48 Replies Latest reply on Nov 10, 2017 5:10 PM by rachaelp

    Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?

    tbartonnewark

      Hi I work at Newark and I'm researching kitting soldering stations and replacement soldering tips together Assuming I start with a Basic Weller 120V 50W Station(WES51 or  WESD51WESD51 What tips sizes or shapes would you recommend for an entry level kit Any thoughts on tinners and sponges to extend tip life What would be the dream starter pack

        • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
          dougw

          I do all my soldering with the same size tip - it is not practical to swap hot tips all the time. But extra tips of the same type are always useful. The tip should be fairly short and fairly fine to get the maximum heat to the smallest area.

          I use a wet sponge for tip cleaning - I don't know if it extends life better, but it cleans better, providing better performance. So a tip cleaner tray for the sponge is essential. A couple of extra sponges would be useful. I also keep a bottle of (preferably DI) water nearby to keep the sponge wet. Like a sports water bottle - so the water can't evaporate between sessions.

          Other useful accessories are:

          • a solder dispenser (stand with an axle for the solder reel)
          • a magnifier (ideally a stereo microscope) (even jewelers glasses can work)
          • some lights
          • a PCB holder
          • tweezers
          • solder wick
          • solder sucker
          • flux syringe
          • small nozzle hot air gun
          • a fume extractor/filter
          • a third hand
          • extra solder (two different diameters are useful)

          You can find low-cost starter versions of all of these except maybe the fume extractor.

          4 of 4 people found this helpful
            • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
              rachaelp

              Hi Doug,

               

              These are all great tips/ideas!

               

              I'd add that I would have a couple of sizes of solder wick if you work on a mix of boards with very fine vs "regular" size SMD's otherwise you can accidentally remove the really small pads or end up with your solder wick stuck fast to your board! I'd also say that a some decent cutters and small pliers are also fairly essential. I'd also add, if you want as step up from the mechanical pump desoldering sucker then a proper heated vacuum one can be a huge productivity boost if you need to do a lot of desoldering.

               

              I do have a couple of things I think I may disagree on slightly but the second is dependant on usage.

               

              1. Wet sponge. As John says below, this can have its own issues. I find that tips actually don't last as long using a wet sponge for cleaning, even if you remember to re-tin them with fresh solder after cleaning every time. I believe (but am not 100% sure) it's to do with the thermal shock from repetitive cleaning on a cold/damp sponge causes tiny cracks to appear in the surface which over time cause the tip to degrade. I've seen tips where the surface layer eventually comes off completely and then there is no amount of tinning that will make it work again. I use the dry tip cleaners that look a bit like a gold version of a steel scouring pad you'd find in the kitchen for using on your dishes. The only time I would use a wet sponge is if somebody had done something really horrible with my iron and got melted gunk all over it. Then, after telling them off and banning them from using my solder station ever again, I would use the wet sponge and then re-tin the tip afterwards.

              2. Tip sizes. This really does depend on your usage and the difficulty of changing tips really does depend on your solder station. Both my Metcal setup and the Pace setup I had in my office at work have tips which pull out easily for quick changes and they come with insulated rubber pads for grabbing hold of hot tips to do the change. I don't know about the Wellers but I would have thought they would have similar capability? If your typical usage is always regular through hole 0.1" parts or SMD's which are comparatively large pitch then yes you will probably largely get away with a single tip for most work. As soon as you need to do really fine pitch or tiny SMD parts you need to go smaller and if you do large connectors with big pins or have PCB's with large copper planes and thermal vias then some components can be impossible to work on with the regular size tips used for SMD work and you need something bigger to be able to get enough heat into the joint to get them to reflow properly.

               

              Best Regards,

               

              Rachael

              2 of 2 people found this helpful
                • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                  dougw

                  It is great to see other perspectives. You are right - wet sponges have some issues.

                  However, I have never used the metal wool (usually brass) tip cleaners in my lab - in all the labs I've been in where they used them it seems every iron tip is virtually unusable - I just don't know how long it takes to get to that state. I thought they did it mostly to avoid water resupply. I was always leery that the metal abrasion of even soft metal wool would be hard on the tinned tip. Rubbing the tip on metal is the primary unpreventable cause of tip failure and I always thought it should be minimized.

