When reflow soldering is not possible due to having to use thru-hole components, wave soldering is one of the dominant forms of selective soldering machines.

Each has advantages and disadvantages, so the best type of selective soldering machine to purchase often comes down to how well it fits your individual business. Wave soldering may not be a good fit, or it may be that laser soldering isn’t either.

To get a better understanding of what the strengths of wave soldering are compared to other methods, here are three primary advantages to a wave soldering system.

Wave Soldering Can Selective Solder At Higher Volume

The primary advantage of wave soldering is the capacity of most wave soldering systems to produce boards at higher volume. When boards with thru-hole components are needed in large supply, a wave system should be one of the first choices considered.

Wave soldering is in a sense more efficient in that the board needs to spend minimal time in the soldering chamber itself, in some cases (depending on the boards being produced as well as the system in question) needing only a single pass.

Liquid solder in the pan under the conveyor belt is agitated by a pump, creating a wave. A board (with masking) is passed over the wave via conveyor belt, washing the leads of the through-hole components and creating the solder joint.

If a single pass is all that’s needed, the board can then quickly be passed out of the chamber and cooled down, making the process fast, simple and – so long as the board isn’t damaged and a quality connection formed – very efficient.

Less time spent in manufacturing means faster production and therefore less waste.

Wave Soldering Systems Can Have A Lower Cost Of Entry

While the exact costs have everything to do with the exact selective soldering system you’re looking at, wave soldering systems are something of a legacy technology.

The earliest actual soldering machines – developed around the time of the second World War – were primitive wave soldering machines.

As printed circuit boards became more diffuse in their manufacture and use in electronic devices, this was the method used until SMT and reflow rose to their current prominence. However, through-hole components have yet to be fully phased out and likely won’t for some time.

Any legacy technology will come down in price due to lower demand unless prohibitive to manufacture to begin with.

Therefore, many wave soldering systems will be cheaper to purchase than dip/fountain or laser soldering systems, or at least can be in many cases.

However, it should also be noted that wave systems are also capable of far less precision than fountain or laser systems, which also prohibits their use in many applications.

Wave Soldering Machines Can Solder Thru-Hole AND SMT Components

Another advantage is versatility, as wave soldering systems are able to solder both thru-hole and SMT components, and – as mentioned – more efficiently than some other systems are capable of.

If a particular manufacturer needs a medium output of boards, but needs the capability to solder both SMT and thru-hole components, a wave soldering system can be ideal in that both sides of the board can be soldered in the same machine.

This reduces the footprint of soldering equipment in the factory, as well as reducing the necessary investment in equipment.

However, it must also be noted, turnaround time will increase to accommodate soldering both sides of the board, which must be done if manufacturing boards with both types of components.

It should also be noted that this will also require more frequent maintenance; there will be more downtime as the machine needs to be cleaned and otherwise maintained.

While the downsides would necessarily make wave soldering less advantageous to some manufacturers, wave soldering still presents a very viable option for selective soldering.