Recommendations for soldering station

rmeldo

Senior Member
#1
Hi all,

I am looking for some advice please.

I am on the market for a soldering station/hot air gun to solder SMD components onto my boards.

What features are necessary/important for soldering and reworking small components?

Any particularly good brands/models?

I am looking for a tool which could last me a long time and allow to progressively do more precise work.

Price is a factor but, since it is a tool, functionality and performance are more important.

Any recommendations?

Thanks in advance
Riccardo
 

RNovember

Well-known member
#3
Hello rmeldo,

I have never soldered surface mount parts before, but I would think you would need a very small tipped iron, small solder, a sponge with distilled water, or one of those little wire things with resin on them, and something to hold what you are working on.

EDIT: You might also need some solder braid to fix mistakes with.

You could get a higher powered one, maybe even with adjustable power.

But those are more expensive.
 
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lbenson

Senior Member
#4
You should get a higher powered one
High power is not needed (perhaps there are exceptional cases), nor even a soldering station. I use a $12 15W Radio Shack iron:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IKMC2N8
With the finest tip from this pack:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07J54H65W
Don't know if these are available in the UK.

This is not the hotplate/skillet method, but pin by pin. I haven't done a lot of SMD, and prefer not to go smaller than 1206, so others may have better ideas.

What you do need is good lighting and good magnification, and perhaps something to hold the board with.
 

rq3

Senior Member
#6
Hi all,

I am looking for some advice please.

I am on the market for a soldering station/hot air gun to solder SMD components onto my boards.

What features are necessary/important for soldering and reworking small components?

Any particularly good brands/models?

I am looking for a tool which could last me a long time and allow to progressively do more precise work.

Price is a factor but, since it is a tool, functionality and performance are more important.

Any recommendations?

Thanks in advance
Riccardo
I'll just come out and say it. Buy a Weller WTCPN from Ebay, or wherever you can find one. The last thing you need is variable temperature control. The old Weller series use magnetic temperature control, and the temperature is set by the tip you choose. They are available in 600, 700, and 800 degree Fahrenheit, in all tip widths and sizes.

In my half century of soldering, I have NEVER needed a different soldering unit, unless I needed to resort to a blow-torch for massive high current connectors. I use nothing but 700 degree tips, for both leaded and lead free solders.

I have Weller WTCP tips that are over 30 years old, and still work perfectly. I do NOT scrub or file my tips. A quick wipe of the hot tip with a wet sponge is enough. When you shut down the iron, heavily coat the tip with fresh solder, and let it freeze.

Never, ever, use your tip to do nasty things like melt insulation or cut binding cord for wire bundles. If you violate this rule, then isolate that tip and dedicate it for such use in the future. A particular soldering tip is dedicated ONLY to the solder that it was originally tinned with. Switching between leaded and lead-free solder is not allowed. You will experience HUGE aggravation if you do this.

The job of the soldering iron is to dump as much heat as possible, as fast as possible, into the solder join. Using a low temperature iron only makes you wait, while the copper delaminates from the board, the solder and component leads oxidize, and you become frustrated. The point is to match the tip, the job, and the solder to get in and out as quickly as possible.

So. You've got a Weller. The solder is the next, and MOST CRITICAL component. I swear by Ersin Multicore, 63/37. It's getting very hard to find, but some of the multicore (multicore referring to the number of "strands" of flux within the wire), is available from other manufacturers.

The 63/37 refers to the ratio of the metals within the solder itself. 63/37 is a eutectic (lowest melting point) alloy of lead and tin, and I realize that it may be difficult to find due to its lead content.

I'll leave it to you to determine whether or not the Reduction of Hazardous Substances (ROHS) regulations that apply to leaded solder like 63/37 mean anything.

With these quidelines, I regularly solder anything from 2 pound copper battery terminals (with a blowtorch), to 0402 surface mount components (with the Weller and a 700 degree fine tip and .010 inch diameter 63/37 solder) under a binocular microscope.

Some of these are drag connections, where the solder itself bridges a gap. Lead free solder is too brittle, and indium based solder has poor environmental resistance. It's all in the engineering and application.
 
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Pongo

Senior Member
#7
I'm a big fan of Weller magnastat irons since the first W-TCP was introduced 50 years ago. I currently have a WTCPT (and an SP175 for automotive). I only wet sponge wipe my bits, but I can't imagine them lasting 30 years, more like a year or so - or maybe they were made differently 30 years ago? I think they are great irons for general use, and occasional, non challenging, SMD. But if the OP has ambitions to go heavily into SMD I suggest he looks at an SMD specific technology.
 

rmeldo

Senior Member
#8
Thanks everyone.
did some watching on youtube for reviews and this one seemed a good product. Any thoughts?

Still looking at reviews for hot air guns. Atten 858D+ seem to be a basic entry.

Also wondering about a reflow oven.

Definitely still in the exploration phase.

Riccardo
 

Janne

Senior Member
#9
I bought a cheap Tenma's hot air station way back when I wasn't yet sure how much I'd need one. https://uk.farnell.com/tenma/21-10125-uk/hot-air-station-550w-220v-uk-plug/dp/2064551

It has turned out to be a surprisingly nice unit, and I haven't bothered getting anything better even though I use it quite often these days. Only real drawback I see is the attachment method of nozzles, which is a bit dodgy.

