One of the types of selective soldering systems that should not be overlooked is laser soldering, as this method of selective soldering is highly beneficial for those applications it is well suited for. In fact, it's one of the fastest-growing soldering methods in recent years due to the inherent advantages of laser soldering.
There are, of course, a few things that can cause some operations to hesitate on laser soldering, often due to cost concerns.
However, the benefits of laser soldering will more than makeup for the opportunity costs in the long run due to the advantages of laser soldering over other selective soldering methods.
One of the primary benefits of laser soldering over other types of selective or other soldering methods is that it is a non-contact soldering method. Instead of an iron, wave or jet of solder that contacts the soldering point, a piece of solder is heated via a laser and completes the joint.
If assembling boards that require joints to be soldered in very small spaces with limited accessibility, this confers a great advantage as a laser soldering system works perfectly in those applications.
Additionally, laser soldering systems can be used to solder both SMT and through-hole components, which some other soldering systems - such as reflow ovens - are not able to.
One of the factors that have to be balanced when implementing a soldering system is heat, as heat-sensitive components are at risk the longer the board is subjected to the heat in a soldering system. A reflow oven, wave soldering system or dip-soldering system will subject components to a great deal of heat as well as molten solder is present at all times and boards are subjected to preheating prior to soldering.
Laser soldering, however, does not present this risks. Heat is localized at the soldering site and thus is only applied directly to the area of the solder joint. Besides the heat stress on the component, the thermal stress on the board as a whole remains low.
Additionally, since cooling is much more rapid, solder joints made in a laser soldering system have much better fatigue properties.
An obvious benefit of laser soldering compared to other soldering methods is a far greater capacity for precision. Soldering joints requiring specific joint geometry as well as working with tiny geometries of workpieces is made far more possible by laser soldering than any other method.
Additionally, laser soldering offers the ability of great precision and also efficiency as the process can incorporate a greater degree of automation than other soldering methods.
This also enables a laser soldering system to assemble boards with a higher component density. The more components that are attached to a board, whether through-hole or SMT, the greater the precision necessary to solder them, and as board size and component density has shrunk and increased, respectively, as technology has advanced...the need for laser soldering has increased, and will only do so with time.
Since laser soldering doesn't require a vat of molten solders, such as a wave soldering system, or have the same need to work a joint into a nozzle such as a fountain solder system, it is a far more flexible system. Differing board designs can be moved in and out with no tooling needing to be changed; all the operator need do is run the right program and the transition is seamless.
Few soldering systems can offer that kind of flexibility, which some operations - such as those manufacturing a diverse product lineup - may demand of soldering equipment.
Another benefit of laser soldering is drastically reduced maintenance requirements. Unlike other soldering systems which require far more regular maintenance, laser soldering systems require far less. They also require less in terms of consumables over the long term as diode and TEM lasers last for thousands of hours of operation.
These attributes are why laser soldering is the fastest-growing type of selective soldering system. The demand is only going to increase as component size and component density shrinks. If you're considering a laser soldering system, there are compelling reasons to consider one as they offer too many benefits to ignore for the operation that is well-suited to one.
We're here to help, give us a call or send us an email with any questions.