PS3 Reball with the Puhui T-870A
Every since Gilsky's very popular video, people have been confused about what reflow is. First, let me start by writing that Gilsky's "reflow" is not, in any way, shape or form, a real reflow. A reflow is not possible using his heat gun technique. A reflow melts the solder so it can reattach to the connections. Gilsky's method only warms up and re-warps the motherboard so the broken connections are touching again. That's why the Gilsky heat gun fix only lasts a week on average.
The true difference between reflow and reball is whether the integrated chip is removed or not. With a reball, the IC is removed, then both chip and board are cleaned of all the solder, which is replaced with new solder spheres.
So, yes, reflow is possible with the Puhui T-870A. And it takes the same amount of time to reflow as it does to remove the IC. For a reflow, instead of removing the chip, simply turn off the lamp (after one minute if you follow my instructions) and the preheater, and you have accomplished a true reflow.
As far as the actual time it takes to clean the IC and board, and then place the new spheres and prepare the IC for reattach, it depends on experience and comfort level. I take my time and that part of the process takes about another 20 to 30 minutes with a BGA rework tool. With a direct heat stencil system, I can reball in about five minutes. So from start to finish, the whole process can take up to a couple hours, but once you are comfortable with the process, you may be able to do it in about 40 minutes to an hour, or even less per IC.
This is not a route you want to take if you are considering PS3 reballing as a business, the process takes too long, making it inefficient as a business. I only recommend it as a casual hobby, or for occasional repairs for family and friends. Otherwise it's much cheaper to send your board to a professional PS3 reball company, their equipment (which costs $10,000 and up by the way) is better suited for the task and can achieve reflows and reballs in a fraction of the time. Those businesses charge about 60 to 75 dollars, and Sony itself will repair/replace any PS3 whether it's under warranty or not for about the same amount, the last time I checked.
The Puhui T-870A is an excellent low cost, professional rework station. I love it, and use it often. I bought it for personal projects such as component salvage, PC/game system rework, and electronics/robotics development. It's absolutely perfect. And, the company and sales teams provide plenty of support, not that I have ever needed it, it's a solid station.
Many people online are buying the Puhui T-870A as a cheap reball solution for the PS3. The problem with that is they are too inexperienced and lack the necessary electronics education. That's why we're not finding many successes with it online. They are all fumbling around with online tutorials, videos, and forum threads, and in most cases, with a less-than-basic understanding of electronics. A sophisticated project like reballing a PS3 takes way more than that. In the right hands, and with a bit of patience, the Puhui T-870A can be just as powerful as any other expert rework station.
A basic understanding of electronics is required. If you haven't received an electronics degree, stop now and find a good electronics college course in your area.
Now, to be clear, I am a hardcore anti-Microsoft, Linux using, PS3 fan-boy, so I could never justify actually paying any amount of money on a 360 for BGA rework. As a result, I have no experience reballing one. For those of you looking for information on technique and procedure for reflowing or reballing the Xbox, you must look elsewhere. The internet is full of success stories concerning that system.
Because of the smaller IC sizes and lack of heat sinks, Xbox's are way easier to reball than the PS3. So, for that reason, I suggest learning how to successfully reball the PS3 first. I have read PS3 failure stories that start out with wonderful successes reballing and reflowing the Xbox then explain that it doesn't work on a PS3. The PS3 ICs are significantly larger, have more contacts, and all of them have big ol' heat sinks on top making it very tough to rework.
The most important thing to know about reballing the PS3 is that it is absolutely imperative to preheat the PCB. I believe it is pretty standard for electronics manufacturing to keep PCBs at a temperature of 160 degrees Celsius, which concurs with my research into various sphere alloy melting points and reflow times. Therefore, my instructions utilize the method of placing the preheat plate temperature sensor on the topside of the PCB where it should be located at the base of the IC you intend to remove. This ensures that not only is the air below the PCB at 160° Celsius, but the whole board is too.
Based upon my experience, I do not consider the size of the preheat plate a practical concern. I know several forum posters bring this concern up, and coming from a novice point of view, it is logical. However, in practice the procedure is governed by a form of thermodynamics which teaches us that the heated air from the preheat plate is stopping at the PCB and spreading out across the board fairly evenly. Indeed, my tests have confirmed that, at the temperatures we're dealing with during rework, the entire board is heating at an acceptable even rate.
In discussion, or philosophizing, it is easy to forget about how the PCB is preheated and what the heated air actually does when it reaches the board. Especially when one is aware that the initial problem is caused when an IC overheats during game play creating a distortion between the IC and board. Concidering those temperatures, the edges of the board can be close to room temperature. Even at operating temperatures, the other parts of the board, just inches from an overheated IC, can still be 150-200 degrees cooler! That is simply not the case with a properly heated PCB during reflow, regardless of the preheat plate size.
