Essential Micro Soldering Tools

Microsoldering is not an easy job.  To do it without the proper micro soldering tools and equipment is even harder.  In the article below, I’m going to detail all of the tools and equipment that you’ll need to get started.

The definition of micro soldering is being able to solder through a microscope because the components are so small that they’re almost impossible to see without one.  Just to get an idea of how small these components are, here is a chart of the surface mount components commonly found in iPhones and iPads:

I stole this from Wikipedia.org.

I stole this from Wikipedia.org.

In the schematics, you’ll see each component identified along with their size, similar to this:

schematic component

For FL25, which is a filter (inductor), you can see that the component size is 01005 (displayed at the bottom).  Looking at the wikipedia chart above, under “imperial code”, you can see that that this is the smallest surface mount component made.  The black rectangles in the size chart above is the actual size of the component, so now you can see how trying to solder one of these components on a logic board is nearly impossible without a good microscope.

Micro Soldering Microscope

So, what do you need to know about buying a microscope?  Do you need a barlow lens, a boom stand, an objective lens, 2x/4x, trinocular, simultanous focus, etc?  Unless you already own a microscope, it’s so overwhelming trying to figure out what you actually need for smartphone and tablet repair.

You’re in luck because I’m going to help you with deciphering the different kinds of microscopes used for microsoldering.

I would definitely stick to Amscope.  It’s best to buy it through Amazon.  The 0.5x barlow lens will give you a greater working distance between the scope head and your workbench.

The less magnification of the barlow lens, the higher the working distance. For microsoldering, I would recommend a 0.5x or 0.7x barlow lens.

The 0.7x-4.5x zoom objective will allow you to zoom way into the logic board, so that you can see what you’re soldering.  This zoom objective range is standard for pretty much all microscope heads.  The eyepieces and the barlow lens is what changes the magnification from 0.7x to 0.35x (0.5x barlow) or from 4.5x to 9x (2x barlow), which is why you’ll see 0.35x to 9x as the magnification range for some microscopes.

The trinocular port will allow you to record videos through the third eyepiece.  And the most important thing is the simultaneous focus, which will allow you to see through both eyepieces AND record video through the trinocular port without closing off one eyepiece.  Without simul-focus, you’ll only be able to see out of one eyepiece while recording video.  The above scope doesn’t come with a digital camera or a light ring, but you can get a cheap light ring on ebay for around $10-$20.  I would definitely recommend getting a light source when you order the scope.

Here is the microscope that we recommend:


AmScope SM-4TPX Professional Trinocular Stereo Zoom Microscope with Simultaneous Focus Control, WH10x Eyepieces, 3.5X-45X Magnification, 0.7X-4.5X Zoom Objective, Ambient Lighting, Double-Arm Boom Stand, Includes 0.5X Barlow Lens

Personal Note: This scope has all of the necessities including a simul-focal head for recording video.  Only thing it's missing is the florescent light ring.
New From: $600.99 In Stock

Here are some other alternatives:

Micro Soldering Rework Station

Every micro soldering technician needs a good rework station.  What’s a rework station?  A rework station usually comprises of at least a soldering iron and a hot air gun.  You can buy a cheap X-tronic or Aoyue hot air station on amazon, but I think the way to go would be a good Hakko.  They’re not too crazy expensive, they work a lot better and they tend to last a lot longer than the cheaper alternatives.  I would also recommend buying separate stations for your soldering iron and your hot air.  The stations that are combined tend not to work as well.  You’ll probably want to add a good microsoldering pencil or micro-tweezers after you get the rework station.  This will help with the extra small 0201 and 01005 smd components.

Without further ado, here are my recommendations for a good rework station:


JBC NASE-1C Nano Rework Station 2 Tools

Personal Note: Best microsoldering station that one can buy. I switched to this JBC unit from the Hakko. The tips are alignable and the micro-pencil actually heats well. I don't use any Hakko soldering products anymore because the JBC stuff is THAT much better.
New From: $1,549.41 ($14.69 / oz) In Stock

If you’re looking for cheaper alternatives, then these are also great:


Soldering Station, Digital, ESD Safe, 2Port

Personal Note: I've never used this station, but it supports the FM-2032 micro-pencil and FM-2023 micro-tweezers, along with a standard FM-2027 soldering iron.
New From: $602.36 ($4.71 / oz) In Stock

Hakko FM2023-05 SMD Mini Tweezer with T9-I Tips and FH200-04 Stand for the FM202 and FM203 Stations

Personal Note: I use this a lot more than the micro-pencil
New From: $295.23 In Stock


These are the micro soldering equipment that I recommend, but I know price may be a factor, so here are some alternatives.

