OK, I confess. Sometimes we do make mistakes. As much as I hate to admit it, it does happen. For example, we’ve seen headers not fully seated to the board. They’re a little crooked, or one edge is touching the PCB, while the other edge is so far up in the air that you can’t even see the pin protruding through the other side of the board. Other times, an edge connector needs to protrude through a cover panel and there’s no room for play. The connector must be perfectly flat and perfectly square. If you find yourself in this situation, your selective soldering machine can be your best friend.
Warning! On some machines, you may be required to bypass security features. Please consult your manufacturer before bypassing anything designed to protect you from a dangerous machine.
If the connector is larger than the size of the nozzle, program the machine to “walk” back and forth over the pins of the connector (Figure 1). There’s a limit to how long a connector could reasonably be reworked using this method. We’ve been able to fix 2"-long connectors on four-layer boards. The key was to make sure the nozzle could dwell a little bit on the pins that were connected to ground.
Figure 1. A selective soldering machine can be programmed to move back and forth over the pins of a large connector.
Every connector is different. Some connectors will become damaged after much exposure to heat. The plastics are not designed to handle it. For these connectors, we find it’s best to remove the entire connector and insert a new one. Other connectors, however, hold up well under the heat, and you’ll be able to apply slight pressure with your hand to push them back through the board. Be careful, however, as in many cases, pushing the pins down will also push the solder down, and you’ll have no topside fillet.
Make sure to preheat the board. You don’t want to hit this cold board with a bunch of molten solder. The thermal shock could shorten the lifetime of the assembly. Make sure it’s nice and hot before you begin.
Chris Denney is chief technology officer at Worthington Assembly (worthingtonassembly.com); firstname.lastname@example.org.