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Pillarhouse International is a selective soldering equipment manufacturer based in Chelmsford, UK. It offers sales and service, with a supplementary manufacturing facility in Suzhou, China, and a sales and service support office in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States.
Last year, the company set up its second China office in Guangzhou, according to Sales Manager Allan Jiang. "Over the past three to four years, our business has grown really fast in this market," he says in an interview during the recent NEPCON China event in Shanghai. In line with this, the company has also increased its maintenance team in China to provide customer support.
"The market is growing, and we are getting more and more inquiries from the market. Therefore, more equipment manufacturers are entering this area. The bigger brands are still there, but you can see a lot of local brands entering the selective soldering market," says Jiang.
Jiang notes that, while there are a lot of suppliers in the market now, most of them also build wave soldering and reflow soldering systems. Only Pillarhouse is focused solely on selective soldering machines. "Therefore, we have a lot of technologies that others do not have. And we keep on innovating to develop new technologies for this market," Jiang says.
According to Jiang, one of the technology challenges right now is the requirement by customers to have 100% hole fills. This is compared to the minimum 75% hole fill based on IPC standards. "A lot of customers want 100% of the holes filled with solder. This is difficult, especially for thick boards," he says.
To address this issue, Jiang says they developed a 1.5mm nozzle—which he claims to be the smallest nozzle in the world. Not only does this help to completely fill through-holes with solder, it can also help customers solder fine-pitch areas.
As far as reliability issues, Jiang blames many failures on the process, particularly due to improper machine settings. He says the machines are stable; it’s just a matter of defining the proper parameters.
"We help customers find the correct flux, set up the preheat, the soldering speed, soldering time, and soldering height, etc. The customers should understand the machines very well so they can make the proper program," says Jiang. He adds that they always provide customer training.
When choosing a selective soldering system, Jiang says the cost, throughput and solder quality are among the key factors to consider. One of the latest developments from Pillarhouse is PILOT, an entry-level, hand-loaded, benchtop selective soldering system for small- to medium-batch manufacturers.
"A lot of customers still consider selective soldering very expensive, so we developed an entry level machine so that they will have a chance to use our products," says Jiang.