08.07.2016 Updated 27.11.2018| Articles & Video

Infrared Rework Stations: Technological Benefits and ACHI Brand Review

Constant development of electronics and, as a consequence, minimization in size and complication of the components creates a demand for new solutions for innovative consumer equipment repair and maintenance. In this article we will touch upon the most up-to-date soldering technique that became popular in the professional community – the infrared soldering.

Infrared Rework Stations: Technical Features and Advantages

Infrared rework station is a complex solution on the market of repair equipment designed for different types of modern gadgets. The basic principle behind it is the process of powerful heating with 2-8 nm wavelengths within infrared spectrum. Except low-end models, almost every soldering station is a sophisticated repair set that consists of:

  • Upper heater
  • Bottom heater
  • PCB table
  • Thermal control system (Thermocouple with mounting)

Advanced soldering stations provide the possibility to connect to PC software and thus monitor the soldering process by a given thermal profile.

Infrared soldering stations are divided into two categories by the upper heater type:

  • Ceramic
  • Quartz

One of ceramic heaters’ advantages is soldering in the invisible infrared spectrum, which is absolutely safe to the eyes and allows the operator to control the process visually. They are also most sustainable and provide the longest running time to refusal.

Quartz heaters are characterized by quick response and provide evenness to the heating zone although they use visible and therefore harmful to eyesight IR rays. For this reason, protective eyewear is normally included in the kit.

The infrared soldering station is equipped with everything needed to adjust the size of the square heating zone, usually from 10 to 60 mm. You can also manipulate the shape and size to your personal preference because you can use tinfoil to cover and protect the elements where heat should not be applied. The infrared soldering station is specially equipped with a PCB table, which helps to secure the mounting board. The upper heater is responsible for the main soldering process. The lower heater preheats the elements and therefore prevents them from heat damage. The heat control system allows the user to choose the right temperature profile (temperature and time section), compare temperature data and control the soldering process by given parameters.

An ever-growing demand for infrared rework stations can be easily explained by a wide range of their benefits:

  • The best equipment to serve the purpose of reworking components like SMD, BGA, CBGA, CCGA, CSP, QFN, MLF, PGA of large and medium size.
  • The infrared rework station can meet all the requirements for assembling, disassembling and reballing BGA packaging. The market offers an option for stations to be sold with reballing kits.
  • Infrared soldering stations are very convenient for working with plastic elements, such as ribbon cables and connectors.
  • Infrared rays have a different impact on metal and non-metal parts. The metal parts and soldering fluxes are the ones that heat up first.
  • The heat is concentrated only in the preferred area; other components are protected against undesirable exposure to heat.
  • By providing precise lower pre-heating, the infrared technology prevents thermal damage to the circuit board, which is very important when working with motherboards.
  • This type of soldering stations ensures evenness of the heating zone; moreover, due to their power capacity, the temperature stays consistent.
  • The absence of a strong air stream prevents small parts from falling off the PCB table as it might happen in case of working with hot air soldering stations.
  • As opposed to hot air soldering stations, there is no need to buy many nozzles for different sizes of microcircuits.
  • Dark infrared rays are not harmful for eyes and allow for controlling the process visually.

Infrared soldering stations have left behind and driven out other types of equipment and are widely used in maintenance centers that specialize in repairing mobile phones, gaming consoles, laptops, and other computer devices. Infrared soldering stations owe their success primarily to the ease of use and efficiency. In fact, manufacturers have now focused on producing the infrared type of rework stations.

Comparison of the Main Specifications of Infrared and Hot Air Soldering Stations

Hot air soldering stations are the first generation of repair complexes designed for assembling and disassembling microcircuits in SMD and BGA packaging. They proved very effective in soldering small SMT-components, such as tablets and other gadgets. They were replaced with infrared soldering stations due to a number of drawbacks:

  • Small heating zone;
  • Heating zone distortion and excessive temperature pressure on closely-spaced elements;
  • Mounting board deformation resulting from the disadvantages above.

Soldering stations based on hybrid or combined technologies are worth mentioning because they combine top qualities of both hot air and infrared stations. A Scotle IR360 PRO V3 rework station can be introduced as an example. At present, professionals consider the hybrid to be the best type of soldering equipment.

Infrared soldering stations also have their drawbacks, to which users should pay much attention before making a final decision about buying a specific product. Many beginners mistakenly buy hot air soldering stations instead of infrared complexes for disassembling large microcircuits, for instance, Lukey 852D+ hot air station equipped with a separate soldering iron. In most cases, this leads to negative results, that is why infrared, large hot air or hybrid stations are more preferable. Even if a hot air station is supported with an infrared lower heater, high-grade infrared soldering equipment cannot be substituted or replaced since the semi-automatic process can only be assured when using the latter. The control over the soldering process in hot air stations is carried out by the user.

High-end quality soldering stations available on the market are manufactured by American and German companies; however, their price reaches up to 10 thousand dollars. Another wide-spread segment is introduced by ACHI, a Chinese manufacturer with affordable prices not exceeding 1 thousand dollars. Their equipment is of the same quality level as more expensive analogues and allows for starting one’s own business without making big investments. Their popularity can be credited not only to the simplicity of use, but also to operating in semi-automatic mode. The user is required to enter the initial data and choose a right temperature profile. After that, the rework station will automatically signalize when the process is complete.

ACHI Infrared Soldering Stations

ACHI is the first company from China that started producing infrared rework stations within an affordable price range. Having gained popularity due to ACHI IR-PRO-SC rework station, ACHI became a subdivision of Scotle Technology, a reputed manufacturer, which resulted in considerable product quality improvement. The company started equipping its soldering stations with ceramic infrared emitters, which are comparable in technical characteristics to well-known Elstein emitters from Germany. Good quality, low price and easy maintenance make them popular among professionals. Current model range is distinguished by three main infrared rework stations:

ACHI IR-6500 is the technical starting point to reworking large microcircuits.

ACHI IR 6500 Infrared Rework Station

ACHI IR-PRO-SC self-sufficient instrument for professional large-scale service centers that take repair processes to the assembly line.

ACHI IR PRO SC Infrared Rework Station

ACHI IR-1200 is the most advanced option from manufacturer’s product range. It is targeted towards experienced users who want to take a full advantage of the hybrid technology. The key feature of the station is an infrared lower emitter with a build-in hot air heater. The upper emitter is also infrared. It is equipped with a 7" MCGS touch screen system which allows for temperature monitoring and accurate analysis of the real-time temperature profile.

ACHI IR 12000 Infrared Rework Station

Here is a comparison table of technical specifications of the most popular ACHI infrared rework stations:

Rated Capacity 1300 W 1300 W 2850 W 3650 W
Heating Zones Top, Pheheating Top, Pheheating Top, Pheheating Top, Bottom, Pheheating
Upper Heater Power 400 W 400 W 450 W 400 W
Upper Heater Size 80 × 80 mm 80 × 80 mm 80 × 80 mm 80 × 80 mm
Preheating Power 800 W 800 W 2400 W 3200 W
Preheating Size 180 × 180 mm 180 × 180 mm 240 × 240 mm 350 × 210 mm
Settings Storage 10 groups 10 groups 10 groups Unlimited
Settings Display PC PC PC Built-in 7" touch screen

ACHI infrared soldering stations are the most innovative, affordable and top quality equipment for the repair and maintenance of mobile phones, computer components, and other consumer gadgets. Their features are sufficient to provide professional repair services and they do not fall short compared to more expensive analogues. ACHI offers all up-to-date benefits of the infrared technology within a reasonable price.

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