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Analyzing the RMST and AM7000SMD

Analyzing the RMSE-1C and AM7000SMD

Complete Rework StationAnalyzing the JBC AM6500 complete rework station by JBC Tools

From the moment you grasp your fingers around this finely shaped soldering iron, you feel like you have just picked up a fountain pen that is used to write checks in the amount of $50,000.00 and above. Then when you notice how ergonomically correct the feel of the desoldering tool is in your hand, and the precision of the hot micro tweezers that will allow you to pick up a chip that looks like a fine grain of pepper, you finally realize that this product means class with a capital C. When I first saw this line of tools at a trade show in California, I was awe struck at the many new innovative features that they brought to our industry. Even after deciding to help market this line of fine tools, I am still in awe of the many new innovative features that this product line has to offer, and is still bringing to our industry.

I must say that these new innovations were badly needed as the manufacturing with the new surface mount devices were getting so sophisticated, but the removal and replacement of these components was totally lagging behind the new technology. Technicians were forced to come up with ideas of their own to remove and replace these new components and some were not so easy on the PC board. They would usually spend more time repairing their failure at changing the sophisticated component than they would have in finding the original trouble. Sometimes having to scrap the whole board because the right tools were not used for the job at hand. Technicians were not to be blamed though, because they were just doing their job the best they could, with what they had to work with.

That is why I am so happy to be offering this new line of tools. Now when a customer calls in with a parts changing problem, I feel like I have an opportunity to help someone in this great industry that I love so much. For this discussion, I am going to talk about the JBC Tools RMSE-1C or AM7000SMD Complete rework station. I will use it because it comprises all of the new innovative features that I will talk about from JBC, and there are many.

There truly are many, but you have to start somewhere, so I will start with the basic, the soldering iron. From first glance, you realize that this is not a regular iron put on this earth simply to melt solder. You realize that it is something special from just looking at it. When you pick it up, you begin to realize that you have never held anything like this before that melts solder. You immediately see how precision your placement can be with the short tip to grip distance (the shortest in the industry). You also realize that there is an abundant assortment of tips for this iron. JBC calls them cartridges, because what you may not readily see is the tip and the heater are combined in what they appropriately call a cartridge. This is but one of the new innovative ideas that you may not readily notice and is done for the following reasons.

  1. The low mass of the tip and the high thermal inertia from the heater allows some of these cartridges to reach a temperature of 660˚F in 2 seconds from cold turn on.
  2. A sensor is constructed in the cartridge to give the microprocessor in the base constant feedback to hold the preset temperature constant.
  3. The low mass of the tip also extremely lowers the over-run commonly associated with tips of high mass. The heater cannot shut down quick enough when calling for full power from the base, and will almost always give a high degree of over-run and a slow cool down to the proper preset temperature.
  4. The cartridge is built of almost indestructible materials.
  5. The design of the cartridge and the stand allows the operator to change cartridges and be soldering again in less than 10 seconds.
  6. There is no need to recalibrate when changing cartridges as the unit is controlled by a microprocessor.
  7. Due to the sleep mode, the cartridges will last from 3 to 5 times longer than any other tips.
  8. Due to the instantaneous heat up of the cartridge, the sleep mode is immediate when placing the handpiece in the stand.
  9. There is also a mode called the lunch mode. When placing the handpiece in the proper place in the stand, the handpiece and cartridge completely shuts off until the operator removes it from the stand. This greatly increases the life of the cartridge since there can be no oxidation of the tip when the cartridge is not heating.
  10. The recovery rate of this iron is second to none and that is what makes soldering with this tool so pleasant. On the production line you can literally have an 80% improvement in production. Can you see what it can do for your repair technician?

Some more great features about this soldering iron is the very small, flexible, pliable, and burn retardant cable attached from the stand to the handpiece. There are two handpieces available (a 20W and 50W) and each is the lightest in the industry for their respective power.

