There are numerous devices to help us with the soldering of modern circuits and PCBs. The eC-pre-heater and the eC-fume-cube from Eurocircuits are two of these, which we would like to take a closer look at.

We start with the eC-pre-heater. This will pre-heat the circuit board that we are going to work on to a very controlled and freely adjustable temperature. This dramatically reduces the thermal-mechanical stresses of the PCB and the components and is it is also much easier to solder components to large copper planes that quickly carry the heat away (think about heatsink areas and ground planes). The soldering of 'large' ICs with a 'powerpad' (the large mounting surface for heatsinking of the IC and is usually soldered to the ground plane of the circuit board) is in some cases virtually impossible if the PCB is not pre-heated. The heatsink area carries the heat away at such a rate that the melting point of the solder is not reached, with all the consequences of that.

The eC-pre-heater has two ceramic heating plates, the temperature of which you can adjust very accurately between 20 and 200 °C. The circuit board can be attached in magnetic holders. The distance between the circuit board and the ceramic plates affects the temperature of the circuit board. 15 and 30 mm supports are supplied, so that somewhat taller components that are already mounted on the bottom side of the board can be accommodated. The nominal distance between the PCB and the ceramic plate is 9 mm.

An internal sensor measures the exact temperature of the ceramic heating plates and displays that on the screen. There are two external thermocouple sensors that we have to attach to the PCB to measure the actual temperature of the PCB. Of these last two we place one on the top of the circuit board and one on the bottom of the circuit board. These measured temperatures can also be read from the display. Two standard thermocouples are supplied as standard. Special thermocouples and solder wire with a higher melting point that allows you to solder the thermocouples to the circuit board for a more exact reading of the temperature are available separately from Eurocircuits. Normally a PCB temperature of about 130 °C is sufficient for most tasks.

The operation of the eC-pre-heater is performed through a resistive touch-sensitive screen. Here we can set the desired temperature, read the temperature curve, observe the power consumption, etc.
On the back we find the connection for the power cable, an on/off switch, the fuse holder, connections for the two external thermocouples and a USB 2.0 host connection. A firmware update can, if required, be downloaded through the USB 2.0 connection. For a comprehensive manual and the latest firmware click here.

Working with the eC-pre-heater is very simple thanks to the well-organized screen with touch control. All the required settings are at one's fingertips and the circuit board is reliably attached to the holder. If you assemble professional PCBs on a regular basis then the eC-pre-heater with its accurate temperature measurements is almost indispensible!
Handy consumables for the eC-pre-heater are the eC-thermocouple-advanced, eC-solder-wire-high-temp and eC-solder-paste. In addition, temperature-resistant tape (Kapton-tape) to keep thermocouples in place and, for example, ESD shielding material when handling sensitive components can also come in useful. These can also be found at Eurocircuits (here), so there is no need to collect all the necessities from multiple vendors.

Characteristics and specifications:
  • 4 x 400 IR heating elemens, 250 x 60 mm
  • 3.5” touch-sensitive display with adjustable color profile
  • Can be programmed by the user with adjustable temperature profiles
  • Temperature monitoring and adjustable heating surface (only the front, only the back or both)
  • Magnetic PCB holder, adjustable for height and PCB size
  • Internal and two external sensors for accurate temperature measurements
  • Maximum heated PCB area: 250 x 250 mm
  • Maximum PCB dimensions: 280 mm x unlimited
  • Temperature range up to 200 °C
  • Firmware-updates via USB-stick
  • 230/240 V (50-60 Hz) or 120 V (50-60 Hz)
  • Maximum power consumtion 1600 W
  • Dimensions 355 (d) x 430 (b) x 60 (h) mm
  • Weight about 8 kg