What size of surface-mount components is good for a beginner?

Started by May 18, 2018
Greetings one and all


I am laying plans to start working with SMT for the first time.  Would
0805 components be a suitable size for a beginner, or would another
size be appropriate?



I have been a sometimes hobbyist for a long time, since the mid 70's
when I was a teenager, but until now I have never ventured beyond
through hole construction, mostly due to a combination of tooling and
a complete lack of dexterity.

I have recently been convinced by someone that SMT has a much wider
availability of components and the prices are generally much less than
the equivalent THT components.  The compactness of SMT construction is
also very attractive.

I plan to start with a small hot air station and then move up to a
more proper reflow setup if I ever get more ambitious.

My primary concern is the handling of components.  The 0805 sized
components seem to be very common and I strongly doubt I could ever go
below that due to vision and dexterity issues.

However, is 0805 too small for a klutzy beginner?  I'm not
particularly ambitious at this point, but that could change, depending
on my interests and level of success.


Ray
With the right equipment I would expect 0805 to be manageable, though 
obviously that depends on your ability which you are in a better 
position to assess than me.

Before you layout a PCB maybe you could buy some 0805 resistors and see 
how well you can handle them? Maybe print some actual size footprints on 
paper and see if you can place the components?  perhaps not very 
realistic but should give you an idea of what you are getting into 
without the time and expense of laying out an actual PCB.

Personally I have found component density to be more of an issue than 
size, e.g replacing an 0402 with plenty of space around it would, for 
me, be easier than replacing an 0805 in the middle of tightly packed 
area, especially if it is a small component between two tall capacitors.

For low cost components make sure you get some spares - you don't want 
your project to be delayed because a resistor pinged out of the tweezers.

On 18/05/2018 21:43, rayRemoveThisotwell@gmail.com wrote:
> Greetings one and all > > > I am laying plans to start working with SMT for the first time. Would > 0805 components be a suitable size for a beginner, or would another > size be appropriate? > > > > I have been a sometimes hobbyist for a long time, since the mid 70's > when I was a teenager, but until now I have never ventured beyond > through hole construction, mostly due to a combination of tooling and > a complete lack of dexterity. > > I have recently been convinced by someone that SMT has a much wider > availability of components and the prices are generally much less than > the equivalent THT components. The compactness of SMT construction is > also very attractive. > > I plan to start with a small hot air station and then move up to a > more proper reflow setup if I ever get more ambitious. > > My primary concern is the handling of components. The 0805 sized > components seem to be very common and I strongly doubt I could ever go > below that due to vision and dexterity issues. > > However, is 0805 too small for a klutzy beginner? I'm not > particularly ambitious at this point, but that could change, depending > on my interests and level of success. > > > Ray >
On 05/18/18 16:43, rayRemoveThisotwell@gmail.com wrote:
> Greetings one and all > > > I am laying plans to start working with SMT for the first time. Would > 0805 components be a suitable size for a beginner, or would another > size be appropriate? > > > > I have been a sometimes hobbyist for a long time, since the mid 70's > when I was a teenager, but until now I have never ventured beyond > through hole construction, mostly due to a combination of tooling and > a complete lack of dexterity. > > I have recently been convinced by someone that SMT has a much wider > availability of components and the prices are generally much less than > the equivalent THT components. The compactness of SMT construction is > also very attractive. > > I plan to start with a small hot air station and then move up to a > more proper reflow setup if I ever get more ambitious.
I'd suggest 0805 or 1206 to start with. Hot air isn't a slam dunk for assembly because it's easy to blow the components away--paste isn't very sticky. I suggest using an adjustable hotplate from a chem lab (which are cheap on ebay) with a _thick_ aluminum frying pan on top (also cheap). For protos we use one of those plus a chunk of 1/2-inch aluminum jig plate from McMaster-Carr. You really need the aluminum to spread out the heat, or the board won't reflow uniformly. A thermocouple thermometer is pretty cheap as well, but you need to really squash the sensor against the hot plate, e.g. with a screw or a big binder clip.
> > My primary concern is the handling of components. The 0805 sized > components seem to be very common and I strongly doubt I could ever go > below that due to vision and dexterity issues.
Get some good lab glasses. If you were a teenager in the 1970s (as I was) you'll be needing bifocals. My lab glasses are +0.75 (comfortable for a desktop computer) and +2.25 for close work. Your reading correction plus 1.25 or 1.5 diopter is the ticket. I pay about $40 for a pair of those from Zenni Optical. Don't use drugstore ones unless you happen to have the matching interpupillary distance--even a millimetre of error makes a difference. For small stuff, e.g. checking TSSOP packages for solder bridges, I use an original Mantis microscope ($1400 used) with 4x and 8x lenses. There are a lot of Chinese scopes on eBay for a few hundred bucks new. Make sure you get a _stereo_ microscope and not just a _binocular_ one. Stereo scopes provide normal stereopsis, i.e. your eyes look at the field from different directions so that you get depth perception. It's cool and useful to be able to look around stuff, and the Mantis is great for that. Also spend the money for decent stainless-steel tweezers, not the Chinese or (especially) Indian ones. You want pointy ends with not too skinny a taper, one pair straight and one pair curved. You'll use the curved ones the most. Get some alcohol to keep the tweezers clean, because otherwise flux will make them stick to the parts. Another tip is to make adjustable self-closing tweezers: Use a small binder clip sliding up and down the jaws of the tweezers to adjust the closing force. That really helps prevent losing parts when you change your grip on the tweezers. You'll also need a jig for applying paste. You can get good solder stencils for cheap along with your Chinese PCBs, but you need to surround your board with other bits of board of the same thickness, or the stencil won't lie flat on the board and the paste will go everywhere.
> > However, is 0805 too small for a klutzy beginner? I'm not > particularly ambitious at this point, but that could change, depending > on my interests and level of success.
The key is to get the paste right and then apply the parts with tweezers, resting the heel of your hand on the bench so only your small muscles have to coordinate. An adjustable-height chair and a fairly tall workbench (36 inches or so) are a huge help there too. After that, start saving up for decent test equipment. ;) Have a great time at it! Cheers Phil Hobbs -- Dr Philip C D Hobbs Principal Consultant ElectroOptical Innovations LLC / Hobbs ElectroOptics Optics, Electro-optics, Photonics, Analog Electronics Briarcliff Manor NY 10510 http://electrooptical.net http://hobbs-eo.com
On Fri, 18 May 2018 23:00:04 +0100, Gareth <me@privacy.net> wrote:

