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Low to midrange professional soldering stations
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Low to midrange professional soldering stations
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I realize that this is an old poll but I'm interested. I voted for the Hakkos mostly based on familiarity and reputation but on further reflection Parak makes an excellent case for the Pace stations. The TD 100 is out of my budget but I would encourage to reach out to Pace as well as Hakko, I would seriously consider the ST 30 and ST 50 .
Hey guys we're going to reach out to Hakko and see if we can work something out on a couple models. I'll update everyone when we have some news. Thanks all.
I have had the Hakko FX-951 For a few years and have found it to work well and everything I need it todo. It heats in a reasonable amount of time and has an auto shutoff feature. I like the ability to purchase interchangable tips and to replace them easily. I have used wellers in the past too and I like FX-951 a lot for the money.
I would not call the Metcal a low/mid range station (based on vote title). I have my own Metcal MX-5000 and we have a wide range of Metcal and Weller stuff at work and the Metcals are amazing stations. Inductive heating really delivers heat right at the tip for working small SMD parts.
Well, I was intending for the 'professional' to be a keyword here, elaborated on a little in my first comment. In Metcal's case, I'd consider the MX-5000 high end professional, for example, although the MX-5210 is not that much more expensive than the MX-500S. Basically, I'd prefer to shunt everything above $600-700 into the high end, which usually means things like multiport rework stations. It's the price point at which stations singularly designed for regular soldering get way too overpriced.
Of course low end professional for me would be stations like Pace ST-30 and Hakko FX-951, and not things like various generic Yihua/Aoyue Hakko clones or even the Hakko 888 or Weller WES(D)51 - those would be hobbyist mid-high end or somesuch :P
Thanks Parak, I guess the digital readout and lockout are the only things that makes the 951 more suited to a production environment, and that's why my IPC trainer prefers it.
I'll be changing my vote now :)
Ok so which one do you suggest then? the Pace ST 30? What makes this one so much better than the Hakko 951?
My IPC trainer has both, reckons they are more or less equal.. but you can get the Hakko at a cheaper price and he reckons it has slightly better temperature control. I know you can find Hakko tips everywhere.. but how readily available are the Pace tips?
Edit: Correction on the tip choices, goofed up looking at the T12 instead of the T15
Tip availability and cost is about the same for both, T15 for the 951 and 1124 for the Pace TD-100. Pace may have a bit more buying choices and may be slightly cheaper depending on tip geometry, but YMMV. Other considerations:
1. The 951 is lower power (70 watts vs 90 of the ST-30)
2. The 951 is generally of worse build quality. The station itself is plastic, stand is thin gauge metal, etc. The Pace is metal and very thick gauge metal for the stand.
3. I'm not a fan of the handpiece of the 951. Firstly, tip replacement is a two step process - remove the grip first, then the tip from the grip. One step on the TD-100, just remove the tip. Secondly, the grip itself is foam (meh) on the Hakko and thick, with a larger grip to tip distance than on the Pace. The TD-100 accomplishes a much slimmer grip without the need for the extra foam insulation due to the air gap around the tip accomplishing this.
4. Temperature stability on paper is worse on the 951 - ±9f vs ±2f on the Pace.
5. Heatup times and therefore thermal recovery are better on the Pace as per most reviews I've seen of the 951 and Hakkos own graphs. Note that I don't have a 951 myself to test this on, but the easiest test that I've found that your trainer can do is to take the same style of tip on both (nice and clean of course), cut two same length pieces of solder, tie them in a hanging loop at the edge of each tip with stations set to the same temp (350c, say) and to turn on both stations at the same time. The one that drops first wins - there are other factors of course like overshoot and firmware bootup times, but eh, that's the easiest without more expensive tools :)
6. The main advantages of the 951 are the auto sleep that the ST-30 doesn't have (optional), and the digital readout, as well as some things like lockout that are of not much interest to a hobbyist. The digital readout is nice, but comes at the cost of taking longer to change temperature - easier to rotate a knob than to push or hold buttons.
Hope that helps!
Can't post it as a poll header, so I'll mention it here. My parents have instilled in me a number of life lessons, two of which I'll share with you and elaborate on later:
1. A greedy person will pay twice.
2. There's no better feeling than using a high quality tool to do a task that it's designed for.
I'm sharing and proposing some of my own suggestions for what I consider proper soldering stations. While perhaps overkill for someone that solders rarely, they constitute an essential tool for the hobbyist and professional, making their task all that much simpler and easier. Presented here should mostly be those designed for regular soldering, although some might have optional attachments for tweezer soldering or even desoldering.
So, why would one buy a $3-600 soldering station instead of one that costs $100 or even $50? Well, see my points 1 and 2. My first soldering station was a Yihua with terrible temperature stability, uncomfortable handpiece that would burn my fingers, fiddly controls, and tips that would fail one after another. Essentially money wasted, and so I wound up paying twice as per #1, this time investing some more funds, for a used OKI (Metcal) station. This was a world of difference in every regard, and I was actually enjoying soldering when using it - see #2. This happened to start my slight obsession with soldering and soldering stations in general, and trying to find the best ones via objective and subjective methods.
Note that I consider a soldering station professional grade if it (in order of priority):
1. Heats up from cold to 350C in at least 10 seconds or less, as well as
2. Has tip cartridges with integrated heaters.
3. Has a wide array of tip choices for any sort of task.
Notably the Hakko 951 apparently fails #1, but is included due to the general brand popularity and comparison purposes. Overall, it's not my favorite spec and ergonomics wise. Weller WX partially fails #2, but considering the overall package, it's not a major concern and it qualifies. On the other hand, if we take Hakko 888, which is very popular and only costs $100, it'd immediately fail all three categories above and doesn't qualify in my opinion.
There are many reasons to invest in a high quality soldering station, and I can elaborate on them in comments, but briefly:
1. Temperature stability and control
2. Heatup and thermal recovery times (joint to joint, directly correlated with fast initial heatup)
3. Comfort and working distance
4. Large amount of tip geometry choices (80+ different tips at the very least for each of pace/metcal/hakko)
5. Ease of tip changing
6. Sleep and hibernate modes
7. Tip longevity
8. This is a also tool that will last you for decades - just buy a new tip when the old one wears out and you're good to go again.
Questions? Let me know in comments! Think something deserves to be on this list? Add it!
Well, I'm a student, so I don't really have $3-500 on an iron... I had been eyeing the Hakko 888D, as it seems well built, will last long, and I do believe it has a wide assortment of tips available, from what I've seen. If not this iron, what would you recommend for under $100?
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