Even if you occasionally solder/desolder electronics and gadgets, then you have probably heard about the benefits of using hot air rework stations. With the help of these machines, you may quickly and precisely attach or remove delicate SMD components as SOICs, BGAs, ICs, PLCCs. Such devices are widely applied in pre-heating, lacquer removal and heat shrinking jobs.
After a few weeks of tests and research, this guide includes the review of the top 5 best hot air rework stations. Check the buying guide at the end if you want to learn what factors are important to consider when you purchase one of these devices for home or professional use.
Aoyue 968A+ – the best for professionals!
However, beginners should reconsider using this gadget because it is not user-friendly.
- In-built airflow and temperature control
- A lifetime warranty
- No overheating
- A plastic case
- Special adjusters for voltage
- Innovative digital display
- Safe protection from the unstable thermal flow
- A quick and simple change of nozzles (30 different types)
- Auto sleep function if you leave the gadget open or working by accident
- Not user-friendly – the beginners should skip it
- A bit bulky
- The leads for the in-built iron are short
- A noisy pump
- The digital display is not fully transparent
Aoyue 968A+ is a 4-in-1 soldering station that is appreciated by professional welders for the option to maintain a constant temperature. It combines 4 features in 1 device: a soldering iron, a smoke absorber, a vacuum pickup and a hot air releaser. It has an in-built microprocessor to control temperature and airflow. The system can automatically inform you about breaking down the acceptable level of temperature.
YIHUA 862BD+ – the best for temperature control!
It comes with an adjustable digital display and protection. You may use this gadget to work with temperature-sensible components and PLCC, QFP, SOIC, CHIP, BGA elements.
- Outstanding PID temperature control in both °F and °C
- Adjustable dual LED display
- Noise-free operation
- Easy setup and launch
- Stylish design
- Dual-core microprocessor
- A pliable silicone cord
- Includes 4 nozzles
- The temperature readings can be inaccurate when the heat is too high
- Only one-year warranty
Besides versatility and temperature control, this station has an ESD safe design to guard the sensitive components against overheating. Also, it has an automatic hot air gun function to eliminate the heat automatically when the gun is placed in a holder. It can work within the temperature range of 392°F – 896°F.
YIHUA 8786D I – the best for portability!
- Adjustable cool/hot air conversion
- Anti-static design
- Automatic digital temp correction
- SMT double-panel tech
- Good for the use in harsh environments
- Programmable hot air gun
- Includes 10 changeable iron tips
- Made of cheap materials
- Only one-year warranty
- Not very accurate readings
This budget-friendly gadget is good enough to get any soldering job done. It heats up quickly and has great portability.
Aoyue 852A++ – the best for the heating element!
You may also try this system for the in-built auto cooling process.
- Very durable heating element
- All-digital display with touch control
- An in-built airflow gauge
- Auto cool-off option
- Comfortable handle to use
- Quick heating up
- Only one-year warranty
- The plastic is a bit sticky
This gadget includes the nozzles suitable for the work with the QFP, SOP, PLCC or SOJ elements. It can provide consistent heat.
YIHUA 853D 2A – the best for extra functions!
The unique 3-in-1 design includes a soldering iron, DC stabilized power supply and rework station.
- Celsius/Fahrenheit conversion
- PID temp control
- Manual and automatic hot air gun
- Automatically turns off the power if the gun stops working
- The insulation for better leakage protection
- Only one-year warranty
- Inaccurate calibration
The package includes a few nozzles, anti-static tweezers, and 10 changeable soldering iron tips. You may use this appliance to work with QFP, SOIC, CHIP, BGA, PLCC, SMD, etc. It can be especially great for repairing mobile phones.
The Buyer’s Guide
In this review, I offer you to check my top 5 of the best hot air rework (reflow) stations. Surely, you will see a single page of my tests’ results that took about 10 days. I tried to cover the most popular and recommended models in the U.S. market – from cheap to more expensive appliances. My focus was to deliver the most useful hot air rework stations with desoldering options. I picked only the most reputable brands for comparison. Here is what I managed to find out:
- Aoyue 968A+ SMD – this is a real “beast” among hot air rework stations, a 4-in-1 machine with the digital display and airflow gauge. The price is also very reasonable – under $180;
- Mark Ethan + SMD – another 2-in-1 appliance with sensitive components and a large display;
- F2C 853d SMD DC – has 4 nozzles and a desoldering wick;
Such all-in-one appliances become very popular among professional electricians and welding hobbyists. I can understand and explain the interest: hot air stations are faster, more versatile and precise. My fellow welding experts agree that any good hot air reflow station can be the irreplaceable tool for reworking PCBs. You’ve probably noticed that almost all stations come with SMD options for removing/attaching SOICs, QFPs, PLCCs, BGAs and ICs. If you seek more advanced options, the most useful extra features are interchangeable nozzles and automatic/programmable temperature control. Personally, I would also pick the model with a vacuum pump because all jobs will be finished faster and with fewer risks.
