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Solder repair and rework equipment has come a long way from the days when all electronic components had wire leads and solder was removed using one of those spring-loaded vacuum solder suckers. Modern components the size of fly specs and ICs with hundreds of solder balls underneath simply cannot be handled with the Radio Shack variety of equipment. Many of the systems provided by these companies had microprocessor controlled heat sources and have built-in vacuum systems.
It used to be that repairing a PCB or a circuit assembly was a fairly simple task. Point-to-point wiring or the 2-sided PCBs - some even with plated-through holes - could be reworked with just a good soldering iron and some solder wick. Removing a leaded component (remember when resistors had wires sticking out of the ends of them?) was made simpler with a vacuum desoldering machine, but you could live without it.
Fast forward to 2009. Finding even a single leaded component on a PCB is rare, and even the connectors are surface mount. In some aspects, surface mount is actually easier to rework and with less chance of delaminating the substrate layers. However, the small size of many surface mount components - same as small as 0201 (0.02" x 0.01") - necessitates the use of a microscope and tweezers. Forget have a cup of coffee in the morning because the magnified shake factor will make work nearly impossible. You will end up knocking nearby components off their pads. That is another bother of surface mount - the small size requires heating with a hot air gun from above or beneath, but either way you end up reflowing the solder on surrounding components.
Fortunately, companies like the ones listed here offer products and/or services to help you cope with this brave new world.
Advanced Techniques US | atco-us.com
Air-Vac Engineering | air-vac-eng.com
Automated Production Equipment (A.P.E.)
BEST | solder.net
Bokar International | bokar.com
Circuit Technology Center | circuittechctr.com
Den-On Instruments Co., Ltd | denondic.co.jp
| 03-3929-6800 | Japan
Dynamix Technology Ltd | dynamixtechnology.com
Engineering Lab | engineeringlab.com
eTech-WEB | etech-web.com
Finetech GmbH & Co. KG | finetechusa.com
Pace | paceworldwide.com
PDR | pdr.co.uk
Solderite | solderite.com
Stencils Unlimited LLC | stencilsunlimited.com
VJ Electronix | vjelectronix.com
Winslow Automation | winslowautomation.com/default.asp
| 408-262-9004 | Milpitas, CA
Zephyrtronics | zeph.com