designed this, there were no cheap Solid State Relays available that I could find. Now there are a ton of them. I strongly suggest you simply find one on EBay suitable for your requirements and use that instead of the SCR version in the Instructable.
Xcellent project, although just starting. Question on the hot plate. I have seen a lot of different versions similar to the Elite, most are rated at apprx 1000W/115vac. Is this wattage adequate to get to 450 degrees per discussions in this instructable? And what temp does the solder paste actually melt at? I am actually seeing higher temperatures for some types of solders.
Great question! Your basic hot plate (any one will do) will easily glow a dull red at high heat. That's about 900F (480C) - well beyond melting point of most any solder intended for electronics use that I know of. The exact melting temperature of a particular solder depends on the exact metals used in it. Most melt in the range of 180C to 220C; consult the data sheet for your solder for the specific temperature. Know that the temperature you want to use is slightly above that value by 20C or so to allow for heat transfer through the circuit board.<br><br>BTW, the easiest way to convert from F to C or C to F is to add 40, multiply by 9/5 (C to F) or 5/9 (F to C), then subtract 40.
<p>An even easier way to convert F to C, or C to F, is to type into the URL box of the Chrome browser. Type &quot;900f=c&quot; <strong>without quotes and do not hit enter</strong>. Try 180c=f or 220c=k. Sometimes you can just type one unit. Examples: 1ml= 3mi= Equations of volume, area, etc. including units also work. If you do hit enter, then Chrome loads a page with an online calculator or online unit converter.</p>
<p>Nice tips! I have a surface mount component with 16 pins to connect. My question is (just out of curiosity), could the circuit work if I did not solder the surface mount to the board but simply lay it in the correct position?</p>
Thank you for your interest in Surface Mount Soldering. Glad the info was of use to you.<br><br>Just setting the part on the pads will almost certainly *NOT* work, certainly not reliably! Solder is used to make the electrical connection between the pads and the part and is an absolutely essential component. (Conductive epoxy might be used, but won't work in all circuits. It is conductive, but not as conductive as solder.) If you want to work with surface mount components, you'll find that learning to solder them will be an essential skill.
What precautions and is it possible to do this AC control unit on single-sided copper pcb instead of the perf board?
Yes, a single sided board is certainly possible.<br><br>Precautions:<br>- Make sure the traces can carry the current.<br><br>- Make sure the traces follow the spacing rules for the AC voltage you use.<br><br>Note that the wire and insulation used on the perf board version takes care of these problems. <br><br>Probably an even better solution is to simply buy a solid state rely off Ebay. Suitable units are available for less than $10.<br>
May I use 220 ohm resistors instead of the 180ohm?
Can you use an Arduino to get your PWM and not need the I2C expanders?
Sure, you can use Arduino and not need any of this. This Instructable is for those who want to learn about the AVR processors above and beyond the Arduino. <br><br>Whatever works for you.
Oops - I thought you were commenting on my I2C instructable. Ignore what I just said.<br><br>A better answer is: See the Follow-Up to this Instructable that uses the IR sensor for feedback and a PC to enter and track the temperature. <br>https://www.instructables.com/id/Closing-the-Loop-on-Surface-Mount-Soldering/<br><br>Basically, it uses Arduino for the microcontroller portion.
Comment on Lead Free issues-<br><br>I use lead solder due to the tin whisker problem. I will switch to lead-free once that is really solved, otherwise anything I build without lead-based solder that needs long-term reliability will require inspection on a regular basis, especially if the board is under thermal or mechanical stress. References:<br><br>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tin_whiskers<br><br>http://www.jedec.org/news/pressreleases/jedec-and-ipc-release-tin-whisker-acceptance-testing-standard-and-mitigation-prac<br><br>http://nepp.nasa.gov/WHISKER/ (This one has some great pictures of whiskers!)<br><br>http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2007-10-05-tin-whiskers_N.htm<br><br>I think metallurgists will eventually solve the problem, but for now I am sticking with lead-based solders and non-ROHS components unless I have to use lead-free for other reasons. And, my volume is very low.<br><br>
Is it possible to substitute the <strong>MOC3042M-ND</strong><strong> for the</strong><strong> </strong>MOC3043M-ND?&nbsp; the electrical properties seem to be slightly different... The only reason i would want to is the 42 is on backorder.&nbsp; Any thoughts or is it safer to wait for the 42 to come in?
The 3043 will substitute perfectly. The only difference I can see is that the current required to trigger the part is only 5ma instead of 10ma for the 3042. It'll work just fine. Cost is about 10 cents higher for the 3043 - I don't expect that's a show-stopper.
Hey, Checkout this Non-Contact Laser Thermometer at Harbor Freight - it's only $30 bucks and it has a range up to 520 degrees C. For $30 bucks you can't go wrong. Plus, I wonder if it could be hacked so that it could be connect to a PC. Mine is already on order! Jim
Great find! Perfect if for this application. Thanks for the pointer!