Widely applied for pre-heating, heat shrinking and removal of lacquers the hot air rework stations are really multi-purpose devices. These relatively small and modern appliances are very common among professional electricians and welding hobbyists.
To invest in a high-end hot air rework station you should look for such things:
Hot air rework stations can be applied indoors and outdoors. The build quality must be sturdy enough to provide stability and durability for a few years. The materials have to be checked before buying. Look for the devices made of metal allows, preferably steel or heat-resistant materials. Also, keep in mind that all gadgets have elements made of sturdy plastic.
During the soldering jobs, you have to check the measurements and values. That is why all hot air soldering stations have a display to read the input and output values. You won’t be able to use the device effectively if the display shows inaccurate readings. Contemporary stations have whether an LED display or dual digital LED display or LCD or LED digital temperature.
Hot air rework stations must be lightweight because most welding hobbyists prefer to carry these gadgets indoors and outdoors. Consider investing in a lightweight gadget that weighs from 3 to 11 pounds. Such weight is the most acceptable if you seek portability.
Most stations have the temperature control feature by default. You should be able to adjust the temperate quickly and easily.
You need to check how much time is required for the station to heat the soldering station’s tip. The tip should heat up quickly. In such a way, you don’t have to waste time while waiting for the device to heat up. You may want to invest in the gadget with a quick heat recovery function.
You can’t underestimate the safety issues. It is an essential feature to look for in hot air rework devices. Each gadget should have overheating protection. Check if the station has an ESD safe design.
How do hot air rework stations operate?
Besides industrial uses, most multi-purpose hot air soldering stations can be excellent at repairing mobile devices, tablets and other electronic devices.
What are the main advantages of a hot air soldering station over a soldering iron?
- The option to adjust the temperature. Temperature conditions can be adjusted straight via a digital display;
- The soldering stations have a microprocessor control for the safest temperature range;
- With one soldering station, you can solder a device with dozens of different alloys;
- Both irons and stations have replacement tips for different jobs. But most stations include these tips unlike the irons;
The choice of a soldering device depends on a number of technical specifications and your soldering tasks. The main advantage of hot air rework stations is many in-built elements that replace smaller devices: a hot air gun, a soldering iron, thermal tweezers.
Also, each hot air rework station has the heating element. You may choose between a ceramic or nichrome heating elements. Ceramic parts are higher in the price – they can serve for years, but there is a risk of failure at the slightest crack. Nichrome elements are cheaper but they won’t serve for a long time.
Powerful airflow in such rework stations is created whether by the pump installed in the housing unit or a compact fan in the handle. Both options have certain advantages and disadvantages. To improve the airflow in your gadget, you can buy various nozzles for the compressor. However, at first, make sure that the hose does not cause a narrow passage.
A hot air gun is connected to the unit only with a power cable. It can heat more powerfully but you should regulate the airflow.
A top-notch hot air rework station should be compact. It is better to invest in the gadget that can work with any power network. In such a way, you will be able to carry this appliance whenever you need – take it to remote locations or work at home. Connect the gadget to any infrastructure. Your task is to find the gadgets with a wide range of temperatures and adjustable nozzles.
How to use hot air rework stations?
One of the major features of all hot air soldering stations is use-friendliness. Even beginners will be able to use this gadget easily:
- Just turn on the power (find the On/Off button);
- Wait until the station heats up to the required temperature level;
- Then check the airflow levels and pick the one you need, according to the adjusting nozzle;
- To adjust the nozzle, place it closer to the chip or cable that you should repair/remove;
- Do the work by checking the machine’s display;
- Turn it off;
- Let the gadget cool down after the work and clean;
Most models have the adjusting buttons for increasing the flow. The manufacturers can give you the instructions on how to achieve more accurate jobs
A few tips for working with such soldering stations
- Make sure to remove all plastic parts before soldering;
- Do not adjust the airflow too high, especially when soldering the small details. A strong airflow can inflate the adjoining elements and you won’t be able to install them once again;
- To speed up the process of soldering mini elements, for example, micro USB connectors, you can use the alloys suitable for low temperatures. At first, you should seal the contacts and leads with a conventional soldering iron;
- If you have a turbine-type station, then try to keep the hot gun away from powerful magnets when working. A hot air gun includes something like a Hall sensor. If this sensor is affected by a strong magnetic field, then it may fail;
- A malfunction of the hot gun that pumps the airflow is very dangerous because the spiral can burn out due to the excessive heat;
Video Tutorial: Using a Hot Air Rework Station for Surface Mount Soldering
You have checked a few reliable, affordable and top-notch hot air rework stations. If you’ve never used these applications before, you should try them because they are convenient and efficient gadgets. Versatile use and use-friendly features along with durability make these rework stations irreplaceable.