                  I do quite a bit of soldering (not daily, but several times per week) and my tips last between 1 and 3 years before they start to degrade. Once the iron coating gets damaged, the tip's days are numbered. I do keep them tinned and only subject them to thermal shock sponge cleaning just before soldering something. I also don't leave the iron hot for long periods when not soldering. (I use a Hakko) But the primary reason I use wet sponge is I get a cleaner tip and find it easier to get good solder joints.

                  Here is an article with tips on tips for anyone interested:

                  http://www.newark.com/pdfs/techarticles/oki-metcal/extendingTipLife.pdf

                    • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                      shabaz

                      Hi Doug!

                       

                      Awesome list by the way!

                      Regarding sponge/metal wool, I felt exactly the same way, i.e. surely the coiled metal wool would harm the tip. I don't know the mechanics (I guess the softer metal harms less than the cold water), but it does work amazingly well, and the tips last as long (or longer maybe). By poking into the metal wool a couple of times, it pulls off any debris and wipes it clean. The 'wool' is like thin flat tape, coiled like a phone handset cable after years of misuse! I'm guessing the edges of the flat tape are what are causing the wiping to be successful, and the springiness and thickness of the tape applies the right pressure. I have some small pot of tip cleaner which I've never used since, and several sponges that I've not opened, I really should sell them.

                      The only slight problem with the metal wool is that it can sometimes catch on the edge between the tip and the element : ( but I can live with that it is just an occasional minor annoyance.

                      1 of 1 people found this helpful
                        • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                          dougw

                          I don't mind giving metal wool a try. I have not seen any kind of definitive study of which is better so maybe a proper test is the only way to figure it out. I have only seen theory that the brass which is harder than solder can scape the "solder wetting" off an iron tip, whereas the wet sponge will not remove the solder wetting from the iron. Once the wetting is scrapped off to expose the bare iron, iron oxide will form (accelerated due to high temperature) and iron oxide cannot be re-wetted. If your iron tip doesn't have a uniform solder coating, this is the likely cause. I would like to know from members experience how long tips last using metal wool as a cleaner.

                          1 of 1 people found this helpful
                    • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                      tbartonnewark

                      Thanks Doug

                       

                      From the comments it seems like the accessories are more valuable as a starter kit than the tips.  Good advice.

                       

                      TB

                    • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                      ninjatrent

                      Dreaming of a Weller...lol.

                       

                      I have an Atten 5O watt that has been modified for use with a Hakko T18-S4 Fine SMD Soldering Tip and a no-name cheap soldering iron as a back up.

                      1 of 1 people found this helpful
                      • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                        gam3t3ch

                        Well I like soldering rework stations myself but to be honest if I was going to buy another just soldering station Weller would be off the table I would probably check the TENMA  21-1011521-10115 But this is just my preference As far as tips go I think I use between.03.07 inch on a regular basis The only thing I would suggest that could be added would be a heating element if the part is there Just had mine go on my soldering iron but I had a spare waiting To me the WES51 and  WESD51WESD51 are great units but I think more information on who you are gearing these kits too would be ideal as well

                         

                        But to be fair the best would be the cheapest kit possible and then go from there as far as the addons.  I only say that because realistically if I could buy a soldering iron, hot air station, fume extractor, solder, bulb, flux, tweezers, wire cutter, extra tips and elements, hot plate, and ultimately a deslodering iron in a kit just starting out that didn't suck it would be more worth my while.

                         

                        But to me the  WR5000MWR5000M is my ultimate which isn't going to happen but would be killer to have

                         

                        Everything comes back to who you are going to be gearing this towards tho.   So maybe a bit more info.

                        1 of 1 people found this helpful
                        • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                          jw0752

                          Hi Tom,

                           

                          The recommendations that have been tendered so far are all great. I have always bought a variety of tips when I bought a system but as dougw  points out they almost never get used and the tip he described is also my preferred tip. I do disagree with using the wet sponge as it cleans the tip too well and one must put a lot of attention into retinning after cleaning. I have used a wire brush or better yet one of the containers with the coiled wire scrubbers. These remove the debris but leave a layer of solder on the tip.

