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I have a pretty nice soldering station, but now that I am finding the need to work with non-DIP type packages unpreventable, I am beginning to think that purchasing a hot air station would be a good idea. I know shopping questions are not allowed (though links to recommended products would be appreciated), but what I really want to know about is the kind of specifications that I should be looking for when searching for an appropriate station.

I won't be using the hot air station too much (maybe once a month), mostly to solder SMD components. I have some QFN chips which I would like to solder as well.

Any recommendations/tips?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I can't tell you what to get in terms of a hot air station, but what makes you think you need one for SMD? You really only need it for BGA and some bad QFN parts. I personally just use two soldering irons and good paste when I need to do SMD, even when I'm doing things like this. Just my 2 cents, I'll be interested to hear what people say as I've been doing more BGA as of late and the station I use is from a brand which doesn't exist anymore! \$\endgroup\$ – Kit Scuzz Feb 6 '13 at 4:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KitScuzz - Adding parts doesn't always warrant hot air... Removing SMD's from a board can sometimes be done with an iron (and a lot of flux/time/patience), but there is added risk to pins getting bent and pads being torn. Plus, irons can become contaminated from conformal coatings and such. \$\endgroup\$ – Bort Jan 26 '18 at 18:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hot air gun can be very useful for SMD components; especialy with small pin spacing. With unexposed pads, it's even necessary. It's even more useful to remove multi-pins components, PCB-to-PCB inserts, pin rows and so on. It's also very useful for pre-heating large parts before soldering them with the iron. You can also work thermoplastics with it (car bumper repair)... \$\endgroup\$ – Fredled Jan 26 '18 at 21:22
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A few basic things I would like a hot-air rework station to have:

  1. A min temperature range of ~100C. This allows you to use the gun for heat shrink.
  2. A max temperature of at least ~350C, though higher is better (within reason, of course). I think most low-end hot-air rework stations are spec'd at ~450-550C max, but don't quote me on this.
  3. have the ability to change out nozzles, in particular smaller nozzles for focusing the air stream and larger nozzles if you need to soak a region (say a large BGA package or a packages with large exposed pad heat sinks).
  4. Some temperature regulation. It doesn't have to be too precise since it's dependant on air flow and distance of gun from the target, but I would imagine better than 10C accuracy is good. You can probably even get away with less accurate temperatures.
  5. Adjustable air speed. It's no good if your gun blows all your small SMD parts away, or doesn't have the oomph to transfer enough hot air to the target.

Other bonus features:

A. "Auto-shutdown" which will automatically powerdown the unit if you place the gun back into the holder.

B. Some units have a cooldown before shutdown feature which will turn the heater element off but leave the fan on until the temperature drops below a certain temperature. I believe the theory is that this will extend the life of the heating element.

You can check out Dave Jone's EEVlog #167 for a review of the Atten 858D+. He explains the basics of what a usable gun should have.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I can add my 2 cents: it would be nice if it has some simple embedded power supply like 853D have. You don't have to buy genuine one, Chinese clones are good enough for newbies and have a reasonable pricing (~$80). Even if you'll kill the one, it won't be a catastrophe. Don't buy them on AliExpress or similar sites, for some unclear reason they are cheaper on Amazon. And make sure that you disconnect them from power outlet when you done, some of them don't have a nice schematic inside. \$\endgroup\$ – zoonman Nov 19 '17 at 0:14
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I have a Yihua 899D+ rework station here bought from eBay.
It's cheap (< £100 IIRC) and performs very well. Mine came with a spare element for the iron and hot air gun, and a selection of nozzles/tips too.

899D+

The iron is compatible with standard Hakko tips, so you can easily get cheap, reasonable quality replacements. I prefer it to the 2 other Maplin stations I have.

I think they also do a hot-air only version (I know Atten do - see EEVBlog for a review of an Atten 858D)

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No recommendations on a hot air station but Schmartboard has some great QFN to DIP boards. Here is a video demonstrating how to solder to them.

They have a groove for the chip to sit in while soldering and grooves for each pin so you can run your soldering iron up through each one. I prefer to add some flux and solder and run my iron over each side (solder just falls in to place). They also have a hole in the bottom so that you can solder to the pad on the bottom if it has one.

I have a few and they work fine.

Schmartboard ez board

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I have this one and for 80 bucks it works great. I don't agree w/ Kit, you will use hot air a lot working with SMT.

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