Instead of the old magnastat (used to have one as my primary before it started acting up), I'd recommend getting something modern with a slim soldering handle. Temperature control is pretty nice too for example you can crank more heat if you need to solder something to / from a large ground plane.
I'm using the Weller's WS81, which is nice but maybe slightly overpriced. Hakko's 888 station seems quite nice and doesn't break the bank that much if you're trying to keep a tight budget, but no personal experience on that.
 
#10
Power unit - https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/soldering-stations/7642939/
Iron - https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/soldering-irons/5115185/
Stand - https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/soldering-station-accessories/5052208/
...here (other suppliers available)

Possibly out of budget, but excellent - had it for 6 years or so and does a few thousand joints a month. Still use the original tips plus a few more specialised genuine Weller tips. Turns iron down, then off after two presettable times, meaning I tend to leave it on for weeks on end. About 12 seconds from cold to 300C.

Can't understand why people use wet sponges to clean a hot iron - I believe the proper solution is coiled "wire" such as https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/products/6124146
...as well as the hassle of keeping it wet, it must put some thermal shock into the tip that will, over a long period of time, have some effect on the tip coating (IMHO).
 

Hemi345

Senior Member
#12
I'm looking forward to getting a temperature-adjustable iron. I have two Weller irons, a 35W and a 60W. I use the 60W with a big tip on thru-hole stuff because the 35W has a tough time with ground pins on planes (even with thermal reliefs). The 35W is plenty of heat for SMD stuff and I keep a tiny screwdriver tip in it. Both irons take minutes to warm up which is kind of annoying when I just need to repair something quickly. My friend's station soldering iron warms up in about 10 seconds and automatically shuts off if left in the holder for more than a few minutes.

The brass ball to clean the tips is good, but I've found a damp sponge to be much better - just wet enough to make the sponge soft but not enough to really shock the tip. Maybe preference has something to do with the type of solder used too. I use a tiny container of RadioShack's tip tinner/cleaner before soldering to clean it up and then do like Rq3 suggests and gob solder on the tip before powering it down. My favorite solder is RadioShack's silver bearing solder SnPbAg 62/36/2. It's great for both SMD and TH compared to anything else I've tried.

I try to cram as much as I can on one side of the PCB so I can solder it in the skillet and only put passives on the other side in 1206 size or bigger (maybe 0805 if there isn't room for something bigger) and use the iron for those. Hot air would be really nice for the second side.

A Panavise is another worthwhile investment.
 

RNovember

Well-known member
#13
The brass ball to clean the tips is good, but I've found a damp sponge to be much better
Another problem with those brass things is that when they get full of excess solder, you have to replace them. The sponge lasts a lot longer.

Just make sure you used distilled water. If you don't, you will ruin your tip. Ask me how I know.:)
 

lbenson

Senior Member
#14
I don't understand about needing 60 watts to solder through-hole--even with ground planes. My 15W iron seems to do fine (though it does take several minutes to heat up originally).

As far as becoming tedious because of taking longer with lower heat, I figure one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three. If not done in three seconds, I'm not applying the tip properly. I don't do enough to find it tedious (I've done more than usual in the past month--multiple copies of 11 different (small) boards).

The older RadioShack tips didn't last long. The ones on the iron I referred to generally last me a couple of years with my usage.
 

Hemi345

Senior Member
#15
I should clarify that I don't need 60W to solder them, but it's a combination of the tiny tip on my 35W iron that makes it difficult to do - trying to solder the four ground pins on a L293D with a proper ground plane was impossible with that tip, just can't get enough heat through it even using the side of it. If I swapped the tip on the 35W to a bigger one, it'd probably be doable it's not as friendly to swap them as some of the Hakko irons I've seen. Waiting for it to cool down, replace the tip, warm back up and there's 15-20 minutes of my life I'm never getting back. ha
 

lbenson

Senior Member
#17
I like that, bear. How come the price with shipping on ebay is about 6 times that much?

Hemi--I was pleased to find that the Hakko-style tips work on the RadioShack iron, with easy replacement.
 

rmeldo

Senior Member
#18
So on the soldering iron front temperature control is useful, about 50W is plenty and a fine tip enables precision work.
Reviews seems to suggest that tips with embedded heating element are superior.

These ones go with the iron I posted earlier. Any thoughts/opinions?

http woulds://m.banggood.com/10pcs-T12-Soldering-Iron-Tips-Set-for-HAKKO-FX951-FX952-p-1191594.html?utm_campaign=26071159_1338117&utm_content=10535&p=BX282326066583201810
 
#21
Hi
I got this one of Aliexpress a few years ago the bonus on it is it gives you a variable DC voltage out put
DHL free shipping 3in1 saike 909D soldering station hot air gun 110V/220V/700W soldering iron saike 909d soldering machine 3 in1
1547303945243.png
regards john
 
#22
Hi
It is only $115 and arrived in 7 days the only problem I find is the lenght of the lead to the iron I would have liked being a fraction longer for where I have to have it on my bench.
john
 

Pongo

Senior Member
#24
There have been some reports here of poor/incorrect grounding on inexpensive soldering products from China. I suggest anyone buying such an item open the case up and check before use.
 
#25
The Youtube review did address that aspect and provided the link (Banbgood) to the very version tested. The page on Banggood had a photo of the interior of the driver box. It still not a guarantee that what I am going to get will be as good. More due diligence on my part. Finger crossed
 
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