Have a look at my update to this Instructable here: <a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Closing-the-Loop-on-Surface-Mount-Soldering/" rel="nofollow">www.instructables.com/id/Closing-the-Loop-on-Surface-Mount-Soldering/</a><br /> <br /> In it, I show how to use an IR sensor from Harbor Freight to build closed loop control for this process.<br />
&nbsp;Very nice.<br /> <br /> Someone else has also reverse engineered the Cen-Tech 96451 handheld unit I bought. Here is a link to that discussion too:<br /> <br /> <a href="https://www.instructables.com/community/Cen-Tech-Thermometer-to-PC-Hacking" rel="nofollow">www.instructables.com/community/Cen-Tech-Thermometer-to-PC-Hacking</a><br /> <br /> Here is a link to the Cen-Tech thermometer I used:<br /> <a href="http://www.harborfreight.com/non-contact-laser-thermometer-96451.html" rel="nofollow">www.harborfreight.com/non-contact-laser-thermometer-96451.html</a><br /> <br /> The model I used has more range (up to 500C) and the spot size is 8:1 instead of 6:1. But, my model cost 1/3 more at $30 bucks. Sounds like either model will work.<br /> <br /> Thanks for all the info,<br /> Jim<br />
It is important to know that most noncontact pyrometers are calibrated for 80% reflective objects. IE, grey to black. Just so you know. Lighter objects read as a lower temperature than they actually are. A dark green PCB may read correctly or a little low. Tshirt pressers often stick a piece of black high temp tape (looks like masking tape) onto a white or natural aluminum press when testing the temperature.
Grrrrr. It's $60 now.
Great instructable! I like to get my stencils from Ohararp.com, supposedly kapton can be laser cut slightly more accurately than mylar. Also, might want to note that when you need to replace those QFN parts you're going to need some sort of rework station with a hot air gun, unless you want to put the entire board back on the hot plate... I got a nice one for 90 dollars, but there were cheaper ones available for half that. Finally, just wonder if you've had any trouble with uneven heating on your hot plate, any ideas on how to address that. I was soldering one board recently that was kind of long and thin, the ends never melted but the middle overheated. Maybe I will try putting a piece of aluminum underneath next time.
Great input! Thanks for adding to the discussion. Think I'll try Ohararp.com next stencil. Sounds like a good product at a fair price. Pololu has been very good however. Yes, for rework you need a hot air gun. In fact, some places (like curiousinventor aka Scott Driscoll) suggest two of them, one front and one back. I mostly have avoided rework by using cheap parts and small designs. I know I'll have to deal with this someday. The plate I have seems to give even heat, but I've used only small designs. If you're trying a new design for the first time, then plan to get at least one or two extra boards to experiment with. The aluminum plate idea is one I've seen mentioned in other places. I think it's a good one, but you'll have to work out the correct solder profile if you use one on your hot plate. Again, thanks for the input.
I no longer recommend Pololu - there prices are through the roof! See my post above about this.<br />
hello there,<br/><br/>Since you your discussion involves SMT stencils, I thought you may want to know that now Applied Electronics provide both Mylar and Kapton SMT stencils. Starting this coming Thursday (June 25th), we will take order for Kapton too. You can choose either Mylar or Kapton of size 8.5x11 inch (actual size for Kapton is 8.5x12) without any restriction on the area or number of components. <br/><br/>Mylar comes in thickness of 3 and 4 mil.<br/><br/>Kapton comes in thickness of 3 mil only. <br/><br/>Visit the following site for detail<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.applied-electronics.com">http://www.applied-electronics.com</a><br/><br/>Regards<br/>Applied Electronics<br/>
This looks like a good option. Kapton has been recommended to me for this application since it is tougher than mylar and can have cleaner edges. Besides applied electronics, I have also heard good things about <br /> <a href="http://www.ohararp.com/Stencils.html" rel="nofollow">www.ohararp.com/Stencils.html</a><br /> <br /> I no longer recommend Pololu. Not only do they use mylar, their prices have gone sky high!<br />
Hi, there I was wondering where it would be ok to apply small 'blobs' of solder paste on the pads instead of getting a custom stencil made up. Also will a pcb without solder mask work? Thanks and great tutorial by the way.