Micro Soldering Hot Air Stations

  • JBC Tools JT-1QD Hot Air Station – $1,300 (I can’t get myself to spend this much on a hot air station, but this is the one that I would get if it made sense.)
  • Kohree Hot Air Station – $59 (I’ve never used this, but great reviews on Amazon)
  • Quick 957DW+ – $120 (I have one. It’s good, but I would spend a little extra to get the Quick 861DW because that one has 3 programmed channels. The good thing about this station is that it works with the Aoyue and Hakko tips.)

Micro Soldering Iron

Micro Soldering Multimeter

A digital multimeter is essential for logic board repair.  You don’t really need anything fancy, since most of what you’ll be dealing with is low voltage (~5V) and you’ll be testing for continuity, diode mode, resistance, voltage, and sometimes capacitance.  Sure you can get one of those awesome, but expensive Fluke multimeters:


Fluke 117 Electricians True RMS Multimeter

Personal Note: Great multimeter, but much more expensive than the Uni-T
New From: $172.95 In Stock

But the truth is, it’s probably overkill for microsoldering.  Personally, I use the Uni-T UT139C.  It costs around $40 at Amazon and it has pretty much every feature that you’ll ever need for microsoldering.  The bonus about the UT139C is that it also comes with a thermocouple which measures temperature.  I use this to calibrate my hot air rework station.  Other than that, it’s just like any other digital multimeter and it’s fairly accurate.


UNI-T UT39C+ Digital Multimeter NVC Auto Range With LCD Backlight Data Hold Multimetro Frequency Temperature tester

Personal Note: This is a great little multimeter. It has continuity mode, diode mode, voltage mode, capacitance mode and a thermocouple. Just about everything that you'll need for microsoldering.
New From: Out of Stock

You’ll also want some super fine multimeter probes:

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Multimeter Probes with Super Fine Tips

Personal Note: These are the multimeter probes that we use with our multimeter. The tips are super fine and can fit between the small components. To sharpen them even further, I’d recommend buying a diamond sharpener from Amazon.
New From: $11.99 In Stock

Micro Soldering Software

ZXW Tools is the micro soldering software that tells you what each component is connected to on the logic board.  In a way, it’s better than schematics because with the schematics, you still don’t know where each connection is made on the logic board.  For example, the backlight on an iPhone 6 is out, but it’s not the backlight filter, so what component is next after the filter?

You can search the schematics for what’s next in line, then go back up to the top where the drawings are located, but that’ll take forever when working in real life.  With ZXW Tools 3.0 , you can see what component is next in line very quickly.

Here’s a link to setup and install ZXW tools.  We sell the ZXW Tools serial number to access the software in our online store.  You can download the software for free, but it will not work without the serial number and password.  The software is updated automatically via the internet with the latest iPhone versions, so you’ll always have the most recent schematics.  Remember that you must purchase a new subscription every year.  This tool is essential for iPhone repair.

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ZXW Tools v3.x 1-year License

Personal Note: This is an essential schematics tool used for troubleshooting logic board repair. Buy it if you are serious about microsoldering.
New From: $70.00 In Stock

 

Solder, Flux, Isopropyl Alcohol, etc.

Now that you have your microscope and a good soldering rework station, the next step is to buy some solder, maybe some solder paste, some good flux, and a jug of isopropyl alcohol.  This could also be a little overwhelming because there are so many different types of solder and fluxes.

For solder, most newer devices use lead-free solder, which have a much higher melting point.  The higher the melting point, the harder the solder is to work with.  For most microsolderers, we replace the lead-free solder with leaded solder when we’re replacing smd components.