>With the right equipment I would expect 0805 to be manageable, though >obviously that depends on your ability which you are in a better >position to assess than me. > >Before you layout a PCB maybe you could buy some 0805 resistors and see >how well you can handle them? Maybe print some actual size footprints on >paper and see if you can place the components? perhaps not very >realistic but should give you an idea of what you are getting into >without the time and expense of laying out an actual PCB. > >Personally I have found component density to be more of an issue than >size, e.g replacing an 0402 with plenty of space around it would, for >me, be easier than replacing an 0805 in the middle of tightly packed >area, especially if it is a small component between two tall capacitors. > >For low cost components make sure you get some spares - you don't want >your project to be delayed because a resistor pinged out of the tweezers. > >On 18/05/2018 21:43, rayRemoveThisotwell@gmail.com wrote: >> Greetings one and all >> >> >> I am laying plans to start working with SMT for the first time. Would >> 0805 components be a suitable size for a beginner, or would another >> size be appropriate? >> >> >> >> I have been a sometimes hobbyist for a long time, since the mid 70's >> when I was a teenager, but until now I have never ventured beyond >> through hole construction, mostly due to a combination of tooling and >> a complete lack of dexterity. >> >> I have recently been convinced by someone that SMT has a much wider >> availability of components and the prices are generally much less than >> the equivalent THT components. The compactness of SMT construction is >> also very attractive. >> >> I plan to start with a small hot air station and then move up to a >> more proper reflow setup if I ever get more ambitious. >> >> My primary concern is the handling of components. The 0805 sized >> components seem to be very common and I strongly doubt I could ever go >> below that due to vision and dexterity issues. >> >> However, is 0805 too small for a klutzy beginner? I'm not >> particularly ambitious at this point, but that could change, depending >> on my interests and level of success. >> >> >> Ray >>
Egads! I just tried some of what you suggested. I whipped up a simple little 0805 layout in KiCAD and then printed the mask to have a look. Without serious magnification, I couldn't tell the pads from the traces! I'll definitely start with the 1206s for now! I'll save the 0805s for once I get a good feel for SMT and get some sort of reflow plate. Thanks!
On Fri, 18 May 2018 18:11:36 -0400, Phil Hobbs
<pcdhSpamMeSenseless@electrooptical.net> wrote:

>On 05/18/18 16:43, rayRemoveThisotwell@gmail.com wrote: >> Greetings one and all >> >> >> I am laying plans to start working with SMT for the first time. Would >> 0805 components be a suitable size for a beginner, or would another >> size be appropriate? >> >> >> >> I have been a sometimes hobbyist for a long time, since the mid 70's >> when I was a teenager, but until now I have never ventured beyond >> through hole construction, mostly due to a combination of tooling and >> a complete lack of dexterity. >> >> I have recently been convinced by someone that SMT has a much wider >> availability of components and the prices are generally much less than >> the equivalent THT components. The compactness of SMT construction is >> also very attractive. >> >> I plan to start with a small hot air station and then move up to a >> more proper reflow setup if I ever get more ambitious. > >I'd suggest 0805 or 1206 to start with. Hot air isn't a slam dunk for >assembly because it's easy to blow the components away--paste isn't very >sticky. I suggest using an adjustable hotplate from a chem lab (which >are cheap on ebay) with a _thick_ aluminum frying pan on top (also cheap). > >For protos we use one of those plus a chunk of 1/2-inch aluminum jig >plate from McMaster-Carr. You really need the aluminum to spread out >the heat, or the board won't reflow uniformly. A thermocouple >thermometer is pretty cheap as well, but you need to really squash the >sensor against the hot plate, e.g. with a screw or a big binder clip. > >> >> My primary concern is the handling of components. The 0805 sized >> components seem to be very common and I strongly doubt I could ever go >> below that due to vision and dexterity issues. > >Get some good lab glasses. If you were a teenager in the 1970s (as I >was) you'll be needing bifocals. My lab glasses are +0.75 (comfortable >for a desktop computer) and +2.25 for close work. Your reading >correction plus 1.25 or 1.5 diopter is the ticket. I pay about $40 for a >pair of those from Zenni Optical. Don't use drugstore ones unless you >happen to have the matching interpupillary distance--even a millimetre >of error makes a difference. > >For small stuff, e.g. checking TSSOP packages for solder bridges, I use >an original Mantis microscope ($1400 used) with 4x and 8x lenses. There >are a lot of Chinese scopes on eBay for a few hundred bucks new. > >Make sure you get a _stereo_ microscope and not just a _binocular_ one. >Stereo scopes provide normal stereopsis, i.e. your eyes look at the >field from different directions so that you get depth perception. It's >cool and useful to be able to look around stuff, and the Mantis is great >for that. > >Also spend the money for decent stainless-steel tweezers, not the >Chinese or (especially) Indian ones. You want pointy ends with not too >skinny a taper, one pair straight and one pair curved. You'll use the >curved ones the most. Get some alcohol to keep the tweezers clean, >because otherwise flux will make them stick to the parts. Another tip >is to make adjustable self-closing tweezers: Use a small binder clip >sliding up and down the jaws of the tweezers to adjust the closing >force. That really helps prevent losing parts when you change your grip >on the tweezers. > >You'll also need a jig for applying paste. You can get good solder >stencils for cheap along with your Chinese PCBs, but you need to >surround your board with other bits of board of the same thickness, or >the stencil won't lie flat on the board and the paste will go everywhere. > >> >> However, is 0805 too small for a klutzy beginner? I'm not >> particularly ambitious at this point, but that could change, depending >> on my interests and level of success. > >The key is to get the paste right and then apply the parts with >tweezers, resting the heel of your hand on the bench so only your small >muscles have to coordinate. An adjustable-height chair and a fairly >tall workbench (36 inches or so) are a huge help there too. > >After that, start saving up for decent test equipment. ;) > >Have a great time at it! > >Cheers > >Phil Hobbs
Thank you for all the tips and advice! This is exactly what I need to hear.
Oops, sorry for using my old handle there.

Ray
Way back when I did a "sampler" board to help answer this question, and
found that I could do 0603, 0402, and maybe 0201, sized resistors by
hand (soldering iron :).  The 01005 was a bit too small, even with a
microscope.

