Aoyue Int 866 Rework Station (Review)

    • by Jean-François Simon
    • Reading time: 10 min

    In the field of electronics, soldering is a frequent topic of discussion. The product we're reviewing today addresses this need with a multifunctional approach. The Aoyue 866 rework station combines a hot-air station, PCB preheater, and conventional soldering station into one compact unit, offering a comprehensive solution for various soldering tasks.

    general view of the Aoyue 866
    The Aoyue 866, a multipurpose device.

    Overview

    This device is a three-in-one multifunction station. The soldering iron is suitable for most common electronic soldering tasks on through-hole and SMD components. In my repair article, I discussed desoldering multi-pin components using two soldering irons simultaneously. While this method is effective for small components, it becomes challenging with larger components or those with numerous pins.

    For larger components, a hot-air station proves invaluable. While it requires some practice, the process involves holding the heat "gun" by hand, with separate adjustments for air temperature and flow rate. The key is to apply enough heat to effectively desolder or solder without damaging the PCB or components. The airflow must be sufficient to provide ample heat, but not so strong that it blows smaller components away.

    The Aoyue 866 station builds on this principle by incorporating an articulated arm and column to hold the hot air handpiece in place, freeing up your hands for other tasks. Additionally, the integrated board preheater provides heat from below, ensuring even heating without overheating the components on top. This allows the board to reach a temperature close to the solder's melting point. Then, a precise amount of additional heat can be applied with the hot air. Preheating is also essential for soldering large components, like connectors, where pads are connected to substantial ground planes. This multifunctional tool is, therefore, suitable for a wide variety of situations.

    Main Specifications of the Aoyue 866

    The Aoyue (pronounced “ow you”) 866 station includes a 350 x 190 x 110 mm base with a 550 W quartz tube infrared heater, offering a heating surface of approximately 130 x 130 mm. The preheater is stable on the workbench due to its weight and is compact enough to not occupy too much space. Its temperature range can be adjusted between 100 and 450°C.

    The hot air handpiece also boasts a 550 W power rating and has an adjustable temperature range from 100 to 480°C.

    Finally, the 60 W soldering iron features an adjustable temperature range from 200 to 480°C. It connects to the preheater via a 5.8 mm-diameter, 900 mm-long cable, which is relatively flexible but somewhat thick. The cable sheath is made of PVC, so caution is needed to avoid damaging it with the soldering iron.

    Please note that there may be discrepancies between the power ratings listed in the manual, on the Aoyue product page, and in this article. The documentation seems to have some inconsistencies, but the wattages provided here are based on my own measurements.

    Unboxing

    Contents of the package
    That was a hefty package!

      The contents include:
    • preheater
    • hot air handpiece with 4 nozzles: 3 round, 6 mm, 8 mm, 12 mm, 10 mm square
    • main column, serving as a support for the hot air, with its lock ring
    • 3-section aluminium alloy articulated arm
    • a set of 6 small parts to hold the PCBs above the preheater, and associated thumbscrews
    • external thermocouple
    • soldering iron
    • soldering iron holder with sponge
    • brass sponge tip cleaner, which is indeed brass and not plated steel
    • solder spool holder
    • power cable
    • small plastic toolbox containing accessories: a set of soldering iron tips, a spare heating element for the soldering iron, a spare element for the hot air handpiece, a pen-style vacuum pickup tool to lift ICs

    Assembling the Station

    The instructions are brief, but assembly is straightforward. The column is secured to the lower frame with a single large screw. While a 6 mm Allen key is not provided, it's not essential. You can simply hold the screw head with your fingers and tighten the column by hand. Since the lower frame's steel is relatively thin, over-tightening with a wrench could easily cause it to bend.

    Next, engage the lockring on the column to secure the hot air handpiece at a consistent height. Attach the articulated arm by positioning the tightening knobs on top. Finally, insert the hot air handpiece into the hole in the articulated arm and gently secure it with the side screw.

    The iron holder is modular, allowing for versatile use. You can equip it with the brass sponge, the classic sponge, or both simultaneously, as the sides are interchangeable. Additionally, a stand for a solder spool can be attached on either the left or right side, according to your preference. A metallic bracket and a variety of screws are included for this purpose.

    Three options for the iron holder
    The holder offers numerous possibilities, with accessories also fitting on the opposite side.

    Using the Aoyue 866

    The unit is straightforward to operate. The hot air, preheater, and soldering iron each have their own dedicated On-Off button, display, and temperature control switches, making it extremely user-friendly. Additionally, the front panel includes a potentiometer for adjusting the hot air flow rate.

    the soldering iron
    A classic Aoyue iron.

