My local hackspace has an excellent T962A reflow oven. I’ve used it a number of times with perfect results (when I didn’t foul up—Kids, don’t use old paste!), and it gets excellent reviews online.
It’s a pain to cart everything back and forth and put everything away before going home, so I figured I’d try out the smaller T962 oven. It doesn’t get such uniformly positive reviews, but it’s substantially cheaper and substantially smaller (space at home is fairly limited).
The main disadvantages are a lower maximum temperature (280C—which is more than enough for unleaded solder), a smaller area, and if the mixed reviews are to be believed, rather more uneven heat distribution especially out towards the edges. The latter isn’t a problem for me because I’m planning on doing small prototypes, so I’m unlikely to get anywhere near filling the tray.
Opening it up it essentially looks like a smaller version of the T962A:
Unlike some of cheap electronics manufacturing goods it feels very solid, the one exception being the tray which is a little rickety going in and out. A small price to pay for a reflow oven I can actually afford. The manual of the T926A took some effort to read (the translation is a little wonky in places), but this machine has an identical user interface which is nice, so I was up and running fast.
For my first test solder I decided to go for the trickiest thing I could think of. I have a tub of unleaded paste of unknown composition (I only know it’s unleaded since the T962A at the hackspace failed to reflow it on a leaded profile) which has been opened for a year. I “reconditioned” the paste by mixing in a bit of rosin flux gel. I smeared some over an old, spare board with a toothpick and placed a few random 0603s and set it going.
The first run smells bad in the generic “new parts getting very hot” sort of way. Similar to the smell I got after using an electric hob for the first time after cleaning it. Make sure you run it first in a more than usually well ventilated area.
Reflowing looks like this:
It’s quite hard to see well, but the resistors have nice smooth shiny blobs of solder over them, and the solder where it hit the various pads has reflowed well. You can’t see in the photo, but the silkscreen has come out slightly discoloured due to the high temperature (the discolouration you can see is due to the flux). Unleaded boards done in the T692A also had a discoloured silkscreen but with slightly less discolouration. The discolouration isn’t completely uniform which indicates that the heat distribution isn’t completely uniform.
Still, it seems to work, and leaded solder (what I use for prototyping) is very forgiving compared to unleaded.
Seems to work on small boards, but the temperature is a bit uneven. I’ll update when I have some full boards to reflow.
I did the boards that I bought the oven for.
The results are essentially perfect. Nice even heating (over the small area), no toombstoning, good shiny solder blobs, good separation on the DFN with a 0.5mm lead pitch. And the boards work too!
I’d recommend this oven for anyone with small to moderate amounts of reflow to do. If you’re going to be regularly filling it up to the edges (especially using unleaded paste), then the 962A is almost certainly a better bet.