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SMT Soldering Microscope — Parallax Forums

SMT Soldering Microscope

Does anyone have a recommendation for a microscope for use in soldering SMT parts? I found an old discussion when I did a search but none of the links worked anymore. I found one web article that suggested a $800 scope by AmScope. This looks nice but is it overkill?

https://www.amscope.com/3-5x-90x-trinocular-stereo-microscope-with-4-zone-144-led-ring-light-10mp-camera.html
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  • David Betz wrote: »
    Does anyone have a recommendation for a microscope for use in soldering SMT parts? I found an old discussion when I did a search but none of the links worked anymore. I found one web article that suggested a $800 scope by AmScope. This looks nice but is it overkill?

    https://www.amscope.com/3-5x-90x-trinocular-stereo-microscope-with-4-zone-144-led-ring-light-10mp-camera.html

    (but it is HALF PRICE....)
  • I use a cheap plastic loupe to inspect something I've already soldered. During parts placement, I use one of these:

    magnifier.png

    So, yes, IMO, an $800 microscope would be overkill.

    -Phil

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  • Cluso99Cluso99 Posts: 17,406
    I use a jewellers loupe similar to Phil’s info. Just goes over my glasses. I use this to place my parts and inspection as I don’t do much hand soldering on my smt boards as I have a reflow oven. I do hand solder the flash chip onto my RetroBlade2 tho.
  • Even better I use a large lens magnifier with lamp combination
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  • Cluso99Cluso99 Posts: 17,406
    PropGuy2 wrote: »
    Even better I use a large lens magnifier with lamp combination

    I used to useone of thesebut found the loupe much better.
  • You guys are killing me. And I was hoping to get a cool new piece of equipment and you're giving me inexpensive solutions! :smile:

    Seriously, thanks for the advice.
  • ....During parts placement, I use one of these:

    magnifier.png
    ...

    Obvious by my profile pic - this is what I use as well!
  • GenetixGenetix Posts: 1,499
    David Betz,

    Yes, those stereo microscopes are pricey, but they are built to last being mostly metal.

    On work microscopes the main problem I've had are faulty eyepieces, but once the magnifier head locking screw was missing.

    Sometimes companies toss equipment that they don't need so I would suggest visiting medical device companies.
  • David Betz wrote: »
    You guys are killing me. And I was hoping to get a cool new piece of equipment and you're giving me inexpensive solutions! :smile:

    This is very funny I had to laugh

  • Go with a dental or surgical loupe. They work very well, and with a 14" focal distance you don't have to have worries about not being able to get to the work. Big magnifiers I have found are too close and in the way. Plus spherical aberration/distortion leaves much of the FOV unusable. The head band magnifiers above, tried them, hated them.

    I own a pair of US Surgical binocular loupes (2.5x) I picked up from a dental student on fleabay, I think they were around $100 when I got them. They are the flip up type and I (and my dentist) would highly recommend them over the lens mounted version. My dentists complaint is that he has to try to look around them when he needs to do anything outside the field of view. Mine, just flip up out of the way and drop right back into place to continue. There are quite a wide selection on fleabay, YMMV. Some used are probably good deals while some cheapies look like knockoff junk.
  • I bought a $70 video microscope on a whim, and I love it. Snap a SDHC in and you can record video or snap pictures. I use it constantly, even for mundane stuff like checking color codes on 1/4 watt resistors or pulling splinters out of my finger. Honestly, it is an amazing tool, especially at this price point.
  • sam_sam_samsam_sam_sam Posts: 2,233
    edited 2021-01-07 04:00
    I have one of these magnifier camera that has a 4” screen that I use for reading part number on devices and look at soldering joints that are in question which also has the capability of taking pictures of the results

    But installed it up side down because I have a shelf above my work table and with it set up this way it is still in the focus range of this camera the reason I did this is because the table for camera to do your work is very small
    and very inconvenient to use that way
  • sam_sam_samsam_sam_sam Posts: 2,233
    edited 2021-01-07 04:07
    PropGuy2 wrote: »
    Even better I use a large lens magnifier with lamp combination

    What version is it the LED light bulb or the fluorescent light bulb version

    If it is the LED light bulb version how do you like using it and is it bright enough to use it for circuit board repairs

  • ercoerco Posts: 19,860
    I've been playing with, and have been impressed with a little USB microscope the wife got for the kids. Plugged it into my PC and self-installed and opened the camera app. Only 2MP resolution but IMO impressively clear images! 50X-1000X, comes with a tiny stand/clamp, worth building a bigger one for more gooder adventures. Quick tour of a Prop AB below. Cam is fixed in video below, pardon my shakey hand work moving the board around. Focus/zoom/lighting is all adjustable; I think this is quite useful for examining PCBs. I'm not sure where this one came from, but Walmart lists a similar-looking one for $15! https://www.walmart.com/ip/Digital-USB-Microscope-8-LED-Adjustable-Endoscope-Camera-Electronic-Stereo-Magnifier-1600X/926700248



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  • If you want to improve your vision working with small parts and other small things consider getting Craftopics LED lighted magnifying glasses.

    I have a pair of these and they are invaluable for providing me the ability to see small details/items.

    The glasses can be setup with your eyeglass prescription or just simple reading magnifications and have a very powerful LED light.

    They are a bit pricey, but are worth it. Check out their videos.
  • One thing I should have mentioned is that I'd kind of like a solution that will allow me to take good pictures of PCBs as well as just aid in assembly. I always end up with a shadow over the board when I just try to use my phone to take a picture.
  • You should probably turn the flash on!

    I order one of these items: imicro-q2-an-800x-fingertip-microscope.

