Author Topic: Replacing a bastard dual SATA connector  (Read 2313 times)

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Offline TerraHertz

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Replacing a bastard dual SATA connector
« on: August 10, 2016, 09:45:01 am »
Back in 2013 I was given a very nice rackmount RAID server, with 8 1TB drives. It has an Areca ARC-1220 8-port PCI-Express SATA RAID Controller, which turned out to be completely dead. Bummer.

It took a while to find a replacement identical card. Eventually one turned up on ebay, claimed to be working. I bought it. It arrived, and turned out to have one of the SATA connectors broken. Fortunately once you knew what to look for in the seller's listing pics, it could be seen to be broken there. Subtle but clear enough to demand a refund, which I got. And also got to keep the broken card.

The obvious solution was to swap a connector from my dead card, to the new one, which did run.
Only problem was, the connectors have two rows of surface-mount solder joins to the PCB, and one of the rows is well underneath the connector. It was obviously assembled in a vapor phase reflow process. Presenting quite an obstacle to hand repair. So I didn't tackle it for a long while, just pushed it down the projects queue.

It finally bubbled up to the top again, and now it's done and works. Here's how.



The beast.


The bought card, as it arrived. Broken connector looks obvious, but the seller's pic was small and had no light reflecting off the gold pins.


Closeup of the connector. For a while I considered trying graft on a bit of plastic, with superglue. But I knew it wouldn't last.


Dead card on left, bad connector one on right. First step, remove the piezo buzzers that were in the way. I figured I had four goes at getting a connector off the dead one, in usable condition.


First one off, after a LOT of struggle. It didn't go well, and the connector body was too melted and distorted to use. Part of the problem is that power plane two of the pins attach too.


First attempt on left. Ruined. You can't see, but the SATA connector tabs are distorted.
2nd try on the right. Hmm... I can work with this.

Btw, does anyone know who makes these connectors, and where I can buy a few?
I might still be able to get the dead card going, if it turns out to be just a lost data fault in the flash ROM.


I found I could pull out the pins on the outside row, and get them back in again. Making it possible to solder the inner row of pins with the outer row removed. Yay.
The first attempt to do that using an iron and solder wire failed. Too tight a space to work in. So I went and bought some solder paste. Not the first time, I just didn't have any atm.


Solder pasting. Probably too much.


Inner row done. This is after a lot of cleanup, since there were a million small solder balls adhering around the joints, especially behind them. Some reachable with a dental pick, but mostly just blasting them with a syringe full of IPA, over a tray. The tape in this pic was to try and avoid washing the balls into crevices around other components. I cycled between IPA jet soaking, scrubbing with a pointy stiff bristle paint brush, and blowing out with compressed air, then trying to peer into the gap under the socket with a binocular inspection microscope (really poor visibility in there.)



First three of the outer contacts back in place. These are the 'long' ones, or were supposed to be. SATA has very slightly longer contacts for the 3 ground pins, compared to the 4 signal pins. By eye it's hard to tell the difference, and in fact I'd goofed, in that the leftmost of these turns out to be a 'short' one. Despite carefully comparing them and keeping in two separate tiny ziplock bags... Oh well.


Done. After soldering the pins I'd noticed that 2nd from the left one, that won't push in all the way. Because it's a 'long' one, in a plastic channel for a short one. Doesn't matter, the different lengths are to make ground contact before signals, for hot plugging. And I'm never going to hot plug these internal connectors.
After they are in place, and another cleaning out of solder balls, I added a little super glue since the barbs that held them in the plastic originally have lost much of their their grip. After the glue dried I made sure to clean off the contact faces again since superglue can deposit a film on nearby surfaces through evaporation and condensation.

So then, big moment. Did the board work now? It's had a LOT of handling while doing this, and did I avoid static zapping it, or lodging solder bits between anything?
Plugged it in, started the system. The RAID card inserts its initialization stage into the BIOS startup, and it has its own status display, plus good/bad LEDs on the 8 drive trays.
It started up, scans the drives (further than I'd had the machine before) then complains there's a problem with drive 3 and 4. "Disconnected"...
Dammit, 3 & 4 are on the SATA connector next to the one I replaced. It was late in the evening. I tried some swapping - drives, cables, the two whole drive bays, and just managed to confuse myself. The problem was intermittent and variable, and I wasn't able to isolate it to a particular module. It didn't seem likely to be the card, but....
Getting depressed, I gave up and went to bed.


