I'm trying to put together a good set of tools for working on PCBs for hand assembly, rework, testing, etc. Here's some things I've found that aren't horribly expensive.I don't yet know if these brands are good or not, nor have I seen the tools yet.

Note for shopping on Ebay, which can be a great place to find things, LOOK AT SHIPPING FEES before buying. Some of these bozos are selling items for low prices, but charging a kings ransom for shipping. I've seen one item ship for $70 on Ebay, but Amazon seller has shipping of $23 for same thing. Consider entire cost amount, bid+shipping, as even with overpriced shipping the total price could be lower than elsewhere that gives reasonable shipping fee. Pay attention and don't get robbed.

Also check power supply requirements. Some items, particularly on Ebay, can be either 110V or 220V, some items don't really specify. Make sure you buy something you can plug in and use.

Flash Programming

  • Willem Flash programmer is relatively inexpensive and supports a number of Flash and other programmable chips via onboard sockets and separate adapter widgets. Search for sellers or check on Ebay. I have an older version than what they show today. There's a sourceforge page for the software as well.


Hot air BGA Rework

  • Aoyue 968 SMD Digital Hot Air Rework Station on Ebay or Amazon. Thsi is a 3-in-1 tool, hot air, soldering iron, and smoke extractor. The smoke extractor I assume is the thin in some pictures that looks like a second soldering iron along the first, to suck fumes right at the soldering iron tip. I'm not super excited about that, I'd rather change this tiny fume sucker for a powered vacuum pickup tool (as seen on their 852A++ tool or separately as their 932 tool) Ideally I'd like a hot air wand, soldering tweezers, and vacuum pickup tool in a box like this, as I already have a decent Weller soldering iron. If this station cannot drive their 950+ soldering tweezers and vacuum pickup tool, perhaps the 852A++ station is a better combination than this.
  • Aoyue 852A++ Digital SMD Hot Air Rework Station on Ebay or Amazon. This is a 2-in-1 tool with a hot air wand and a powered vacuum pickup tool. This may or may not be a better combination than the 968 tool above.
  • Aoyue 2702A+ SMD Profesional Repair & Rework Station is a 3-in-1 station with hot air wand, soldering iron (with fume extractor nozzle) and desoldering iron. Ebay or Amazon. This station may again be a better compbination than 968 or 852A++.
  • Aoyue 853A Quart Infrared Preheating Station on Ebay or Amazon.
  • Aoyue 853 (not A) compact BGA preheating station on Ebay. This looks smaller than the 853A above, for small boards or perhaps BGA chips for reballing.
  • Aoyue Versitile Work Platform can be combined with above preheating station, this thing holds a hot air wand above a PCB for use. Use with hot air wand in 968, 852A++, etc. stations. Ebay or Amazon, but look around as some pictures differ slightly in how it holds the PCB. Sometimes this has a model number of 618, sometimes no model number at all, just the name.

Soldering tools

  • Aoyue 2900 Lead Free Soldering Station Ebay or Amazon. Though I'm not sure what makes this lead-free special compared to other soldering irons, perhaps higher temperature capability or tip alloy content.
  • Aoyue 950+ Dual Function Repair Station is a soldering iron and soldering tweezers. Ebay or Amazon.
  • Aoyue 701A+ Dual Function Soldering and Desoldering Station Ebay or Amazon. May be redundant depending on if you have a combo station listed above.
  • PanaVise 324 Electronic Work Center at Amazon.


Vacuum Pickup tools

Not all of these claim to be ESD safe. I've marked the ones I've seen an ESD yes no for, will not say anything about ones I've not seen specced.
  • Aoyue 932 standalone tool (powered)
  • Techni-Tool Vacuum Pick-Up System, Econo, TV-100 (powered) at Amazon.
  • Techni-Stat Vacuum Pick-Up System on Amazon. (powered, is ESD safe)
  • Aoyue 852A++ combo station has a powered vacuum pickup tool in it.
  • Aoyue Vacuum Pen on Amazon. (NOT powered, is ESD safe)
  • Edsyn Portable Vacuum Pick-Up Tool, ESD Safe (NOT powered, is ESD safe) on Amazon.

Testers

  • Mastech AC/DC Auto/Manual Range Digital Multimeter, MS8268 at Amazon. I think a good meter with continuity beep feature is a must. I'd love a Fluke, but they're too expensive. This looks like a good meter with this beep feature for e decent price, and I'm so far happy with mine.
  • Abatron BDI3000 jtag debugger uses gdb debugger to see what's going on in a target CPU such as your ARM or PowerPC board prototypes. Look up their distributors, and these guys are expensive. I had a different one from EToolSmiths and wish I'd got this BDI 3000 one instead.

Hand tools

  • Maxtech 16521MX 32-Piece Precision Bit Set at Amazon, perhaps elsewhere as well. This is my favorite screwdriver kit right now. It has a LOT of small tips of varying types for electronics things like laptop or cellphone screws.
  • Xacto knife from your friendly neighborhood hobby shop. Use to break tiny solder bridges between neighboring pins on chips, particularly fine pitch things like QFPs. Also good for scraping out solder flux during cleanup, and cutting PCB traces for modifications.

PCI/PCI-Express Adapters

  • PE4H PCI-Express extender would allow using standard PCI-Express x1 external to laptop, extending the laptop's internal Mini-PCIexpress slot, or extending the laptop'x ExpressCard slot, to determine usability of those PCI-Express lane connections. I suppose it could also make desktop style slots easier to read and tinker with. They have a link to a USA distributor, but some are also on ebay which I'd prefer to yet another unknown company. Pair PE4H with
    • EC2C ExpressCard adaptor, PM3N Mini-PCIexpress adaptor, or
    • HP1A or
    • HP4A desktop slot adaptors.
    • I'd rather have the longer cable, and 4 of them if I can for use with HP4A which has 4 cable connectors too.
  • PE4L is similar but to a x1 slot plastic rather than x16 slot plastic. I think the PE4H is the better choice.
  • Or go the other way, using a known good desktop slot to develop drivers for new Mini-PCIexpress or ExpressCards. EC03 USB3 host to ExpressCard-usb slot, or SIIG's JU-EP0012-S1 or Syba SD-ADA20003 or equivalent.
  • Or MR13 PCI-Express to ExpressCard-pcie slot reader. Or perhaps an easier/cheaper solution something like Startech's PEX2ECDP or SIIG's JJ-000072-S1 adaptor or equivalent.
  • And finally, MR11 Mini-PCIexpress card adaptor or MP2A desktop slot to Mini-PCIexpress card internal adaptor.