                           

                          http://www.newark.com/weller/wdc2-system/attachable-soldering-tip-dry-cleaner/dp/55M4510

                           

                          As far as the iron itself is concerned I recently got a Tenma  21-1011521-10115 as a gift and I am really impressed with it

                           

                          http://www.newark.com/tenma/21-10115/soldering-station-esd-safe-60w/dp/56T2208

                           

                          John

                          3 of 3 people found this helpful
                          • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                            jadew

                            I find myself using a 1.2 mm chisel tip most of the time, since it works great on both SMD and through-hole. The next tip I use is a bevel tip, for drag soldering.

                             

                            The dream pack for me would also include a pair of hot tweezers or a second soldering station. I have a second station, and when I'm not picking up SMD parts, I can have it equipped with a different tip.

                             

                            Edit: I also use a 100 W soldering gun for wires and other things with a higher thermal mass. I'd go for a higher power gun if I were to buy it again.

                             

                            Razvan

                            1 of 1 people found this helpful
                            • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                              14rhb

                              I'm sure there are plenty of the Element14 community that would Roadtest any bundle you come up with

                              • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                rsc

                                I like to have a large soldering gun at the bench for the times I need to solder some 10AWG to a ground lug and I don't have a propane tank handy.

                                You can make your own tips from 12AWG solid copper in various shapes and sizes also.  They don't last as long as the Weller tips, but they will do in a pinch.

                                and a heat gun for shrinking heat-shrink tubing.

                                Scott

                                2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                  peteroakes

                                  Ditch the sponge and go for that pad of brass, the water in the sponge causes the iron to loose loads of heat and you then have or should wait a few seconds for it to warm again, if you cant ditch it, add the curly wire as an accessory.

                                   

                                  A large (Heat mass) tip for those PCB's with that overly large capacitor on a ground plane that never wants to leave

                                  1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                  • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                    dr-jhc

                                    Regarding iron tips, a lot depends on what you are soldering. I mostly use 3 tips: ~1mm chisel (I use this the most), a fatter chisel 3mm (for bigger things), and a very fine "needle" point (it is almost as sharp as a needle) for getting into very fine pins if needed. I have a few others that I rarely (or never) use.

                                     

                                    On my Hakko 888D changing tips is very fast and easy, even if they are hot (if you are careful).

                                     

                                    The most important thing is to get an iron with good, stable temperature control. It makes a significant difference to quality and efficiency of your soldering.

                                     

                                    And, I would use brass wire, not a sponge - I find it works so much better with no risk of thermal shock to the tip.

                                    2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                    • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                      ninjatrent

                                      This conversation sounds like a good reason for an experiment to determine which is ideal for proper soldering tip matainance, sponge or brass wool as method of cleaning solder tip.

                                       

                                      I currently use a cheap wet sponge pad but have found the brass wool to be very effective when used in the past.

                                       

                                      A wet sponge works great but the sudden temp changes do not seem like it would be beneficial to the lifespan of the tip, heating element, and any temp sensor the soldering iron might have.

                                       

                                      The concern with a brass tip cleaner might be some damage to the surface of the soldering tip with extended use.

                                      1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                        • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                          rachaelp

                                          ninjatrent  wrote:

                                           

                                          This conversation sounds like a good reason for an experiment to determine which is ideal for proper soldering tip matainance, sponge or brass wool as method of cleaning solder tip.

                                          That experiment could take a long time to complete, it's the sort of thing I expect the big soldering station manufacturers may have done but it would be interesting to see this done or maybe try and collect data from a number of people over time and see if there are any trends in how the iron tips last vs how people look after their iron tips.

                                           

                                          In my experience I have had soldering iron tips have what appears to be an outer coating delaminate after extended use when using a wet sponge but I have never seen this on tips since using the brass cleaner. I'm particular about keeping my tips clean and re-tinning them after cleaning so they don't get any oxidisation and I do this regardless of the cleaning method. I don't have enough data to draw any concrete conclusions about tip life vs cleaning method as the tips I had issues with were from a different soldering station brand than I now use so maybe that's a factor in longevity too.

                                           

                                          Best Regards,


                                          Rachael

                                          2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                            • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                              michaelkellett

                                              Since this thread got going I've happened to buy some new bits and a second Ersa iCon Pico iron and controller. It came with the brass brillo pad bat but I'm not finding it that good. This may be because I've been using a camera microscope to solder under for the first time and can now really see what I'm doing. I've found that a piece of kitchen paper does pretty well for cleaning the needle like tip I've been using. You need to be careful not to burn your fingers, and I've no idea how long the bit will last - but actually I don't care very much - the parts I'm soldering cost way, way more than the bits do.