Project here in case you want to make one yourself:
http://www.delorie.com/pcb/smd-challenge/

I typically use 0603 size, and 0.5mm pitch ICs, with a soldering iron
(40 mil chisel).  You learn how to design PCBs that are easy to solder
parts onto ;-)

I will add the caveat that I'm a bit crazy:
http://www.delorie.com/pcb/inkjet/insanity_II.html
On Fri, 18 May 2018 16:43:36 -0400, rayRemoveThisotwell@gmail.com
wrote:

>Greetings one and all > > >I am laying plans to start working with SMT for the first time. Would >0805 components be a suitable size for a beginner, or would another >size be appropriate? > >
0805's are a good size. That's my preferred size for production boards, too.
> >I have been a sometimes hobbyist for a long time, since the mid 70's >when I was a teenager, but until now I have never ventured beyond >through hole construction, mostly due to a combination of tooling and >a complete lack of dexterity. > >I have recently been convinced by someone that SMT has a much wider >availability of components and the prices are generally much less than >the equivalent THT components. The compactness of SMT construction is >also very attractive. > >I plan to start with a small hot air station and then move up to a >more proper reflow setup if I ever get more ambitious.
Hand soldering isn't bad. People use kitchen convection ovens or hot plates, too.
> >My primary concern is the handling of components. The 0805 sized >components seem to be very common and I strongly doubt I could ever go >below that due to vision and dexterity issues.
You'll need some magnification, something with some working distance. I love my Mantis, but that may be too expensive for you just now. A desktop immuminated magnifier should be enough, 3x or so maybe.
> >However, is 0805 too small for a klutzy beginner? I'm not >particularly ambitious at this point, but that could change, depending >on my interests and level of success.
1206's frightened me once. Now 0603s are fine, but I hate 0402s. I make prototypes by Demeling copperclad FR4. Works great. https://www.dropbox.com/s/7bihbjbaojvta0z/Z382_1.JPG?raw=1 https://www.dropbox.com/s/9av93ul8148zdjm/Z356_SN2.JPG?raw=1 https://www.dropbox.com/s/5nlhqy7c8mt2xv3/LDP2.JPG?raw=1 Try surface mount. It's not bad at all. -- John Larkin Highland Technology, Inc lunatic fringe electronics
On Sat, 19 May 2018 11:50:19 -0700, John Larkin
<jjlarkin@highlandtechnology.com> wrote:

>On Fri, 18 May 2018 16:43:36 -0400, rayRemoveThisotwell@gmail.com >wrote: > >>Greetings one and all >> >> >>I am laying plans to start working with SMT for the first time. Would >>0805 components be a suitable size for a beginner, or would another >>size be appropriate? >> >> > >0805's are a good size. That's my preferred size for production >boards, too. > >> >>I have been a sometimes hobbyist for a long time, since the mid 70's >>when I was a teenager, but until now I have never ventured beyond >>through hole construction, mostly due to a combination of tooling and >>a complete lack of dexterity. >> >>I have recently been convinced by someone that SMT has a much wider >>availability of components and the prices are generally much less than >>the equivalent THT components. The compactness of SMT construction is >>also very attractive. >> >>I plan to start with a small hot air station and then move up to a >>more proper reflow setup if I ever get more ambitious. > >Hand soldering isn't bad. People use kitchen convection ovens or hot >plates, too. > >> >>My primary concern is the handling of components. The 0805 sized >>components seem to be very common and I strongly doubt I could ever go >>below that due to vision and dexterity issues. > >You'll need some magnification, something with some working distance. >I love my Mantis, but that may be too expensive for you just now. A >desktop immuminated magnifier should be enough, 3x or so maybe. > > > >> >>However, is 0805 too small for a klutzy beginner? I'm not >>particularly ambitious at this point, but that could change, depending >>on my interests and level of success. > >1206's frightened me once. Now 0603s are fine, but I hate 0402s. > >I make prototypes by Demeling copperclad FR4. Works great. > >https://www.dropbox.com/s/7bihbjbaojvta0z/Z382_1.JPG?raw=1 > >https://www.dropbox.com/s/9av93ul8148zdjm/Z356_SN2.JPG?raw=1 > >https://www.dropbox.com/s/5nlhqy7c8mt2xv3/LDP2.JPG?raw=1 > > >Try surface mount. It's not bad at all.
I've seen the breadboarding via islands before, but I really hadn't thought much about dremeling a board for SMT, but that looks like it actually works quite well. Due to handling issues I'm really starting to think in terms of 1206, at least until I gain some experience with tweezers and small objects. I would like to move to 0805 because I like the extra compactness. One other thing I've recently discovered by working on some smaller items is that I need a raised work area, and that goes double if I'm going to do surface mount work of any sort. With strong glasses my focal length is just too short otherwise. I've seen all sorts of articles on hot plates and different ways to customize them for SMT use. I've also seen some projects for converting toaster ovens for reflow use. One of those is probably the route I'll eventually take, $$$ are a strong concern. Most likely a hot plate approach as I think it quite unlikely I'll make more than one or two boards at a time, or week even. I suppose I'm going to have to start ordering boards, too. I don't think my homebrew boards are going to survive this transition unless I move to photo developing boards. An awful lot of considerations to move into light SMT work. I underestimated the amount of preparation I'm going to need to start, but I'm starting to really think I can do it AND enjoy it. Thank you for the input! Ray
In article <bneufd9h0p2s19sv8vkvst47m0jm6svues@4ax.com>,
 rayRemoveThisotwell@gmail.com wrote:

