RF Soldering & Heating. Simulation, Modeling.
Induction Heating, pyrotechnic devices.
MJMcCann Consulting
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Problem
The original problem was to make arrangements to replace an old RF soldering rig, which worked, with a new one that could process many more items much faster. Unfortunately it didn't quite work out. The devices being operated on were dangerous, containing a bit of (pyrotechnic) explosive material. If they were heated too far, or rather if the heat got to the wrong parts, they would go off. There wasn't any problem containing such an event. For these people that was a way of life. The problem was that it upset production schedules.

How Hot is it?
The first step was to find out what the old, satisfactory bit of equipment actually did. While it was possible to see the solder melt and flow as RF heating was applied. We didn't know how hot the explosive end was getting so that we could assess risks and define process parameters.
That led us to try to make an IR (infra-red) temperature measurement, by pointing a pyrometer at the little device. What we found was that the measurement wasn't reliable. Depending on whether the flux ran over the surface, so we got different answers.. emissivity was changed.
I knew that inside this device was a bridge wire, made of a different material from the parts to which it was welded. The terminations were accessible. I did some simple experiments which showed that the dissimilar metals created an accidental thermocouple which could be calibrated. Thus, I had a temperature measurement (as long as the high RF fields didn't fry the electronics of the thermocouple meter). What's more, the thermocouple was exactly where we needed it, right next to the pyrotechnic materials.

Can we explain behaviour?
The measurement of internal temperature gave us a means to check a model of the heating process. We had good data on the geometry and construction of the device but no real knowledge of where exactly the heat was going within the device. There were several complete electrical loops in the vicinity of the highest RF fields, made of different materials (copper, steel etc). I made a judgement (the ring of solder was pretty conductive itself) as to where the heat input really took place and continued.
Given a rate of heat input, we could see its dynamic propagation through the device (in the model, that is) and see if the resulting time-temperature response at the 'thermocouple' matched up with the reality. When that made a reasonable match, we could look at what might happen with a different RF source.

Will the new source work?
Our assessment of the new, proposed RF heating devices showed that the electrical field would be a bit different in shape, but we could adapt that a bit. The peak power was lower. On the basis of simply raising the temperature of the devices, we could meet the cycle time objectives. However, our model showed that getting the temperature up high enough for the solder to flow, caused the internal temperature, where it mattered, to get too high. So, back to the drawing board!

Was it a failure?
In the sense that that particular design was defective, yes. But we saved a lot of money that would have been spent had we relied on the simple assessment made by the purchasing department and the equipment vendors.

Your Problem?
If you have a problem or a worry that something may look too easy, then perhaps we can help you get to the bottom of it, before you waste the money. Our approach is essentially to aim to be able to quantify what is going on physically. My approach merges a lot of good old common sense engineering experience with superior analytical skills in simulation and modelling. You can call any time or email. No charge for a quick look, in confidence of course.

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Invitation. McCann can help if you have a design or operational problem that needs some technical support that is outside your team's experience, some quantitative assessment of what is really the cause of the difficulties, some design alternatives or just a fresh look by an intelligent interrogator.
If you have a problem with the behaviour of a market sector, plant, process or item of equipment and would like to get a quantitative handle on it to improve yield or optimise performance, then contact me. I'm always ready to give a little time to discuss a new puzzle, in confidence, of course. We'll only worry about fees when there is some defined work. I can be flexible about how I work with you.
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Dr M.J.McCann,
POB 902,
Chadds Ford PA
19317 USA.
T: 1 302 654-2953 (Land)
M: 1 302 377-1508 (Cell)
E: mjmccann@iee.org
Request. Please let me know how you found this website and your interests by following this feedback link. Thank you Date: 2014.08.25
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