I usually am looking to see if the solder melts
completely and if the surface-mount parts move. The
solder typically does not all melt at the same instant due
to hot and cool spots in any oven. It will start melting in
one area and then melt fairly quickly at spots across the
entire board. Another thing I watch for is parts self-aligning
to the pads of the PCB. The surface tension of the molten
solder will usually pull surface-mount parts into better
alignment with the pads. The last things I look for (and
hope not to see) are problems such as parts that stand on
end (tombstone), solder bridges (multiple pins connected
due to too much solder), or parts that float on the solder
and don’t sit down evenly. (Floating is more likely to
happen with QFN or BGA parts when the solder is not
evenly applied to the pads.)
The controller and oven combination work very well
in automating the tedious tasks of timing and temperature
control for solder reflow operation. I am sure the
controller would work well with almost any
toaster/counter-top oven that could provide the
appropriate temperature, since the included thermal
sensor and the learning cycle will “teach” the controller
the appropriate heat-up characteristics for the oven.
Since the controller and thermal sensor provide a
closed-loop control system, it truly does take the tedium
out of the process and makes controlling the soldering
temperature profile a one-touch affair. The solder stencil (if
you happen to have one for your board) makes the solder
application much easier and almost guarantees your
success versus applying solder paste by hand and having
to fine-tune solder paste volume and placement.
All in all, I see this as being a worthwhile addition to a
hobbyist or small business workshop. It will definitely save
time, and make that time on the workbench more
52 January 2015
The Create: Electronics kit included some examples of
other services that Beta Layout provides. Along with the
PCB and a complete kit of parts, there were some other
useful items. One minor grumble — the included solder
stencil had the website printed on the bottom side. This
confused me for a minute because I expected the text to be
visible from the side the solder would be applied to.
On the positive side, the stencil is free with the PCB and
it is a very useful addition!
The kit also included a 3D printed version of the
populated printed circuit board, a 3D printed battery holder,
and a custom printed and machined front panel. Check out
Figures A, B, and C.
The front panel had threaded standoffs installed, holes
drilled, and custom graphics printed on the top. Each of
these extra features will help to put the finishing touch on a
professional looking project.
You may want to take a look at their website at
www.beta-layout.com to see some examples of their
capabilities. They will help make your next project stand out.
Figure A. Parts included with the dice roll kit. PCB (after fabrication) is on
the left. Front panel with machined holes and threaded standoffs is in the
center. 3D printed battery clip is on the right.
Figure B. End view showing the assembled dice roll kit.
Figure C. Rear view
showing the battery