Speaking of power, you will not believe this until you see it with your own eyes, but this is the way it goes. We used our 20 Watt handpiece and the smallest tip available for this demonstration. First we take two copper pennies and place them on the work bench. We melt a large ball of solder on one penny. We then place the other penny on top the the first penny with the ball of solder on it. We then place a large ball of solder on the second penny while still resting on the first penny. When the solder starts to flow onto the second penny, it also melts the solder ball on the first penny causing the two pennies to solder together while leaving a large mass of solder on the top of the second penny. We then turn off the power to the soldering station and leave the tip on the second penny until the solder solidifies. We then cool it even farther by placing it on the wet sponge for cleaning the tips. When it is just about at room temperature and remember the two pennies are still soldered to the soldering iron tip, we hold the iron above the work bench and have someone turn the control unit for the iron back on. We count one thousand one, one thousand two and the pennies drop off. It is absolutely an astonishing amount of power for such a small iron and tip, that you simply can not believe your eyes. I was in total awe when I first seen this demonstration, and I still am when I give it.

Next on the agenda will be the desoldering tool. Those of you who have been changing thru-hole components know how valuable a good thru-hole desoldering tool can be. Especially when you get into multilayer boards. I know there are some of you who think you can do it just as fast with wick, but I am here to tell you that it is impossible. Besides that, have you ever figured up what you spend in wick in a years time, let alone the time lost?

Fortunately for you, the JBC desoldering tool is very comfortable for the operator to hold, and uses the same advanced technology as the soldering iron. The heater is built very close to the screw-in tip. There are numerous size tips for all desoldering applications and the tips are high in quality, low in price, and long lasting. The desoldering tool holds a glass or metal cylinder (your choice) for capturing the solder. In this cylinder is a spiral stainless steel sheet for capturing and holding the solder. Since solder will not stick to stainless, it makes cleaning of the cylinder very easy, yet it holds it in place and prevents it from dropping back down in the tip when holding the tool in a vertical position. Cleaning is accomplished very easily by unscrewing the quick disconnect holding the cylinder into position, and removing the spiral stainless steel sheet and emptying the used solder into a container for proper disposal. When using the glass cylinder, there are two view cutouts in the side of the tool so you can see when your tool needs cleaned without having to open it to check. A simple ball of cotton is used for the filter in the tool. There is also another inexpensive filter in the vacuum line to keep flux out of the vacuum pump.

Talk about hot tweezers, these finely shaped instruments are invaluable to the SMD rework Technician. There are two hot tweezer products available for the AM7000SMD. They are optional for the RMSE-1C, but the PA120-A Micro Tweezers and PA-SD stand are included with the AM7000SMD. The HT420-A Hot Tweezers are for large chips, SOIC's, QFP's and wire stripping. The PA1200 Micro Tweezers are for small SOIC's down to the smallest chips available. The tweezers both use the same advanced technology as the solder station. There is a cartridge available for each side and each side is controlled separately by a microprocessor. The recovery rate for the each cartridge is the same as the soldering iron. This makes changing chips, and surface mount electrolytics very fast and efficient because you can also replace them with this tool. Both tools are very high quality compared to some in the industry and using the advanced series technology, none can compare when it comes to speed of removal and replacement.

You will also notice that each of the tools of the RMSE-1C and AM7000SMD has it's own stand. This is for two reasons. First, you can place the stand close to your work and have the control unit farther away. Second, that is what puts the tools in the sleep mode as all of the tools in the advanced series line uses the same technology of low mass and high thermal inertia with the heater built into the tip of the cartridge. You will also notice that the tools cables are connected to the stands and the stands are connected to the rear of the control unit, thereby making for a cleaner working space.

Saving the best for last, the RMSE-1C extracts surface mount components faster and more efficient than any tool that I have found in any price range. It has a 900 Watt heater in the handpiece and uses the extractors, protectors and tripods in such a way as to remove any SM component in a minimum amount of time. My first impression of the unit was how cleanly it extracted fine pitch QFP's. It would leave the pins of the IC so completely devoid of solder that it almost looked like a new one. You could easily re-install the IC without having to clean the pins (which is very hard to do on a fine pitch IC without bending the leads).

The air flow on the RMSE-1C can be adjusted from 6-45 liters/minute which is perfect for extracting IC's or using the hot air to re-flow solder paste. The usual method suggested by the manufacturer and by myself is to solder the IC's back in place with the soldering iron and the suggested cartridges designed for that purpose. You will find that this is where the rapid recovery of the advanced series really shines. You do not have an immediate loss of heat when you apply the tip to the pins as you do with conventional irons. You will find that drag soldering (a term applied to dragging the soldering tip across, or perpendicular, to the IC leads) the IC's with the soldering iron will be extremely fast and efficient when compared to using solder paste and hot air. Although, if you feel a need to use hot air, that process is available also and works perfectly well with the RMSE-1C.

