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Tools needed for PCB Production

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Active Member
My boss wants to get into assemblying some simple PCBs that we use in our products in house. The boards are single layer, all throughhole resistors and transistors. As the only EE here, I've been charged with getting that all set up.
Its low quantity stuff (<1000 boards/year) and the boards are no bigger than 3"x3".

I figure we'll need a couple soldering stations at first. I was thinking of these: Circuit Specialists Inc. - BlackJack SolderWerks Soldering Station + Free BK486 Fan (BK2000F)
I bought my soldering station from them a few years ago and havent had a problem. I figure I'd try to keep the costs down at first, then upgrade later once things get going.

The usual hand tools: pliers, side cutters, solder sucker.
A few board holder vise thingys.

Is there anything else I need? I'm sure I'm forgetting something...


Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Spring-loaded solder suckers are useless for any small work. The activation of the spring jerks the tip away from where you need it. THe bulb ones or powered vacuum ones are much better. Not only is the braid more thorough in removing the solder (it can clear out holes when suckers can't), it can also get up right against the component leads to remove very small amounts of solder. Many times you can't actually remove enough solder with a sucker to get the component out since it always leaves some behind and can't get right up against the leads.

Electronics is too small and unwieldly for pliers. Hemostats will do the brute work of "tiny pliers" as well as the delicate work of "large tweezers". With through hole, the components are larger so you could probably forego the tweezers and use hemostats for everything. Tweezers are more of a requirement for surface mount than through-hole. Hemostats are also the best tools to hold solder braid while you are heating it up with the iron. Too bad they don't make hemostats with tweezer-like ends.

Scissor grips > Plier grips + Tweezer Grips + Spring-Loaded Plier Grips
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I would add a bottle or two of liquid solder flux .... the resinous, sticky kind.
It seems to make the solder flow a little better ... I guess it has to do with surface tension.
The use of a liquid flux would also insure that impurities, and foreign matter are 'floated away' from the actual solder-component junction.
It would also be advisable to get a spray can of the flux remover, to clean up the sticky flux after you have finished soldering.
.... Liquid flux also seems to improve the performance of the de-soldering braid.


New Member
The iron seems decent enough. If you you are going to use lead-free solder, pay heed to their warning and get the other iron for a little more. Also, think about getting the hot tweezers option to remove parts with. You may not be doing surface mount now, but it's nice to use these on two-pin thru hole parts. Tap the board lightly upside down while heating both leads at once. Works like a charm if the tweezer tips are clean and tinned. Then it's a simple matter of sucking the solder out of the now unpopulated holes.
Yeah, most desoldering is straightforward and can easily be done with braid or a sucker. Been there, done that, wanna see the scars? But when you have to remove an IC or resistor pack with several pins soldered to heavy traces or power buses, a powered desoldering unit is invaluable. I have a Xytronics unit, I talked my employer into getting one also. Works just fine. Less expensive than a Hakko, which is one of the Cadillacs of the field.

Ditch the sponge and get one of those tip cleaners using curly brass. Using a wet sponge greatly reduces the heat at the tip just when you need it. We love 'em. :cool: Also, use organic solder. Cleans off with distilled water easily. We run hot tap water over the job while swishing with a soft brush (acid brush is OK), then rinse off with distilled water to get rid of mineral residue from the tap water. Of course you can use no-clean flux. I just can't stand to see the left overs. Makes me feel like the board has been left "infested". Personal pref. Cleans off with alcohol, though.

Oh, yeah, speaking of which, get some inexpensive applicator bottles with long, fine tips for applying alcohol, flux, distilled water... whatever. And various sizes of braid.

Back to work!
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