The Puhui T-870A is a 1000 watt system that uses a 400 watt infra red light for the IC, so roughly 600 watts is used to feed the preheat plate. This may seem like a lot, but compared to other rework stations, it is quite small, and I believe it is the fundamental reason for longer preheat times. More power will always mean more heat and faster heat times. But, the key to good PS3 reballing with the Puhui T-870A is patience.
Also, and this may blow your mind, my instructions do not mention the use of flux for lifting or attaching the ICs. The reason is, I have never used it for that. When I first received the T-870A, (three days after purchase, by the way, shipped from China!!!) I had not yet received the AMT-599-ASM gel flux included with the sale. Since it is a chemical, it had to be shipped separate and arrived about a month after the T-870A. Instead, I used what I had at the time, which was supposed to work according to my research. It didn't, and my first ruined PS3 has that to blame, the poor quality flux I used made a mess and helped fry both the chip and the board below it. So, from that point on, I didn't use any flux for removing the ICs.
Disclaimer (heavy on the sarcasm, but necessary nonetheless)
The procedure detailed in this step-by-step howto works for me, however, I guarantee use of these instructions will result in catastrophic failure. You will destroy your PS3 and even risk burning your house down, or at least setting off the fire alarm. If, by chance you do complete my instructions and end up with a successful PS3 rework, then sue me, or thank me, whichever you feel is appropriate. Honestly, this step-by-step is only meant to get some numbers out there in the world wide web for people interested in learning PlayStation 3 reballing times and temperatures on the Puhui T-870A.
In my original blog entry, I was using a BGA rework station for applying the spheres to the IC. I have since purchased a set of direct heat stencils, and converted. Using the station was more of a hindrance and ended up being just a nuisance. Using the direct heat method is easier and way quicker! I was originally concerned with lifting contact pads during the removal of the stencil, but so far that has proved to be an illegitimate concern.
For a more in depth look at what I use, see the afore mentioned entry “Reballing the PlayStation 3”.
Direct Heat Stencils
Hot Air Wand (Optional)
Controlled Temperature Solder Iron and 900M-T-K (Or Equivalent)
2.0mm Goot Wick
NC-559-ASM No-Clean Solder Paste
Aven 5SA Tweezer (Or Comfortable Compliment)
Solder Pump (Optional)
BGA Spatula (AKA Tin Shaving Pen, or Scraper)
Soft Cleaning Cloth
Flat PVC Card (Or Equivalent Size Spatula Device)
.6mm Sn63 Pb37 Solder Spheres
1. Attach motherboard to the PCB supports to prevent warping;
2. Possition the motherboard about 4 cm above the preheat plate, and the lamp nozzle about 1.5 to 2 cm above the chip;
3. Place the preheat sensor on the top of the motherboard so it is touching the PCB at the base of the IC;
4. Set the preheat plate to 170 degrees Celsius and turn on;
5. Wait for the topside sensor to top out at around 160 degrees Celsius; (This takes about 33 minutes when I start at a room temperature of about 23 degrees Celsius.)
6. Set the lamp to 250 degrees Celsius and turn on for exactly 60 seconds;
7. At the 50 second mark, use the spatula to gently start testing the IC, there should be NO resistance;
8. Remove the IC from the board and place it solder side up on a level surface;
9. Turn lamp off immediately;
10. Turn off preheat plate;
11. Using a combination of solder pump, solder iron, flux, and Goot Wick, remove the melted solder from the PCB;
12. Using a combination of solder pump, solder iron, flux, Goot Wick, and hot air wand, remove the melted solder from the IC;
13. Clean up the PCB and IC with the isopropyl alcohol utilizing the cotton swabs and soft cloth.
14. Apply a thin layer of flux to the IC using the PVC card for an even spead;
15. Align the direct heat stencil and press it firmly to the IC;
16. Apply solder spheres catching excess in bowl;
17. Heat the the solder balls with the hot air wand; (I also add more flux on top of stencil for stubborn balls that do not immediately melt.)
18. Remove the stencil with the tweezer;
19. Allow the IC to cool enough to handle;
20. Place the IC back onto the motherboard careful to align each corner with the corner markers on the PCB;
21. Follow steps 2-6;
22. Turn off the lamp;
23. Turn off the preheat plate;
24. Allow to cool to room temperature.
For reflow only, follow steps 1-6 then 22-24.
This method works for me. I cannot guarantee it will work for you, or anyone else. I also do not consider it definitive, but rather a place to start. When I first looked into the reballing the PS3, there was no information available online providing the temperatures and times of the PS3 reball process. As a result, I came up with this technique through trial and error and educated guesswork. That is why I call it a starting point for those who are interested. Obviously there is room for improvement, incorporating flux, for instance, in the removal steps to help speed things up.
It should also be noted, that I consider Gilsky to be a helpful pioneer in the realm of do-it-yourself PS3 repair. And for that, I have a great deal of respect for him. I know he personally has had success with his heat gun method. I have not, and expect many of you will likewise not have any success with my method. Regardless, I hope at least to have been able to shed some light on many of your inquiring minds.