The process of extracting the IC entails selecting the proper extractor, or protector and tripod. The extractor includes the protector and tripod in one unit and you will chose that if it fits. If not, find a protector (or shield) and the proper tripod. Fit it over the IC to be removed and apply vacuum from the control unit to the extractor. Manually push the vacuum cup to the IC until the spring tension is pulling up on the IC. Next adjust the heat and air flow that will be required (normally full heat and full air flow for a large IC). The air flow can be turned on by a foot switch plugged into the back of the unit or by a button on the control unit. Using the hand hot air wand, direct the heat inside the extractor shield to the pins of the IC using care to keep the wand moving around all pins of the IC. In approximately 20 seconds (for a large IC), the solder will melt and the IC will pop up about 1/2 inch above the pads. You will immediately notice how clean the IC leads are. Then you turn off the vacuum and release the IC to a spot where it can cool.

You are now ready to clean the pads with the desoldering tool which works perfect for this operation. New desoldering tips are available that are designed specifically for cleaning pads. After desoldering you may want to clean the pads with a flux cleaning solvent. Now you are ready to re-install the new IC. Depending on the pitch of the IC and the youth of your eyes, you may want to use some type of magnification. I personally have to use a microscope, which we sell just for this use. We have a stereo zoom microscope that is perfectly suited for installation and inspection of IC's. It has the proper working distance, magnification, field of view and clarity for this type of operation.

The proper way to re-install is to use the pick and place vacuum pen on the unit to align the IC's perfectly with the pads, and solder tack two opposing corners of the IC. After it is perfectly aligned, I recommend a good gel flux, which we also have available. Our most common right now is the No-Clean flux for obvious reasons. The gel flux comes in a 10cc syringe with a plunger and plastic taper tip needle for dispensing. Dispense the flux to all of the leads on the IC. Now you are ready to solder the IC to the board.

Next, you will want to choose the proper cartridge for the job. There are four cartridges by JBC that are made specifically for soldering IC's. The C245-009 for QFP's, the C245-010 for PLCC's, and the C245-931 and C245-938 for fine pitch IC's. These cartridges are designed to hold solder and deposit the solder to the pins in the proper amount as you drag the tip perpendicular to the leads of the IC. The secret is not to apply any pressure to the pins of the IC, but rather let the soldering tip float over the pins on a cushion of solder. In using the RMST soldering iron, you will immediately notice a difference if you have used this method with other soldering irons from other manufacturers. You will notice that you can run the temperature approximately 100 to 200˚F lower than with conventional irons. The reason is the super fast recovery time does not allow it to lose temperature like the conventional irons. The end result is an IC that was soldered in fast, efficiently, precisely and at a lower temperature.

This little operation may take some experimenting before you feel real comfortable doing it but you will find that it is very easy. The hardest part is to know how much solder to put on the tip. If you get to much solder, you will get a bridge. If you get to little solder, you will run out before you finish one side of the IC. Also, it is certainly best to use a quality grade of solder, usually without flux as you have already applied flux to the IC.

Having technical experience myself allows me to align with the technician on these problems. I can tell you now that I have always bought the proper tools for the job and have never failed make them pay for themselves in a short period of time. It is totally amazing how much time you rack up in just trying to change a component successfully, when if you just had the right tool, you could have it changed in five minutes or less and go on to the next problem. If you, as a supervisor, were to find out exactly how much time your technicians were spending changing parts, you would be totally astounded at the money you could save by having the proper tools for the job.

In closing I would like to say that I have been in this business for most of my life and I have never seen a more versatile, well rounded complete rework station than this one. We have added the hot micro tweezers and some other goodies to the RMSE-1C to make it even more desirable. We have also introduced the AM7000SMD, which is almost everything that you need to complete any parts changing job in short order. I would say from experience that this rework station would be almost perfect for working on DVD players, Camcorders, or Computers to the Instruments in the cockpit of Jet Fighters. I know of no better complete rework station on the market.

Sincerely,

Jerry Howard, CEO
Howard Electronic Instruments, Inc.