Vapor Phase One brings the industry’s most flexible PCB soldering process to hobbyists and development engineers alike. In contrast to infrared and convection soldering, the vapor-phase process excels at handling high thermal mass assemblies. Large SMD capacitors, high-power inductors, and even metal substrate PCBs are no challenge for Vapor Phase One, which can also solder fine-pitch structures and heat-sensitive components without risk. Finally, its homogeneous temperature distribution minimizes warp and bow of the PCB, which decreases internal stresses on the assembly.
Vapor Phase One relies on two integrated lifts to achieve results identical to those you would expect from an industrial production. Perfect your soldering process and reduce the risk of cold-solder joints, PCB tombstoning, and solder bridges.
Vapor Phase One is open hardware driven by open-source firmware, and we intend to publish everything that goes into building one. That includes a bill of materials, schematics, Gerbers, and step files, along with GPL-licensed firmware. You can already find much of this in our GitHub repository, but we will continue adding and updating source code and design files throughout the campaign.
Vapor-phase soldering—also known as condensation soldering—relies on physics similar to those that drive a heat pipe. An inert liquid is brought above its boiling point, which causes a vapor phase to form just over the surface. (For Vapor Phase One, that liquid is a specially-developed medium called Galden ®, which boils between 230° C and 240° C, depending on the type.) This newly-formed vapor transports energy from the heat source to one or more "heat sinks." Here, those heat sinks are your PCB, your components, and the solder paste you have applied between them.
Vapor condenses on cooler surfaces first, so it will transport a larger amount of energy to those areas, gently heating up your assembly. The solder paste will melt as soon as your PCB reaches the appropriate temperature, which depends on the solder paste but is typically around 180°C. Furthermore, the maximum temperature it can reach is limited by the boiling point of the Galden. As soon as you remove your assembly from Vapor Phase One, the solder will solidify.
While developing Vapor Phase One, ease of use and convenience were among our core design objectives. Unlike other vapor-phase soldering solutions on the market, we did not compromise on handling. Our water cooling system does not have to be refilled after each soldering cycle, for example, and there is no Galden-covered lid for you to deal with after soldering. Your only responsibility is to place your assembly on the lift and start the process. Vapor Phase One takes over from there, bringing an industrial-quality soldering solution to your prototyping workflow – whether that workflow involves a professional engineering facility or a bench in your garage.
The heating element in Vapor Phase One is temperature controlled by the primary microcontroller. The surface temperature of the heating element is measured constantly, and the results are used to increase or decrease the power it receives. We have also mounted a second temperature sensor that feeds into a hardware comparator. If it exceeds 250°C, it cuts power to the heating element and reports the event to the primary controller.
Fast temperature profiles: The design of Vapor Phase One allows the user to run fast temperature profiles by means of a height-adjustable PCB carrier. The assembly is placed on an open wire mesh, some distance above the heat-transfer medium, as determined by a fast temperature control loop.
Individual soldering profiles: Vapor Phase One can import soldering profiles through a USB interface or from an SD card where they can be stored as CSV-formatted data files. It uses these profiles to adjust heating-power and lift position to account for different solder pastes and PCB technologies. No external control software is needed.
Conservation of heat-transfer medium: After a soldering process is completed, the entire capacity of Vapor Phase One’s cooling circuit, plus four additional fans mounted to its base, can be used to cool the process chamber as quickly as possible. This optional "Quick Cool" feature reduces the process time and ensures a minimum loss of Galden when the board is removed.
Lid lift: The lid to the process chamber lifts automatically to facilitate the insertion and removal of a PCB. This safety feature also contributes to the preservation of heat-transfer medium.
Viewing window: In addition to a screen that displays realtime temperature data, Vapor Phase One provides a viewing window, complete with internal lighting, that allows you to see inside the process chamber.
|Vapor Phase One||Imdes MINI-CONDENS-IT||Asscon VP 310||IBL MiniLab|
|Maximum PCB Size (cm)||20 x 18.5 x 7||24 x 17 x 2||30 x 30 x 14||30.4 x 27.4 x 8|
|Device Dimensions (cm)||50 x 32 x 46.5||31.5 x 40 x 30.5||47 x 52 x 49||73 x 60 x 60|
|Quantity of Heat-transfer Medium||1 kg||1 kg||1 kg||3 kg|
|Rapidly Rising Temperature Profiles||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|User-configurable Temperature Profiles||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Conservation of Heat-transfer Medium||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Easy Assembly Insertion||Yes||No||No||Yes|
We will post regular updates throughout the campaign. If you are looking for technical documentation, you will find the latest hardware and software revisions in out GitHub repository. You can also reach us through the Ask a technical question form on our campaign page.
As soon as crowdfunding is complete, we will prepare for small-scale production of Vapor Phase One machines and begin pursuing CE and any other relevant certifications. While we have sufficient staff and office space to produce the first batch in-house, we will outsource the manufacturing of critical components to specialized suppliers. This includes assembled PCBs, milled plastic, and turned or welded parts.
Due to the size and weight of Vapor Phase One, we have taken steps to reduce shipping expenses. In consultation with Crowd Supply, we have determined that PCB Arts will handle fulfillment for backers in the European Economic Area (EEA), where customs logistics are straightforward and shipping is relatively inexpensive. Everything outside of the EEA will be handled by Crowd Supply’s fulfillment partner, Mouser Electronics. In either case, the cost of shipping is included in the price, and no additional fees will be applied at checkout. However, backers are responsible for any applicable VAT or import fees.
One risk we all face at the moment is, of course, COVID-19. We do not know how long various restrictions will continue to affect us and our suppliers. While that kind of uncertainty can lead to delays, we are doing our best to avoid becoming dependent upon any one supplier in order to minimize this risk.
As for challenges, one of the final production decisions we have yet to make relates to which fabrication technologies (CNC-milling, laser cutting, etc.) we should use to manufacture various mechanical components that we 3D-printed for our prototypes.
Produced by PCB Arts in Fuerth, Germany.
Sold and shipped by Crowd Supply.
Help us bring vapor-phase soldering to the masses!
A fully assembled and tested Vapor Phase One. Includes an SD card, a wall-plug adapter appropriate for your country, a syringe for emptying the Galden, a brush for cleaning, a pair of cotton gloves, and a funnel for filling the water tank. (Does not include Galden.)