I'm looking at a few tools to make Surface Mounted Device RGB LED on a PCB. I used a heat gun yesterday for the first time. A video shows another method using a heated pad. And then yet another, more carefully, in the oven.

I want to order bulk 5mm LED of type SK68xx (successor to WS28xx), I'd like to "paste" them as densely as I can, and it appears to be adjacent on all four sides, with any resistors, etc., on the reverse side.

I've learned basic soldering, and using a solder wick. I am not sure how to proceed. Soldering is hard for me. I much rather use flux and apply heat after pasting the SMDs. Or is there a heat pad or other method that is suitable.

I will want to make panels, at first, up to 16x16 grids, unless you recommend a smaller block.

Please help me find the right tools. I order mainly from AliExpress, so I'd like to have a good shopping list. My budget is about equivalent to $100 at US amazon or ebay. (I guess about $60 on AliEx.) Thank you.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you actually used flux and heat paste? It is just easier for you in your mind or have you actually already done it? It is quite a bit more finicky than using an iron. If you are having trouble with an iron, you are probably using too small a tip. Use a chisel tip double the size of your work piece if you can squeeze it in. Unless you are mass producing. Then reflow starts to make a lot more sense. \$\endgroup\$ – DKNguyen Apr 5 at 22:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ LEDs are picky when it comes to temperatures. For professional assembly, you need to check the datasheet to see what it can handle. Heatguns are far less accurate than a soldering iron. Though if you buy random LEDs from Ali, then obviously you have no quality concerns what so ever - might as well use duct tape then. \$\endgroup\$ – Lundin Apr 7 at 13:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm going with clipping strips and soldering back down the line. Thank you. Yes, flux isn't something I've done. I've got only 2 hours time soldering experience, I think. \$\endgroup\$ – tidelake Apr 8 at 16:54

I don't really do much SMD work but assuming that you are doing bulk soldering, then the best tools I could recommend is either a D.I.Y SMD rework oven (rework ovens are really expensive, hence the D.I.Y) or a repurposed clothing iron (such as this one made by Moekoe).

If you don't really feel like making anything, then I would just use a heat gun. Now all of these methods require solder paste. Here is a good video discussing how to do SMD soldering.

It is also important to point out that the heat gun is able to "push" components away since it uses flowing air to reflow. This could be a problem as the LEDs and resistors are small. This is why it might be best to make your own heat plate such as the clothing iron. Even if you do not want to make one, you could always use sand and a pan to reflow the SMD parts. Here is a video discussing how.

Note: Honestly, the sand method is probably the best for your case. It is the easiest to do and requires only sand, a pan, and a hot surface.

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