A while ago I posted a review about the reflow-flow oven T-962A. As written in that post the T-962A has certain flaws: The heat is generated by IR heaters that do not distribute the heat evenly within the oven. This made the results of the soldering processes unreliable. Also, the responsiveness of the user-interface is not that good: Tuning the reflow profile is tedious.
Recently, I got an upgrade kit for the T962A from ESTechnical that promises to enhance the oven in exactly these aspects. This post is about the installation and review of the new functionalities of this upgrade kit.
The upgrade kit comes with a step-by-step installation guide (also as PDF) that can be followed quite easily. When it came to the wiring of the new components, I wished to see one or two more images in the second half of the guide. The manufacturer of the oven seems to have changed the type of cables a little bit so that the installation guide was not 100% clear in case of the fan wiring for my oven. However, the wiring of the oven is not complicated and, in my opinion, a basic understanding in electronics is sufficient to finish the installation successfully. Furthermore, ESTechnical has a support forum that could be used for questions regarding the installation. I was told by ESTechnical that the installation manual would get more images in the next revision of the manual.
The following gallery shows the installation process:
The oven before the upgrade. After the upgrade it will have two additional sockets: a USB B connector and a thermocouple socket.
All components that come with the upgrade kit. Besides these components some additional tools are needed.
An external USB connector for getting status information during cycles is also added to the oven during the installation.
To remove the drawer you need to move the plastic lever within the runners on both sides.
With the moved levers you can slide out the drawer.
The oven without the drawer.
Next you need to remove the top case. For that you need to remove the screws form under the front edge of the lid and also from the top back of the case.
Removing the screws from the top back of the case.
For removing the top half of the case only the screws in the upper half need to be removed in this step.
The cables are just long enough so that you can place the top half next the bottom half of the case.
The yellow-golden tape that you can see in the image is Kapton tape that replaces the original tape.
For the next steps it is easier to even place the top half flat on the ground as shown in the image.
You need to remove the hot glue that covers the connectors on the control boards,
I used a pair of pointy pliers to carefully remove the hot glue.
Be careful not to pull on cables.
With the hot glue removed you now disconnect all cables from the control board and display.
Remove all cables from the control board and remove the control board afterwards.
Removing the screws that hold the control board.
Both the display as well as the control board get replaced with the upgrade kit.
Removed control board and display.
At this point you should get familiar with all the wiring and their function. The installation manual does a great job here and gives a good overview.
The next step is to fit the USB connector. I used a 24 mm punch for that, which worked flawless.
To be sure that the hole will be at the right place I printed a template to get the exact position of the hole center.
A center punch is used to mark the hole center. This guides the drill.
The thermocouple socket is placed right below the USB connector. I used a drill and metal files for that rectangular cutout.
The final cutouts for the USB connector and the thermocouple socket.
The installed USB connector and thermocouple socket form outside the case.
The installed USB connector and thermocouple socket from inside the case. I added hot glue as a final step of the installation.
In the next step the ESTechnical Reflow Controller is mounted to the case. First of all, the stand-off posts have to be screwed into the screws posts.
Screw down the ESTechnical Reflow Controller board. Make sure that you have it is oriented correctly.
After the new control board is mounted in the case, the original wiring has to be updated next. I took some images before that as backup.
For the new solid-state relays two new holes have to be drilled into the back of the case. I removed the whole back plate of the case to make the drilling easier.
Also, a hole for a new earth connection is added to the back of the case. Using a multimeter you must make sure that the earthing is working correctly.
The two new solid-state relays attached to the back of the case.
With the solid-state relays mounted to the case, you can begin with all the wiring for the heaters and the fan.
The USB connector and the thermocouple socket connected to the ESTechnical control board. I used hot glue to fix the connections and cables at the sockets.
A view into the wiring of the upgrade oven. The 9 V AC supply is not connected to the new control board in this image.
Another view into the completely upgraded oven.
Overall, the installation of the upgrade took me around seven hours. I did not have critical problems that needed to be corrected, but I took my time when it came to the wiring to make sure that everything is connected correctly and that anything would destroy any component because of short circuits.
The GUI of the upgraded oven
The ESTechnical control board comes with a complete replacement for the original user-interface. It controls the oven with a proportional-integral-derivative control (PID control) algorithm. While the original menu did not feel very responsive in certain situations the ESTechnical UI feels very solid and accurate. The menu is organized in the following way:
The following gallery shows images of the menu in reality:
Recommended Settings and Reading Status Information via PC
For lead-free soldering ESTechnical recommends these profile settings for a starting point:
Ramp up rate: 0.8°C/S
Soak temperature: 130°C
Soak duration: 30S
Peak temperature: 220°C
Peak duration: 10S
Ramp down rate 3.0°C/S
Fan idle speed: 30-40
After the upgrade, the oven offers a serial COM port via the USB connector that can be used to read out status information of the oven, ESTechnical offers a Processing program “reflowViewer” that can be used to visualize and store these status information. I had to install Processing first, before I was able to run reflowViewer. To make that work you need to adjust the device name of the virtual COM port that is created when you connect the oven with your computer. In my case it is “/dev/tty.usbserial-A703OKHM”. The following image shows the GUI of reflowViewer:
The GUI of “reflowViewer”, the Processing visualization software from ESTechnical for the upgraded oven.
I was told by ESTechnical that soon they will be launching a new software for use with the oven and the controller that offers more functionality than reflowViewer.
Effects of Different Fan Speeds
A major difference between the upgraded version of the oven and the original oven is that the fan can be set to run at a fixed idle speed during the preheat, soak, and reflow phases. The intention for this is to have a more even temperature distribution within the oven and, therefore, more evenly heated PCBs. I run a series of cycles with different fan speeds and logged the oven data via the USB serial communication port and “reflowViewer”. You can see the measurement results in the following gallery:
Profile 0, fan speed = 0%
Profile 0, fan speed = 10%
Profile 0, fan speed = 20%
Profile 0, fan speed = 30%
Profile 0, fan speed = 40%
Profile 0, fan speed = 50%
Comparing the observed PCB temperatures with the target temperature profile in each figure, it seems that an idle speed for the fan of 30% is a pretty good choice: With this setting the temperature does not significant exceed the peak temperature and is stays pretty close to the target temperature profile though out the whole soldering process.
The Upgrade kit comes with instructions and tuning tips for optimizing the parameters of the soldering profile.
The installation of the upgrade components took more work than I expected at the beginning. However, I am very satisfied with the results: The upgrade allows to have much better control about the soldering process. Also the parametrization of the soldering profiles is much easier and intuitive in comparison to the original oven controller UI. Having the possibility to measure the oven as well as the PCB temperature is a great enhancement. The additional air movement inside the oven due to the upgraded fan control is another huge enhancement on comparison to the original oven.
Do you have any questions or comments? Feel free to post these here!
NOTE: All orders received after 2020/07/27 will be shipped in the third week of August. Dismiss
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