I stole this chart from Kester (big company that produces solder):

kester solder melting points

As you can see from the chart, lead-free solder melts at roughly 220 °C and leaded solder melts at 183°C and higher.  “Sn” is tin and “Pb” is lead.  The standard solder that most microsolders use is Sn63Pb37, which is 63% tin and 37% lead.  How much solder will you actually need as a microsolder?  Very little.  Depending on your volume, one little stick will probably last you a good while.

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Kester 63/37 Tin/Lead Solder 0.5oz 0.031″

Personal Note: This is the solder that we use for everything. One roll of this should last you a while if you’re just a hobbyist. The solder is comprised of 63% tin and 37% lead. It has a high activity rosin RA core flux. This is the best solder for microsoldering. 1/2 ounce tube with a 0.031″ diameter.
New From: $11.99 In Stock

In addition to some 63/37 leaded solder, you’ll probably want something to help you remove existing chips, like Chipquik.  Chipquik is a low melt solder that melts at 58°C.  Using Chipquik allows you to remove existing chips without applying too much heat to the surrounding components.  The way it works is that you apply a little bit to the end of your soldering iron, then mix it into the solder on the component, which lowers the melting temperature of whatever solder is already on it, usually lead-free solder.  Once the melting temperature is lowered, then it’ll be a lot easier to remove the component from the board.

You can also buy this low melt solder paste that we have in our store. This is the stuff that we use:

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Mechanic Low Melt Solder Paste Sn42/Bi58 138°C

Personal Note: This is the stuff that we use. It melts at 138°C. You won’t need it very often, so one vial of these and you should be set for a while. This stuff allows you to remove components and connectors without using the super high heat required to melt lead-free solder.
New From: $11.99 In Stock

Solder paste is also good for removing chips or connectors due to it’s low melting point.  The low melt solder paste above melts at 138°C — much less than leaded solder, but not as low as Chipquik.  The idea is the spread the low melt solder paste on the legs of the connector to reduce the melting temperature of the lead-free solder, so that it’s easier to remove the connector with hot air.  SRA low melt solder paste does the job.  I prefer Mechanic brand low melt solder paste though.

What is solder paste?

Solder paste is essentially liquid solder in the form of little balls.

solder paste

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Mechanic Sn63/Pb37 Solder Paste 183°C

Personal Note: This is the solder paste that we use for all of our reballing. It melts at 183°C. It comes in a 42g plastic container. One container should last you a long time.
New From: $11.99 In Stock

Solder paste comes in the form of a tube and comes mixed with flux.  Solder paste is great for instances where it’s easier to use a hot air gun than a microsoldering pencil or micro tweezers.  For instance, pry damage near the battery connector on an iphone 5.  It’s almost impossible to access the 01005 filter with anything but a hot air gun and some solder paste.


What is solder flux?

Flux is a yellow like substance that helps the solder flow onto the smd components more easily.  Think of flux like this…if you put oil in water, the oil won’t mix very well, but if you add a little bit of detergent (flux),then  the oil and water will eventually mix together.  Flux is necessary for making a good strong solder joint.  It helps the solder flow onto the smd component.

There are many different kinds of flux.  My favorite?  The Amtech NC-559-TF  Amtech VS-213-A-TF.  Make sure that you buy from a reputable ebay dealer or online shop because there are a lot of fakes out there.  A 10CC tube should cost about $15 and 30CC should cost about $25.  Anything less that ships from China is probably not the real stuff.

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Amtech VS-213-A-TF Tacky Flux 10cc w/Plunger and Tip

Personal Note: VS-213A-TF is the most recent and the most up-to-date no-clean tacky flux formulation by AMTECH. NC-559-TF should no longer be used because it is an outdated flux with old technology.
New From: $17.99 In Stock

One 10cc tube should last you a long while depending on your volume.  You can buy this from our online shop.

Here’s a chart from Amtech that kinda describes all of the different kinds of flux:

Amtech Flux Chart

Amtech Flux Chart


How to fix missing pads? 

After soldering components, you’ll inevitably run into missing pads. In order to fix missing pads, you’ll need to use ZXW tools to trace the nearest connected point and run a micro jumper to the affected pad. You’ll want some very thin jumper wire to do this. Something like the below:

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0.02mm Copper Jumper Wire

Personal Note: This stuff is great for running low voltage/current jumpers. We use this every day for everything from iPhone touch IC disease to running thin long jumpers for pads in the middle of a BGA chip. You won’t be disappointed. One roll should last forever.
New From: $9.99 In Stock


What is UV solder mask? 