> Greetings one and all > > > I am laying plans to start working with SMT for the first time. Would > 0805 components be a suitable size for a beginner, or would another > size be appropriate? > > > > I have been a sometimes hobbyist for a long time, since the mid 70's > when I was a teenager, but until now I have never ventured beyond > through hole construction, mostly due to a combination of tooling and > a complete lack of dexterity. > > I have recently been convinced by someone that SMT has a much wider > availability of components and the prices are generally much less than > the equivalent THT components. The compactness of SMT construction is > also very attractive. > > I plan to start with a small hot air station and then move up to a > more proper reflow setup if I ever get more ambitious. > > My primary concern is the handling of components. The 0805 sized > components seem to be very common and I strongly doubt I could ever go > below that due to vision and dexterity issues. > > However, is 0805 too small for a klutzy beginner? I'm not > particularly ambitious at this point, but that could change, depending > on my interests and level of success. > > > Ray
I prefer to use (inch) 0805 or larger, but can manage (inch) 0603 without too much invective. The metric coded 0603 parts are much smaller - 0603 inch is 1608 in metric, and metric 0603 is inch 0201 (don't sneeze.) That said I've been known to cruise sleazebay for surplus partial reels of 2512, 1210 and 1206 parts (while there are some intermediate sizes between those, they seem to be much less common, though I will search on them as well - 1008 also seems to be uncommon) looking for parts I might make use of at low cost in sizes that are easier to see/handle. Overkill, perhaps, and not as compact as possible, but I'm mostly making stuff on my own, not for production. I use a soldering iron - Weller WTCPN/TC201 with a long pointy cone, (1/64" radius tip) that I mostly use the side of. I have other tips, but have not changed that one since I first started messing with surface mount. Many folks do think you need a fat chisel tip, but I find the versatility of the long point (if you grok using the side as well as the tip) is better for me. I (now) have a rework station but only use it for desoldering, usually - messing about with applying paste has not found much appeal as yet. While there are supposed to be horrors from assembling SMT with a normal iron, I have yet to run into them personally, and thus weight the horror stories kinda low. I got a set of "my normal prescription with 5 diopters added to it" glasses - that, and a lot of light, are helpful, though a fancier setup (microscope or the like) with a longer working distance might be nicer. +1 puts your "infinity" at a meter, +2 is half a meter, +3 is 1/3 of a meter, +4 is 1/4 of a meter, and +5 is 1/5 of a meter, or roughly 8 inches from your eyeballs. Some folks use a USB microscope/camera and a monitor (the larger the better) as a different means of magnifying the work area with plenty of eye relief. The parts I hate are the multi-pin packages with insanely small spacing. SOP seems quite comfortable by comparison with vast 1.27mm pin spacing. SSOPs and tighter tend to make me feel either grumpy or hopeless. I probably would hate BGAs if I was inclined to use any, but so far I've been spared that joy. I'll happily use DIPs when available. Solder surface tension plays a big role in production assembly and soldermask is very important as a result, especially for the tight spacings - if you have the right amount of solder, a chip that's more or less in the right place will self-center when the solder melts. A hot tweezer gives you the fancy way to do this on a two-terminal device (or remove it easily) but you can often heat both ends with a single iron if you move quickly. Manageable packages are hold in place, tack a pin on one corner, tack a pin on the other corner, correct if needed, and then solder the rest of the pins. Unmanageable packages you have to solder them all at once and try to avoid bridges from too much solder. -- Cats, coffee, chocolate...vices to live by Please don't feed the trolls. Killfile and ignore them so they will go away.