Hot Air vs. IR BGA Rework Stations

Hot air and IR are the two main types of rework stations used by OEMs and PCB contract manufacturers today. Both have advantages and disadvantages and choosing the right one for your application requires a careful consideration of a number of factors, including your budget, your working requirements and the capabilities of your staff.

On this page, we outline some of the differences between hot air and IR BGA rework stations. Got a question or need assistance determining which is right for you? The Precision PCB Services, Inc. team would be happy to help. Give us a call or send an email to contact a representative directly.

Hot Air vs. IR Rework Stations: Basic Differences

The main difference between hot air and IR rework stations is the method by which they heat a PCB component. As their respective names imply, hot air stations use heated air whereas IR stations use infrared rays. On a hot air station, a series of differently-sized nozzles guides air circulation and ensures even heat distribution. IR systems, on the other hand, use a fixed ceramic heater.

Practical Considerations

The fundamental differences between IR and hot air rework stations have practical implications for technicians. These include:

Noise: Hot air BGA rework stations use a pump to circulate air. While many of today’s best units have pumps that run quiet, all still produce some degree of noise, which can be distracting. IR stations are usually silent.
Speed: The nozzles on a hot air rework station allow technicians to quickly direct airflow towards different components. As a result, the rework process for small, delicate components is often faster — particularly when a skilled technician operates the station.
Maintenance: IR stations have fewer components, which makes them easier to maintain and service as necessary. However, these machines tend to range in consistency — many cheaper stations use low-quality ceramic plates, which may perform less efficiently, or require additional tools and accessories to handle more complex tasks.

Ultimately, whether or not these factors are a concern will depend on the skill of your operators. One of the reasons why hot air rework stations have remained popular is that more technicians were trained on them and know how to use them better. The expense and time of retraining staff to use IR stations can make them prohibitively expensive, particularly in smaller operations.

Bottom Line: Which Is Best?

Many hot air and IR BGA rework stations are available today, each of which has a different price point and feature set. Precision PCB Services exclusively sells hot air rework stations that are engineered for maximum performance in demanding applications. This is an older and more established technology — one that we find offers better value for our customers. Keep exploring our website to learn more.