The Bayou Wave Project

A Project to Produce an Affordable PCB Soldering Machine

We have a number of customers who need to produce circuit boards on-demand. Typical build quanties are from 10 to 50 at a time. Soldering each pad by hand is tedious, time consuming and prone to error.  Current wave soldering machines are expensive to set up and operate. Typically they require hours to heat up and set up.  The least expensive one we have been able to find is about $35,000.

The goal of this project is to design a sub-thousand dollar (<$1000) machine.  Our target price for materials is $250, and no more than $250 in machining and labor costs.  We plan to open-source the design and software for use by end users, while offering kits, parts and full assembly for those who would like the convenience.  Maybe we can offer better prices by buying in bulk.  We also plan to offer a simple commercial license for those who would like to manufacture the machines for resale.

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Video of our Crucible Test Fixture

This is a video that shows our first proof of concept testing.  It also shows enough detail for you to build your own low cost solder pot.

In our research for suitable crucible materials we discovered Soapstone, an amazing material that God provided long before man started engineering high temperature ceramics. People have been using soapstone as a cookware material for thousands of years and it is still highly prized for use in pizza stones, high end cookery, and as fire brick in very expensive wood stoves.


Picture of another PCB Soldered

While testing our first crucible, we looked around for some PCBs we could destroy and make fit in our small crucible. The first one (shown in the video) was an old PCB we made in house over 20 years ago.  The second board we soldered is shown below. It was an in house design but outsourced from about 10 years ago.  It has a solder mask. BTW we were really soldering with our temperature too low. 233-260C should give better results.

For some good advice on using a solder pot to solder PCBs check out this link.


New Crucible Blanks Arrive

The new crucible blanks of soapstone arrived today. We will use these to scale up our testing with Arduino sized PCBs.

They were shipped via "all you can cram into a box" flat rate.  The postman was surprised at the weight. The bubble wrap arrived bubble-less . The corrugated box was no longer corrugated in many places.  But 5 of the six stones arrived with no damage, and the sixth only had a corner missing.

Thanks Joe, for the stones and for your willingness to think outside-of-the-box on shipping. I think they are going to work.


The Second Generation IR Reflector

The Stainless Steel Reflector came out beautifully. The 8-1/2x 11 inch [216x280mm] mirrored surface suffered no damage through the strain of the slip rolling process. We first cut the oval (15x43mm) required for mounting the IR heater, then marked the extents of the curved part (3"[76mm] either side of center).  We then placed the flat sheet in the slip roller and tightened it as we moved back and forth  the center until we achieved the curve we wanted.

With a little practice you could roll one every two to three minutes.  Cutting the oval is another story.  I tried  to cut it with a milling attachment that didn't have enough reach. In the end I resorted to a using a Dremel tool. With a better machining technique or tool I still think we can meet our $30 target for a reflector.  Of course, we haven't made the ends yet.