    Soldering iron: The soldering iron requires no special mention. With a 60 W output, it is suitable for most common tasks. It comes with a wide range of tips, all of which are standard "900M" tips, ensuring that replacements are easy to find. If you need a specific tip geometry not included in the set, you can easily purchase it separately.

    using the soldering iron
    The 866 can be used as a regular soldering station.

    Hot air: it’s perfectly possible to use hot air without using the preheater. The handle connects to the base with a 1.15 m long cable, providing ample reach to work on PCBs near the station. With 550 W heating power, it efficiently reworks many small and medium-sized components.

    using the hot air
    Removing this PLCC package was a breeze.

    For more massive components, such as large BGA packages or multilayer motherboards, relying solely on hot air is not ideal. The power is insufficient to melt the solder quickly, requiring prolonged heating that risks damaging nearby components or the PCB itself. Additionally, uneven heating can cause damage and warping to the PCB. This is where the preheater proves invaluable.

    Preheater: The preheater simplifies challenging tasks with its increased heating power and gentle heat application from below. Additionally, placing the hot air handle in its holder allows you to keep your hands free for using tweezers or adjusting settings.

    The kit includes six small aluminum brackets that can be attached to the side rails using sliding nuts and hand screws.

    the PCB holders
    Adjustable PCB holders.

    To use this system on all four sides for optimal PCB stability, ensure the board dimensions do not exceed 180 x 110 mm. If brackets are used only at the front and rear, the preheater can accommodate a board up to 180 x 160 mm. Alternatively, you can place a larger board directly on top of the preheater without using clamps. However, be mindful of two points: first, the PCB will not be secured, so handle it carefully to avoid dislodging it. Second, covering the entire preheater with a large board obstructs natural airflow due to convection. This can result in the area beneath the board reaching higher surface temperatures than expected, potentially desoldering components on the bottom side.

    A Matter of Temperature

    Regarding temperature measurement, be aware that the temperature shown on the middle display labeled “preheater” reflects the temperature measured by a probe inside the radiant panel itself, not the temperature of the board. Therefore, it is up to the user to determine the optimal preheater temperature through trial and error for the best results.

    ready to use the preheater
    Ready for removing a Broadcom BGA package.

    Aoyue provides an external K-type thermocouple for measuring the PCB temperature as close as possible to the component being reworked. However, using it can be challenging. There is only one connector, so you can connect either the soldering iron or the thermocouple, but not both simultaneously. When the soldering iron is off, pressing the corresponding “down” button switches the display to the external thermocouple mode. During my usage, it showed an ambient temperature of 71°C, which is 47 degrees off. At 330°C, the error margin was 40°C.

    Inexplicably, Aoyue has not included a method to calibrate the external thermocouple to reduce the error. However, calibration is possible in soldering iron mode (see manual). I did not need to use this feature as my measurements indicated the temperature of both the soldering iron and hot air were accurate. For the external sensor, you can either mentally subtract about 40 degrees from the displayed temperature or use a separate thermometer. Otherwise, the tool works fine. In the following photo, I am desoldering a chip in a BGA package on a router board.

    removing a BGA package
    Ta-daa! Careful, its hot around here.

    Internal Construction

    The construction of the device is straightforward and sturdy. All wires running through the central part of the heater are encased in heat-resistant sheaths. The connections are well insulated, the soldering iron transformer appears robust, and connectors are securely fastened with glue. The soldering is done correctly. Although I noticed some residual flux that hasn’t been cleaned up, it is unlikely to affect the device’s operation.

    internal construction
    The insides of the Aoyue 866 are simple.

    The front panel board utilizes an ATmega16 microcontroller from Microchip to manage the user interface and temperature settings. It also includes a 74HC595 shift register and two ULN2003 drivers to control the display segments. In contrast, the main board is single-sided and consists of through-hole components. It features BTA20-600 and BTA12-600 triacs, along with MOC3021 optocouplers, to control the heating elements for the preheater, hot air, and soldering iron.

    Who Is It For?

    In conclusion, the Aoyue 866 is an excellent choice for anyone in need of a versatile and affordable tool for electronics soldering. It's perfect for repairing smartphones and game consoles with small PCBs, and it's also a great option for those interested in low-cost BGA reballing. Keep in mind, mastering BGA reballing will require extensive practice on sacrificial PCBs, but Aoyue offers specific nozzles to help you get there.

    What sets the Aoyue 866 apart is its compact, space-saving design, making it a perfect addition to any workshop. It’s one of the most affordable options on the market, offering a comprehensive kit that includes all necessary accessories and even spare parts, neatly organized in a handy toolbox. Its mechanical and electronic simplicity ensures reliability and ease of repair, making the Aoyue 866 a standout choice for electronics enthusiasts and professionals alike.

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