I usually assemble my own prototype PCBs in my workshop. For traditional through-hole technology (THT) and large surface mount (SMT) this is a straightforward matter with no special equipment required – just a soldering iron and regular solder.
But, as the boards get more complex and with smaller surface mount parts, you have to shift your methods to something more suitable. For my RasPiO InsPiRing prototypes I’m using 0603 sized capacitors. These are too small for me to be able to do efficiently by hand with an iron. Also the pads on the APA102 LEDs are really close together. So in this case I used more or less the same technology that is used in full-scale production…
- Solder paste
- Metal stencil
- Hot air to melt the solder
But I don’t have a reflow oven, so I use a hot air rework station (I call it a reflow gun – which is probably not offically correct, but who cares?)
I’ve made a video showing you how I do it. The actual pick and place and soldering are both in real-time. The video shows you exactly how long this process takes. I hope you’ll find it interesting. I really enjoyed making this one and want to do more of this sort of video if people find them interesting. The video is ~20 minutes long but I think you’ll enjoy it.
Oh and don’t forget to check out RasPiO InsPiRing as well.