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In this conclusion of a three-part series on selecting and evaluating a basic reflow oven configuration for a circuit board assembly environment, we’ll address methods of control and profiling techniques.
Methods of Control
Any reflow oven, regardless of the type and number of heating zones, needs a method to control the temperature and recipe profile of the product being processed. These can either be built in to the oven (i.e., onboard) or PC-based and connected via a communications cable. As with everything else, there are advantages and disadvantages to each type.
On-board control means that the oven has a stand-alone controller built in to the system. It requires no PC or external source of information to create recipes to run the process. It can be controlled via a simple user interface displaying input prompts and readouts. In most cases, the interface is fairly basic and generally rather small.
• Very good functional performance
• Generally more affordable than external PC-based system
• Some restrictions in storage capacities for recipes
• Software updates can be more limiting due to the machine’s limited hardware capacity
• User interface is typically minimal, displaying the bare essentials of inputs and outputs
In this scenario, the oven plugs into a PC or laptop, which hosts the software via a communications cable. (It is not common to see wireless connections for this equipment; hardwired connections are considered more stable.)
• Software updates are more frequent, allowing on-going usability enhancements offered by the manufacturer
• A PC interface delivers a full-screen color graphical user interface for feature-rich visual presentation of data
• Users can see profile graphs not available on most on-board systems
• Users can purchase their own computers with all the capacity they may need now and in the future to accommodate a much greater number of recipes/profiles than would be available on an on-board system
• Can add $500 to $1000 in cost versus an on-board control system.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of SMT Magazine.