Applying small blobs is certainly possible. The solder paste often comes in syringe tubes, and needles are available just for what you suggest. Another way to use such a tool is to apply a thin line of paste across several pads. In fact, some people have reported success simply using an Xacto knife to apply a thin layer of paste to the pads (without trying to separate each pad's paste from the ones next to it). Once the paste is on, the part is placed on it, heat is applied, and capillary action / surface tension does the rest. So this is certainly possible. Be careful not to smear the part around as you place it!<br /> <br /> Trying this procedure on a board without solder mask is more risky, but might work. I can't say it won't; only that the risk goes up with each move away from using a stencil and solder mask. The risk also increases as pad spacing decreases. So the tinier the part, the more important solder mask and stencil become.<br />
You're a good man, and thorough. <br />
Hi again. I completed your tutorial, it works great ! However, I'd like to point out this part: Sharp S116S02. It can replace the MOC+the SSRs+diodes+1W resistors, all in one $5 part. It needs a compatible heatsink, too. Regards, Charles.
Thanks for the suggestion. Looks like a real nice part! Here's two thoughts: 1 - Since it's a triac, it needs a snubber circuit as discussed in the Sharp apps note. One of the reasons I chose SCRs was to avoid needing a snubber. Not a big deal, just a couple of extra parts. 2 - The heat sink tab is not isolated, so you'll need an insulating washer on the external heat sink. Watch out for that. The Digikey part number is 425-2399-5-ND and the price is $6.05.
Hi Doc! This is Awesome! I would like to make my own and I was wondering if you had a YouTube Video of this in ACTION? I would love to see it working. Not that I don't believe you after all seems many have made one from your Tutorial in all the Reply's. I guess what I'm getting at is, How difficult is this to make? I am very confident in my Soldering Skills and would love to add this to my tools. Is this expensive to make? I have quit a few different MicroChips, Resistors, Caps and so on... If I had to purchase all the Parts needed and I did Bargain shopping online getting the best price and giving each distributor a Max. of 10 days to receive parts ordered from them. What would be the total Cost? And if you don't have a YouTube video where is another great demo of something just like this one? Does anyone else have there Plate on YouTube that they made from this Tutorial?
Can you safely pass on the snubber if you're sure that your load will only be resistive (like, for this?) ? I'm asking because I've already got a small handful of triacs around... Great write-up. Thanks!
IF your load is purely resistive (like this hot plate), then you can skip the snubber. This fact is discussed later in the project for the SCR circuitry used.
This is fantastic! I used to work with used test equipment and related equipment and wave soldering always fascinated me. I would like to see more steps and WAY more pictures. It is a lot for me to digest. But it is great nonetheless.
Instead o using solder paste can I apply solder to the board instead? (like tinning) The solder would then re-melt and secure the components to the board.
Yes, I suppose you can do that. If you do, be sure to put additional flux on the board before your reflow it (Scott Driscoll discuss this on his site which is mentioned in the Instructable).<br/><br/>Now here's why I'm not keen on this approach.<br/>- Getting solder on all those tiny pads is a <strong>lot </strong>of work. The whole point of using a stencil and solder paste is to avoid that work. <br/>- Making the solder reasonably level is nearly impossible, so some pads may not start off touching. This may or may not be a problem, but if there's too much solder on a central pad, then the resulting pillow could keep the other pads from ever touching. Paste and the correct footprints avoids this problem.<br/>- It's <strong>really</strong> easy to lift a pad from the board with a little too much heat when you're tinning them. Tinning the part itself is a better plan, but I still don't like it.<br/><br/>Hope that helps.<br/>
It's an alternative becuase I can't seem to get my hands on any paste. :(
Paste is something you must order. Check out the link in the Instructable. You can just buy a syringe of it.I suggest getting lead-free paste for a few reasons: - It's lead-free! (no fume dangers) - It's less sensitive to a little bit of temperature during shipping so you don't have to go a real expensive route (with dry ice, etc.) - If you use the hot plate method in the Instructable, you've got plenty of heat available. - It's the wave of the future - lead will be gone completely in a few years. So get lead-free, no-wash solder. Works great. If you live in Denver, you may be able to will-call it at a supplier, but most anywhere else, you'll have to order it. Nobody seems to stock it.
I'm not from the US. I'm in Romania and while we have large electronics suppliers here they refuse to sell to hobbyists because we're not companies. :( However I prefer working with lead solder because it has lower melt temperature and it's less brittle than the ROHS stuff. Considering it's paste it's not a problem but I'll never normally use lead-free solder wire. I hate the stuff.
I agree, lead-free solder doesn't flow like leaded and creates a dull joint (purely cosmetic I know!). For prototype and home jobs I use leaded.<br/>The paste, when bought, is shipped sealed but once opened needs to be stored in the fridge (see the product datasheet) - none of the paste I have used is shipped in dry ice!<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.pcbpolice.com/">PCBPolice Electronics Forum</a><br/>
It's easy to become "US-centric". I apologize for that. If you can't get paste, then tinning is your best option. Tin the part not the board to avoid lifting pads. The Intersil apps note I reference provides good guidelines on how to tin parts in the Rework section. Can't blame you for preferring leaded to lead-free solder! (I've seen dry ice specified for shipping lead-containing solder paste - not for lead-free.)

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