This week’s EYE ON NPI (video) is (shall we say it) an ideal benchtop tool for anyone doing through-hole soldering or rework on PCBs. And, let me guess…that’s going to be a lot of our readers! We’re featuring the Ideal-tek PCSA Circuit Board Holders with a ton of well-thought-out features and sturdy construction.
Back when I learned how to weld, my teacher told me to spend 5 times longer on the jigging than the welding. Same with anyone doing CNC work: you have to get the work piece in the right position, held in place, before you can touch it with a tool. Getting your work into ready position, and solidly arranged, it’s so important. It makes a big difference between doing an OK rework job and a perfect one. How many times have you tried holding a through hole part with a finger, just to burn it. Or used tape to keep a part in place, now there’s residue to clean off? If you have to do more than a couple boards a week, this system will save you a ton of time and frustration.
Ideal-tek PCSA Circuit Board Holders come in three sizes, which we colloquially refer to as “big” “large” and “huge”. The railings are adjustable, and these are also designed to be able to parallelize multiple small designs. We find the 1N series to be plenty large for us, but if you’re dealing with larger boards, perhaps over 25 sq inches, maybe look at the PCSA-2N or PCSA-4N. The pricing is nearly identical for all three, so you can pick the size that works best rather than trying to save a few bucks.
There’s a couple of really nice touches Ideal-tek put into these. For adjustments, they use a lot of large thumbscrews that are really easy to loosen and tighten. The railing movement is juuuust right so it’s easy to adjust the rails but they don’t slide around while you’re trying to position them. The work area is hinged so it can be put in a few different angled positions for component placement, visual inspection, and rework.
Our favorite part is the foam component holder (this thing would have been so handy for all those x0xb0x’s we assembled as our first sale). After placing through hole components on the front side, you can hinge a sheet of ESD foam onto the railing that gently but securely presses down and keeps them all in place. Then flip the whole work area over to solder them all in. Parts are perfectly aligned for quick soldering – and the railing is large enough you can do whole panels at once. Replacement foam is in stock for when it eventually wears out from use.
We kinda purchased one specifically to review for EYE ON NPI, but now we’re excited to install this at Adafruit on one of our rework/assembly stations. Particularly for through-hole assembly. like when we attach electret microphones, this will make quick work! If you have any through-hole soldering or rework you think you’ll be undertaking, you’ll save yourself enough time to pay the cost of the tool in a few hours. Digi-Key has all three sizes of the PCSA Circuit Board Holders right now, so you can order today and be ‘flipping out’ over this great work-holder tomorrow!
See on Digi-Key at https://www.digikey.com/short/b5ntp2jd
Ideal-tek on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/idealtekofficial/