UV curable solder mask is essential for “masking” exposed surfaces that have been worked on. This green liquid solidifies once UV light is introduced to it. It’s easy to apply and cures quickly.

Here’s the stuff that I use:

Buy Now

Green UV Curable Solder Mask

Personal Note: This is the green stuff that I use to cover exposed traces on the logic board. It comes in a tube as a liquid, but once UV light is applied to the liquid, it turns solid. One tube of this stuff should last you long, long time. No need for a plunger or needle because all you really need is a little bit of this stuff on the end of a needle.
New From: $7.99 In Stock

Buy Now

High Powered USB UV Curing Light

Personal Note: This is the best UV light for curing soldering mask. I’ve tried many others and this one cures in the least amount of time possible. You’re looking at seconds instead of minutes.
New From: $19.99 In Stock


How to clean solder flux? 

You’ll need some isopropyl alcohol too.  Preferably something with 99% alcohol or higher.  Isopropyl alcohol is used to help dissolve the flux, so that you can scrub it off of the logic board or wipe it off with a KimWipe.  It is alcohol, so it’ll evaporate.  It’ll also help you clean off the logic board without leaving a corrosive element like water.  You can buy a bottle at your local walmart or computer store (Microcenter) or at Amazon.

Some other random micro soldering tools and equipment that you’ll probably want to have on hand:


AQUEENLY 2 PCS Silicone Sheet for Crafts Jewelry Casting Molds Mat, Food Grade, Blue

Personal Note: Works well for protecting your work surface below.
New From: $7.99 In Stock
Buy Now

Hakko 5B-SA Curved Micro Tweezers

Personal Note: These are the tweezers that we use every day. I bend them to more of a right angle. These tweezers are thin enough to squeeze into between chips and strong enough to grab a chip without compromise. If I had to choose one tweezer to get, then this would be it. I have about 10 of these that I just swap in and out.
New From: $11.99 In Stock

Buy Now

Hakko 5-SA Straight Micro Tweezers

Personal Note: Thinnest, cheapest, best straight tweezers that I own.
New From: $11.99 In Stock


iFixit Precision Tweezers Set - Extra Fine, Angled, and Blunt Tips

Personal Note: You'll want a few bigger tweezer too for when you need to get hold of a bigger chip.
New From: $9.99 In Stock
Buy Now

Heavy Duty PCB Holder

Personal Note: The best pcb holder that I’ve ever used. I use this daily. The locking mechanism on this thing makes it so that it never slips, unlike the cheaper ones with a screw. It’s heavy too, so that it stays in place while you’re working on the logic board.
New From: $39.99 In Stock


Tekpower TP3005N Regulated DC Variable Power Supply, 0-30V at 0-5A

Personal Note: You'll want a minimum 5V DC Power supply to test the devices that you'll be repairing. No need for anything fancy.
New From: $59.95 In Stock
Buy Now

iPhone 4/4S/5/5C/5S/SE/ 6/6+/6S/6S+/7/7+/8/8+/X/XR/XS/XS Max DC Power Supply Battery Cable

Personal Note: You'll want this cable to power up your iphone logic board. This is good for figuring out how much current your logic board is drawing upon boot up. Definitely necessary for troubleshooting.
New From: $17.99 In Stock

Buy Now

Qianli iPower Max iPhone 6 6P 6S 6SP 7 7P 8 8P X XS Xs Max DC Power Supply Cable

Personal Note: This dc power supply cable will boot the iPhone logic boards by itself, without the need for a battery and/or charge port. Just plug in one of the ends to your iPhone 6 6P 6S 6SP 7 7P 8 8P X, XS, Xs Max and then push the left button to turn the device on and the right button to boot the logic board. This is a must for iPhone logic board troubleshooting!!
New From: $27.99 In Stock

You can also check our page listing the essentials of micro soldering.

That’s about all for now.  You’ll acquire a bunch of things along the way — some useful and some not so much.  Don’t forget to buy some good tips for your soldering iron and maybe a fume extractor.  Good luck!