Next morning was better. A few more swaps and I was sure the problem was with the left hand bay of 4 drives, and specifically the bottom two slots. But symptoms were variable.
So I pulled the whole bay out, to have a look at the rear PCB for anything obvious.

And obvious it was. Sometime in this machine's history, someone had removed the 4 screws I've marked in the pic with red dots. Result: the board flexed enough that the bottom two drive SATA and power connectors made intermittent contact. I replaced the screws and reassembled the machine.



Now it works! All drives present, and after some grumbling the RAID BIOS presents four RAID arrays of a bit under 2TB each. I don't care what they are, as I'll be restructuring and formatting them. And a few other hacks to the machine too.
This machine will be archival storage, and USB-3 server for the nice microscope video camera I bought earlier this year.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2016, 02:13:35 pm by TerraHertz »
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Offline wraper

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Re: Replacing a bastard dual SATA connector
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2016, 09:57:24 am »
It was obviously assembled in a vapor phase reflow process
Unlikely, vapor phase is rarely used in mass production.
 

Offline Rasz

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Re: Replacing a bastard dual SATA connector
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2016, 10:31:21 pm »
nice one
to be perfectly honest I would dremel out half of the broken connector and glue ordinary vertical motherboard sata socked in empty spot
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Offline TerraHertz

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Re: Replacing a bastard dual SATA connector
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2016, 04:17:53 am »
nice one

Thanks, I was starting to think everyone thought it was too primitive and crude to say anything.

Quote
to be perfectly honest I would dremel out half of the broken connector and glue ordinary vertical motherboard sata socked in empty spot

But how would it attach? Don't they use through holes, at least for the reinforcing posts? There are no through holes there.

Unlikely, vapor phase is rarely used in mass production.

Really? I thought it was the only way, for double sided surface mount boards?
Especially in this instance, where some of the joints are well underneath plastic body shells, where the plastic melting point is not far above solder melting point. Also there's two large BGA chips.

So how was it done then? Hot air? IR? Wave solder with enough pre-heat that both sides reach solder melt temp?
« Last Edit: August 12, 2016, 04:38:13 am by TerraHertz »
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Offline Dago

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Re: Replacing a bastard dual SATA connector
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2016, 12:16:00 pm »
nice one
So how was it done then? Hot air? IR? Wave solder with enough pre-heat that both sides reach solder melt temp?

Regular reflow ovens in industrial places are basically a conveyor belt going through a series of IR lamps. I guess plastic shells don't really matter that much since the whole board basically heats up. For processing double sided boards it depends on the board how is it manufactured. For some boards the components are glued and  then reflowed (both sides at once). If there are no "problematic" components then they can be assembled in two passes (surface tension is enough to hold the bottom side components on the board). Then you can also machine a holder/jig for the board that supports (large) bottomside components in reflow.

I'm not sure how rare vapor phase soldering is in production but all the factories I've dealt with have had at least the possibility for vapor phase soldering so I would assume someone is using it too. Good for large/thick/challenging boards...
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Offline wraper

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Re: Replacing a bastard dual SATA connector
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2016, 12:44:40 pm »
Vapor phase in mass production is not widely used because of the high price and also it is more suitable for batch process. Difficult to implement as conveyor. Also it has it's own issues like too rapid heating which causes tombstoning. Therefore needs to be combined with some other method of preheating.
 

Offline setq

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Re: Replacing a bastard dual SATA connector
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2016, 04:00:53 pm »
This actually really pisses me off about SATA. I am forever breaking those damn connectors as they go brittle after a few years of thermal cycling. The plastic slug gets impossibly stuck in the cable as well so you have to chuck the cable and the host/drive in the bin.

Congratulations on having more motivation to fix such a thing than myself :)
 

Offline botcrusher

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Re: Replacing a bastard dual SATA connector
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2016, 06:54:49 pm »
Are you forgetting to push the plastic tab or something? I've never managed to break a SATA connector xD

Very nice repair.

Power supply issues are a $%&#@ aren't they?
 


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