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I need to use as small components as possible but I need to do everything by hand. My plan is to use OSH Park for the production of the board. The answers did not focus on whether they used microscope or not. Now suppose you have a microscope. What is the maximum limit you can solder by hand? Are there some components that are only meant for machines? In using as small components as possible what kind of things should I consider?

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    \$\begingroup\$ With practice you should be able to do 0402 under a 10x scope. Likely you can even do it without mangification, though having at least a $10 10x loupe would be nice for post inspection (while a traditional stereo microscope has enough working distance to solder under, a loupe does not, so you can only inspect the results) \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton May 1 '13 at 3:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you soldering each component, or just placing components and doing toaster oven or hot plate re-flow? \$\endgroup\$ – Jon Watte May 1 '13 at 5:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you considered ordering the PCBs already assembled, eg. from Elecrow? It is not expensive, quality is good and it will save you lots of time. \$\endgroup\$ – filo Jul 10 '18 at 13:38
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Soldering 0402's by hand without using magnification is possible, but inspection is difficult. Also, it depends on how old you are. When I was younger I could do a lot of things without magnification, but less so now.

I can also solder all QFP, TQFP, SOIC, TSSOP's, etc by hand, but magnification is a huge help with those too.

But, not every microscope is appropriate for soldering! You want a scope that has a large working distance. Ideally about 6 inches from the lens to whatever you are soldering. This gives you room for tweezers, soldering irons, flux bottles, etc. It is possible to do with less working distance, but if you are buying a microscope anyway you might as well get one that is going to work well.

I cannot imagine a reasonable electronics lab today that does not have a microscope.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You mean something like "boom mount stand stereo microscope"? I wish you had some image what a good microscope look like or better for a new question? Anyway good point about stereoscopia, +1, really speed things up in things such as validating/checking things. \$\endgroup\$ – hhh May 1 '13 at 3:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ yes, that's exactly what I have. I bought a "7x-45x trinocular stereo zoom microscope +3D boom stand" from ebay 4 years ago for about $375. One of the best things I ever bought for my lab, second only to a decent soldering iron. stereo and wide angle eyepieces were important to me. Many places use the old "big magnifying glass + light" setup but those give me terrible headaches. I can easily solder 0201 components or solder 30AWG to 0.5mm pitch devices with this thing, it is amazing how precise humans can be if they can see what they're doing! \$\endgroup\$ – akohlsmith May 1 '13 at 12:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @hhh Yes, a stereo microscope on a boom of some sort. The one we use is made by Olympus, but their web site is terrible and doesn't show the booms. We talked with the local rep to get the combination of lenses and stuff to get a long working distance. I know a lot of people that use the Mantis scopes from Vision Engineering, and like them but they don't have as good of a working distance. \$\endgroup\$ – user3624 May 1 '13 at 12:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I should mention that we typically use 3-10x zoom. We can do 20x, but very rarely use that. \$\endgroup\$ – user3624 May 1 '13 at 12:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ AmScope: any idea about their quality? I use Aoyue for reworking (high-quality+low-prices, great) so there may be some German firm having some high-quality stuff to just get found. It is very good tip that 3x-10x is most used because some steroscopic microscopes work only with 10x-30x range or 20x-40x range -- have to be diligent. Ball-joint? Other factors? Thinking... \$\endgroup\$ – hhh May 2 '13 at 2:30

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