Inspired by the heat bed in his 3D printer, tinkerer Carl Bugeja got the idea to create a PCB heater that reflows other PCBs to reflow low-melting soldering paste. To test the concept, he heated a standard PCB and made it self-reflow. With proof that this reflow could be achieved, he set about making his own PCB heater.
He designed the board using a metal core PCB made of copper, dielectric, and metal for better heating performance. It will also keep the electronics cooler and transfer all the heat out into a heat sink. But this approach has some drawbacks. It takes longer for the PCB to heat up and is more expensive than standard PCBs. Bugeja then designed the board in Atriurn and sent his design to PCB Way for manufacturing.
After making some adjustments to the board to prevent overheating while building, all the pieces were soldered together. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to finish the project due to being stuck in quarantine. But the proof of concept works! The PCB heater was able to reflow another PCB, but there were a few bumps in the road. During the first test, the heat tape expanded and moved components. Bugeja also ran into some minor circuit problems that he plans to address in the future.
So, what’s next? Bugeja is already thinking about ways to improve performance both mechanically and electronically. He plans on redesigning the board to make the PCB more rigid for stability. Additionally, he wants it to have a separate microcontroller and may even install a screen on the PCB to display the temperature.