This post contains an overview and build guide for the FluxLamp soldering reflow oven.
Built with a Vertile PowerCore, the FluxLamp is designed to be inexpensive, easy to make and easy to use. I hope this project will enable makers and hackers to start doing their own reflow soldering! Here's an early prototype at work:
If you're interested in ordering a Vertile PowerCore to build your own FluxLamp, you can sign up to be notified when the Indiegogo campaign launches using this form: https://goo.gl/forms/NL6RoZNbVZ8R6ZUR2
I do have a few prototype boards that I have assembled by hand. I can't promise I'll have enough for those interested, but if you are would like to receive a prototype for testing and review, please fill out the form above and contact me: [email protected] with the subject line "PowerCore Review".
If you are a manufacturer interested in producing this or derivative works, please contact me: [email protected].
I designed the FluxLamp for myself after finding that the only "inexpensive" off-the-shelf solding reflow oven, the T962 is relatively expensive and of poor quality. For example, having to remove masking tape from inside the machine before it melts is not a good starting point.
Instead of fixing the T962, I decided to build something hackable and open source from the ground up. The FluxLamp is cost effective and easily assembled in a home workshop. It uses a standard 500W Portable Halogen Work Light as the heater, since it is cheap and readily available. The lamp is set on the table face down, over the PCB to be reflowed. There is also an optional fan for faster cooling. The only limitation of the FluxLamp is it's relatively small size -- up to about 100mm x 120mm working area. This should be plenty of space for my projects and I hope it will work for you as well. Depending on feedback from the community, I have explored manufacturing a housing with a dual-lamp configuration and more working area. This could be available in the future.
Assembling prototypes by hand takes quite a while, so if the Indiegogo campaign is successful, I'll order a bunch of boards from a manufacturer for the community. Best to let the machines do this, but it will take enough interest from the community to enable economies of scale (please fill out the interest form):
It runs an ATmega328p (Arduino) microcontroller.
There is a rotary encoder for input. For output there is a small buzzer and LCD panel. This prototype is mounted in a flat case for testing on my desk (without the lamp).
I have integrated a power supply into the main controller, so the whole thing only needs 1 (AC) power cord and no external DC supply.
I've also added an ESP8266 which will enables firmware updates without an ISP programmer or USB-UART adapter. The WiFi module shares a serial port withe ATmega328p, allowing WiFi control. J7 connects the ATmega328p serial port to the ESP8266 via a level shifter. It is designed for 2.54mm headers or a solder bridge depending if you want to be able to easily connect and disconnect the UART connection.
You can read more about the PowerCore design in the Vertile PowerCore.
Being a software engineer, the hardware design process was relatively new to me, but inspired by James Bowman, I decided to design some hardware! Instead of starting with the BGA chip I wanted to use in a new camera design, I though it maybe a bit more prudent to begin with some QFP/QFN devices.
I used KiCad 5 to design the PCB. I did explore using Eagle, Altium and OrCad as well. My expectations were low for KiCad, but after working with KiCad 5, I am very impressed.
If you're building one of these yourself, which I highly recommend, you'll need to order a control board. I'm getting ready to launch the Indiegogo campaign, so sign up here if you're interested and I'll let you know when it launches: https://goo.gl/forms/NL6RoZNbVZ8R6ZUR2.
I think there are several different ordering options from fully assembled to partially assembled to raw PCBs. One of the advantages of buying an assembled board is that it will come tested and loaded with a bootloader and firmware, possibly saving a bit of headache. For the full experience though, assembling your own board from scratch can be a thrilling experience! A good middle ground might be getting a board that has been reflowed with the SMD components and the through-hole components supplied in a kit. On the form, there is a place to mark which option you are interested.
A 500W Portable Halogen Work Light, I've ordered this exact model myself and tested with it. It works great!
The 3D printed enclosure, which may be available on Indiegogo when the campaign launches and they're freely available on Thingiverse.
5x 3mm x 5mm screws (3mm diameters) to hold the PowerCore in the mount.
An optional 40mm x 40mm 12v Fan, for cooling down the board.
The following are optional and not necessary if you have an assembled board:
If you've got a new Atmega328p chip without a bootloader, you'll need an USBasp to flash the bootloader once.
If you have a brand new ESP8266 with the PowerCore firmware, you'll need a UART to USB converter. I like CP2102 based devices.
With an assembled PowerCore and 3D printed mount, building your own soldering reflow oven is easy!
Open up your new 500W Portable Halogen Work Light
You can skip this section if you've ordered an assembled board as the firmware will already be flashed. You can use the WiFi firmware updating functionality to easily flash new firmware without connecting the board to your computer using the ESP8266.
If you've purchased an ATmega328p without a bootloader, you can use the in-system programmer (ISP) headers to program the chip with a USBasp.
Be sure to set your USBasp to "slow mode" by putting a shunt on JP3.
Download and open the Arduino Software package and open the
Tools menu. Choose your the Board:
Arduino Pro or Pro Mini, Processor:
ATmega328p (5V, 16MHz), then click
ESP8266 installed in a pre-assembled PowerCore will already have the firmware installed. If this is not the case for you, simply check out the code (to be released publicly with the Indiegogo campaign, email me if you need it before then) and open the
Setup your path by adding the top level
bin directory, as described in the project's readme and run:
esp make pipenv install pipenv run flash
While it says
Connecting........____, press the
RESET buttons, then release
The first time you use your PowerCore / Fluxlamp, you'll need to connect it to your WiFi.
Power up the PowerCore and connect to the ESP8266 wifi network. The name will be
Connect to the web interface via the default ip: http://192.168.4.1
Under WiFi Station, click
Switch to STA+AP mode pick your wifi network on the right and click
At the top, it will say your new IP.
Go to the new IP and connect back to your normal WIFI network.
Under Pin Assignments, pick
esp-12 swap then switch
Conn LED to
Serial LED to
GPIO5 and hit
Make sure the jumpers on the UART port are installed and you can now upload an Arduino Sketch (see the FluxLamp app README.md)
Conveniently, from the
fluxlamp app in the code, you can simply run (with the IP of your PowerCore):
IP=192.168.3.85 pio run -t upload
If you would like to program another sketch, under "Info" you'll see the flashing instructions to upload a sketch:
/home/arduino/hardware/tools/avrdude \ -DV -patmega328p \ -Pnet:192.168.3.85:23 \ -carduino -b115200 \ -U flash:w:my_sketch.hex:i\ -C /home/arduino/hardware/tools/avrdude.conf
This project is inspired by work from a long line of folks. These people include David Kirbis, Karl Pitrich and Ed Simmons however, I am certain I have missed others that have contributed to open work in this area. The ESP8266 firmware is based on the esp-link by Jean-Claude Wippler. My immense thanks goes out to these individuals and all others that have done work along this same vein.