Hacking PTC Heater for SMD Soldering

PTC Heaters are cheaply available aluminum encased temperature controlled systems perfect for hot plate soldering.

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In this project I explore using a PTC heater for SMT soldering. The aluminum casing on the PTC heater is perfect for transferring heat to the PCB. I was able to find PTC heaters that run at 230C on, which is hot enough to melt leaded solder. The purpose of this project is to exploit these heaters for easy DIY SMT soldering.

I was inspired by the previous post concerning ceramic heaters for hot plate SMT soldering. I sought out another method and found PTC heaters, cheap heaters encased in aluminum that self regulated their max temperature. I bought one that was a max temperature of 230C and found that it would reflow SMT parts very well...and for just $10 from Amazon!

Experimental setup:

I used a 200W 110V PTC Heater with a regulated temp of 230C. I used an old Pentium II heatsink as a stand for the heater. I used a power cord scavenged from a broken rice cooker as the mains hookup. I tied the power cord and heater together with screw terminals.

I documented my test results in the first project log. In short, the PTC heater is a very economical and simple way to get started with hot plate SMT soldering small PCB boards.

  • 1 × 110V PTC Heater 100W 230C
  • 1 × Standoff
  • 1 × AC power cable
  • 1 × Screw terminals

  • Initial testing

    Analog Two05/03/2016 at 21:38 0 comments

    I performed 3 tests today

    1. Soldering 0805 and 0402 components to a throwaway PCB board
    2. Soldering a 28 pin TSSOP to a breakout
    3. Desoldering components from an existing board

    For the soldering tests, I did not have a stencil available so I just sloppily place paste directly from the tube. Even so, the solder wicked its way to the pads and I was able to solder very small parts without tombstoning. The soldering time was about 90 seconds to reflow.

    For the desoldering test, I used a non function MSP430 launchpad. As the board exceeded the size of the heater, I put pressure on the board against the heater. It took about 2-3 minutes until I was able to remove the TUSB and the large MSP430 chip.

    The tests show that the self regulating behaviour of the PTC heater works very well for hot plate soldering. I did not require a controller or arduino of any kind to get results!

View project log

  • 1
    Step 1

    Obtain a 230C PTC Heater with at least 100W output. You can source them from Amazon or Aliexpress. I chose to use 110V mains as I did not want to bother with a high amperage DC power supply. If you are afraid of mains there are low voltage DC options available.

  • 2
    Step 2

    Find or build a suitable stand for your PTC heater; unless you have a high temperature surface it should be offset. I used an old heatsink from the Pentium II era. Be creative.

  • 3
    Step 3

    Secure the PTC heater to the heatsink. My initial test ignored this step, but I strongly recommend it for safety reasons.

View all 7 instructions

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