    I shouldn't have any problems taking picture then.

    Mike
  • iseries wrote: »
    You should probably turn the flash on!

    I order one of these items: imicro-q2-an-800x-fingertip-microscope.

    I shouldn't have any problems taking picture then.

    Mike
    Then I get glare. I Googled this and some suggested using a light box for taking pictures of PCBs. Maybe I'll try that. In any case, I won't be buying any $800 microscopes anytime soon. :smile:

  • ercoerco Posts: 19,860
    That little USB microscope I demoed above has a built-in rheostat to dim the LEDs, I found it to be very useful.
  • erco wrote: »
    That little USB microscope I demoed above has a built-in rheostat to dim the LEDs, I found it to be very useful.
    I just ordered one. At that price it's certainly worth a try and your video looked quite good. I may get a pair of the glasses that Phil recommended as well. Even both together is far cheaper than the microscope I was looking at.

  • Cluso99Cluso99 Posts: 17,406
    Beware the fleabay magnifying glasses and led lights are usually cheap and crap. Don’t waste you money. Been there.
  • David BetzDavid Betz Posts: 14,364
    edited 2021-01-08 01:22
    Cluso99 wrote: »
    Beware the fleabay magnifying glasses and led lights are usually cheap and crap. Don’t waste you money. Been there.
    Do you have a suggestion for a pair of magnifying glasses to buy? I found this on Amazon.

    https://smile.amazon.com/Headband-Magnifier-Head-Mounted-Binocular-Magnification-1-5X/dp/B07M7H3P95/ref=pd_ybh_a_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=RVCRCD4VQHZMG79VRVF3
  • Peter JakackiPeter Jakacki Posts: 10,024
    edited 2021-01-08 02:44
    Never ever use flash, and I could give you lots f reasons why, but just don't. But you do want diffused lighting. How do you do that? Easy. Aim that bright lamp at the board sideways. But it's glarey. Just insert a sheet of paper between the lamp and the board and now it is much better.
    Here I just rest the board on a sheet of paper and bent up one edge to act as the diffuser and lay an LED lamp on the other side of it. Now my phone switched to super-macro automatically but the main thing is to get close but not too close that it can't focus. If it's in focus you can always zoom in digitally (after it's taken) and still get a clear picture. I just open Google photos on my PC and the pictures I take automatically pop up there as well since the phone backs up to the cloud.

    Here are some quick first and unedited shots including my "SMD microscope" that I made out of a +3 reading glass and a lens and a craft stick and some copper wire. I can move the lens in and out and up or down to suit.

    BTW, microscopes are terrible for depth of field but you need to see the whole 3D shape clear and focused. That's why a phone with a small sensor is better for macros and you can also adjust the F-stop to get less light but a greater depth of field etc. I didn't do that here though.

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  • I guess the diffuser idea is basically a subset of the light box idea. Isn't a light box just a diffuser on all sides? Anyway, I guess you've all convinced me not to lay out big bucks for a microscope. I'll try Peter's idea about using a piece of paper as a diffuser the next time I try to take a picture of one of my boards. Thanks everyone for your suggestions!
  • Peter JakackiPeter Jakacki Posts: 10,024
    edited 2021-01-08 02:53
    Yes, a light box can be made out of paper on 3 sides around a frame with lights on all three sides if you want it as uniform as possible, but as you can see, it is not really necessary. Just never get between the light and the subject nor use flash, nor jerk the camera as soon as you've taken the shot. Sometimes I put it on 2 second timer or use voice activation and even rest the phone on a small box for those perfectly straight-down square shots.
  • Laser markings on chips are often hard to see except with lighting from a specific angle, and straight down or diffused is often not best. A bright white LED flashlight can help find the sweet spot. Hands-free adjustable angle is even better, to illuminate exactly the point that needs attention for photography or for work/rework. It is also important to have some means of holding the workpiece firmly in the field of view, like an adjustable vice or board holder. Nothing is more frustrating than having the workpiece tip or slide as you push against it with the soldering iron. Adjustability is important for best view because loaded pcbs are essentially 3D.

    Many years ago I bought a binocular student 'scope at an auction at a UC Berkeley surplus warehouse. It is one of the best investments ever (of ~$150). The eyepiece is 10x and the objective is switchable from 0.75x to 3x. It's easiest to work using wider field of view of 7.5x or 10x, but the 30x is good for zooming into the spot in question, to see that hairline short circuit or that cold solder gap.
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  • Cluso99Cluso99 Posts: 17,406
    If I cannot read the laser markings i take the board out into the sunlight and vary the angle until I can read it.
  • GenetixGenetix Posts: 1,499
    If you look just behind Tracy Allen's fume extractor you will see a Panavise PCB holder.

    That one is for big boards but they make another version that is perfect for small boards such as the one on the scope.

    Definitely worth the money as they are built to last.
  • Peter JakackiPeter Jakacki Posts: 10,024
    edited 2021-01-08 08:26
    What's with the special vises? I just use magnetic paper clips and a metal base, in fact it's a metal book end. Then there's my pick'n'place plunger which I made from a pen and screw and spring with a magnet on the end. Push the plunger and pick up the parts, then release and they drop.

    I normally have pcbs on mini panels and use the panel edges to clip to.

    btw, I do have one of those panavises but I never use it anymore. Then again, I used to have those pcb assembly racks where you slide pcbs into the rails and clipped the sponge backed cover over the components to keep them in place and you flipped the assembly rack clip and solder the "solder" side (the component side is the solder side now!).

    EDIT: I brought my "smd assembly station" to the kitchen table and took a photo.
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