5 min read

Electronics are becoming smaller and more sophisticated, especially in the military and defense space. Not only must the finished assemblies be small and lightweight, but they must also be able to stand up to the long-term wear and tear of military use. Manufacturing these items, from tiny communications units to space-bound satellites, demands very precise process control to ensure their functionality over the long term.

As these military-grade assemblies get smaller, they become more difficult to produce. Why?

  • The small size of the boards & components
  • Thermal spreaders built into the assembly designs


Small Boards and Small Components Can Pose Big Challenges
The Bigger Challenge is Heat Spreaders Built Into the PCBA
The Solution to Heat Spreaders on Small Boards: SmartHeat® Technology
The Metcal MX and CV Series Soldering Stations
Fully Leverage the Power of SmartHeat® with Specialty Handpieces & Tweezers


Ever-shrinking components on crowded PCB are an obvious source of soldering and desoldering challenges, with increasing amounts of this work now done under the microscope.

Skilled operators are required to work with specialized tools to successfully work without damaging neighboring components.

Using soldering tweezers and rework tools is often not enough to successfully solder or desolder a joint without damaging the assembly. The operator applies heat to the joint, but the soldering station is often not adequate to heat the solder to liquidous. To compensate, the operator will turn the heat up on the power unit, but somehow still more heat is needed. The board and the surrounding components are heating up, but the solder joint is still not a quality joint.  Why?


The assemblies are getting smaller, but the heat the components produce when the finished product is in use remains the same, in an ever-shrinking space. And the heat generated by closely packed components becomes more of an issue with the radio frequency boards common in military assemblies.

Military-grade electronics require small assemblies that do not overheat. So, the boards are designed with thermal spreaders to pull heat away from sensitive components. These spreaders work well, and the finished assemblies operate without failure for years.

But those heat spreaders greatly complicate the hand soldering process. How can enough heat be applied to the substrate to make a good solder joint while copper plates are wicking the heat away? How can an operator remove components from a board if the thermal spreaders keep spreading the heat?


The way to successfully bring solder to liquidous on a board full of thermal dissipaters is to apply the required heat to the joint quickly and continuously. And the best way to do that is through Metcal SmartHeat® technology.


SmartHeat® soldering cartridges are designed to maintain their fixed temperature at the molecular level. Through inductive heating technology and the use of the Curie Point of various alloys, SmartHeat® supplies power-on-demand to the joint, with very fast time-to-temperature, very stable temperatures over the dwell time, and virtually no overshoot. Heat is applied so efficiently, dwell times are short, which results in less heat spread and greater output.

SmartHeat® offers the ultimate in process control. With efficient power-on-demand and fixed-temperature cartridges, SmartHeat® makes every step consistent and predictable, and the soldering and desoldering process stay in the specification.


In military and defense manufacturing, the SmartHeat® systems most commonly used are the Metcal MX Series and Connection Validation™ (CV) Series soldering systems.


The workhorse MX-5210 can be operated with two handpieces dynamically sharing 80 watts of output power based on demand. This adds application flexibility and speed over single-port systems.

MX-5210 Soldering System
MX-5210 Soldering System

MX Series systems feature:

  • SmartHeat® Power-on-Demand Technology
  • Two users or a single user with two applications
  • Increase production, especially of high mass components and multi-layered boards
  • Solder and rework at safe, controlled temperatures
  • Built-in power meter and bar graph display for operation status
  • Ergonomic, light-weight aluminum hand pieces with interchangeable grips
  • Tip Saver™ work stand triggers Sleep Mode, improving tip life and operator safety
  • ESD safe, with AC ground monitoring and shut off


Until the introduction of Connection Validation™, the only way to evaluate the quality of a joint during the soldering process was by visual inspection. With the introduction of CV, this was no longer the case.

Critical to the formation of a solder joint is the intermetallic compound (IMC) thickness. CV evaluates the quality of the solder joint by calculating the IMC formation and providing closed-loop feedback to the operator. When a successful solder joint has been made, the operator immediately gets confirmation via a green LED light ring built into the hand piece.

Connection Validation Series systems feature:

Connection Validation (CV) Series System
  • SmartHeat® Power-on-Demand Technology
  • Patented Connection Validation™ IMC Formation Technology
  • Color touchscreen interface
  • Communications port for process traceability data and firmware graphics
  • Integrated net power meter and power graph
  • Patented Chip-in-cartridge technology
    • Closed-loop, bi-directional communication
    • Ability to record and store cartridge attributes
    • Traceability information
    • System protection against non-conforming cartridges
    • Backward compatibility with MX Series power supplies


To help apply the power of inductive heat technology to small components and thermally demanding boards, the ergonomic handpieces and tweezers listed  below transform the MX and CV systems into complete soldering solutions for a wide variety of applications, especially in military and defense manufacturing.

CV-H2-UF Ultrafine Handpiece
CV-H2-UF Ultrafine Handpiece
  • Ultrafine Handpieces add a specialty tool for soldering and rework of very small components or high-density boards, designed specifically for use under a microscope. The Ultrafine handpiece is compatible with UFC cartridges (CV) or UFTC cartridges (MX).
    Ultrafine Handpiece for MX | Ultrafine Handpiece for CV

    CV-H4-PTZ Precision Tweezer
    CV-H4-PTZ Precision Tweezer
  • Precision Tweezer Handpiece are made for applications requiring the removal of surface mount components from 1 x 1 mm and up. Adjustable tip alignment for both height and rotation ensures co-planarity of the tip cartridges. Dual position pitch-switch enables adjustment of pincer-action, adjusting to the component width, improving operator ergonomics. Quick change tip cartridges with keyway to prevent miss-alignment. For use with PTC (CV) or PTTC (MX) tweezer cartridges.
    Precision Tweezer Handpiece for MX | Precision Tweezer Handpiece for CV

    MX-H6-HTD Handpiece
    MX-H6-HTD Handpiece
  • High Thermal Demand Handpieces transform a system into a powerhouse for applications with high thermal loads, like dense boards, without damaging sensitive components. For use with HCV (CV) or HTC (MX) cartridges.
    High Thermal Demand Handpieces for MX | High Thermal Demand Handpieces CV

    MX-UK5 Desoldering Handpiece
    MX-UK5 Desoldering Handpiece
  • Desoldering Handpieces are for rework applications requiring the removal of solder such as desoldering through-hole components. The CV version is compatible with DSC cartridges in the 700, 800, and 900 series temperatures. The MX version uses STDC cartridges.
    Desoldering Handpieces for MX | Desoldering Handpieces for CV

    CV-H4-UFT Ultrafine Tweezers
    CV-H4-UFT Ultrafine Tweezers
  • Ultrafine Tweezers, like the Ultrafine Handpiece, were designed for precision work under a microscope. Compatible with UFT cartridges. CV only.
    Ultrafine Tweezers for CV



The best way to meet the challenges of ever-shrinking, high-reliability electronics manufacturing is with a combination of the right tools and the technology to overcome the heat spreaders built into modern PCBAs.

The combination of Metcal SmartHeat® power-on-demand technology and the flexibility of a wide range of ultrafine, precision, and high thermal demand tools means the MX Series or CV Series soldering systems could be the solution for the challenges of contract manufacturing.

Metcal has over 40 decades of experience supporting military, defense, and aerospace contractors. Our products and accessories are developed to provide the power and control needed for any military-grade production challenge. Our experienced and professional application engineers are passionate about providing each client with solutions to their unique application challenges.

For more information about Metcal and our complete line of benchtop soldering, desoldering, and rework solutions, visit Metcal.com. Or contact us directly to find out exactly how Metcal can help with your contract manufacturing services.