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I am considering using a soldering pen and hot air gun instead of using a soldering iron considering the size of these components and number of pins on the ICs etc. Any advice on which one I should buy – this will be the first kind of project dealing with these sized chips so far!
It’s not hard, soldering pen and hot air will work well, for hot air station a normal Chinese hakko clone like 858D+ will work (that’s what I use, cost me about $35), when it comes to soldering pen/iron you will do yourself a huge favor if you get a brand one right of the bat, Weller, Ersa, genuine Hakko or JBC. Depending on where you’re located availability of certain brands varies, if you’re in the EU then I recommend getting a Ersa straight from their online shop, good quality for fair price.
I use the Ersa i-con Nano, the pico is a little less but it’s also not grounded which you should always have when working on electronics, but any of the above mentioned brands are good.
i-con nano is listed as 80W with the pen but station is specced as 68W, it’s a very handy pen-style iron and haven’t found anything that it can’t handle when it comes to electronics, it’s easy to handle and you can switch both tips and pens meaning once you get a station you’re set.
Overall you need some magnification and a good light to check your joints but other than that doing 0603 isn’t that much harder then regular soldering, a decent lead-based thin solder wire will do or use paste, as for the chips simple drag soldering works just fine, paste will make it easier to connect the ground plate below.
Heat gun works for chips as well but honestly I did both on my board (since I had to redo a lot due to getting the wrong chip etc) and hand soldering the chips is actually faster in general but if you have to remove or redo them an hot air gun will make it much easier.
So if you have some soldering experience and decent equipment this board isn’t really that hard, just go slow and methodically, look at the layout before and check values, do that and you shouldn’t really run in to much problems.
And FLUX! you can never have to much flux, a good flux will help a lot rosin or resin doesn’t matter, a no clean one will well reduce your need to clean it. If you think you have enough flux then add some more!