                                               

                                              MK

                                              2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                                • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                                  dougw

                                                  I second the microscope for soldering. I solder with a stereo microscope and it really helps with precision and seeing all the crud and dodgy joints.

                                                  2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                                    • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                                      michaelkellett

                                                      I've used a stereo optical microscope for years but I find it lees than ideal because:

                                                       

                                                      the field of view is too small

                                                      I have to take my glasses off to look through it, but I need them on to see other things so going from microscope to BOM or parts bins is slow or blurred

                                                      the posture you end up with hunched over the microscope is OK for an hour but not so good for a 2 day stint

                                                       

                                                      So I looked around and got a Mantis Elite in on loan (see Dave Jones review, he loved it) But I hated it - £3k+ but the posture problem is still there, the dealer said I could put the work on a stand but I'd end up working with my hands at chest level like a hamster.

                                                      Next I looked at camera based systems, Vision Engineering do one, and there are two Swedish companies, but all at the £2k - £5k level.

                                                      My son suggested a decent camera - you can get a MFT camera which will do 4k video for about £500 an a decent lens will be about another £400. But as a trial and stopgap I bought a Chinese job from Ebay for £180 (could probably have got it cheaper if I had looked around). Its really pretty good in absolute terms and very good for the money. It's much nicer to work with than peering into the stereo microscope, well worth the loss of stereo-ness. I thought it might be hard to get used to not looking at where my hand are but it's not been a problem.

                                                       

                                                       

                                                      The fancy camera project is in hand but I haven't got the bits for the long reach stand yet - so far it's only managed pictures of the dog.

                                                       

                                                      MK

                                                      3 of 3 people found this helpful
                                                        • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                                          dougw

                                                          Very nice set up. I was also worried about the problem of looking away from my hands - even with a stereo microscope it takes a little getting used to. It is nice to know that it isn't too bad. Also nice to know that a decent rig isn't too expensive.

                                                          I don't need glasses for anything closer than 8 feet so I don't have that problem. Everyone over 40 needs vision correction, but it is really nice to have your eyes end up with at least one useful distance range without correction.

                                                          I use a custom vice/card holder which puts the cards a few inches off the bench and use movable hand rests to achieve maximum precision and minimum fatigue. My stereo scope has me sitting up pretty straight but I still wouldn't enjoy it hours on end.

                                                          1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                                          • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                                            jadew

                                                            You can get the best of both worlds with a microscope with a photo port.

                                                             

                                                            Personally I prefer looking through the microscope. The level of detail is much higher.

                                                             

                                                            That being said, I'm not sure a microscope qualifies for a soldering starter kit .

                                                            1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                                              • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                                                rachaelp

                                                                jadew  wrote:

                                                                 

                                                                You can get the best of both worlds with a microscope with a photo port.

                                                                Yeah I have been looking at possible trinocular microscope options. Do you have any recommendations? I wish Farnell sold the Amscope ones, if so I would probably have one already!

                                                                 

                                                                jadew  wrote:

                                                                 

                                                                Personally I prefer looking through the microscope. The level of detail is much higher.

                                                                Yes I think you are right. Currently I have just a reasonable quality articulated/illuminated magnifier which is OK but not great. Depth perception seems a little wonky looking through that.

                                                                 

                                                                jadew  wrote:

                                                                 

                                                                That being said, I'm not sure a microscope qualifies for a soldering starter kit .

                                                                We're engineers/tekkies, we like cool kit and love getting carried away dreaming of kit we'd love in our dream lab setup! There's pretty much no way a conversation about lab equipment can stay completely grounded and on topic!

                                                                 

                                                                Best Regards,

                                                                 

                                                                Rachael

                                                                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                                                  • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                                                    jadew

                                                                    rachaelp,

                                                                     

                                                                    I have an AmScope one (but without the branding - I shouldn't call it an AmScope microscope, but I'm pretty sure it's the same thing they're rebranding), with the boom stand, something like this: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41N-I8m7DKL._SY300_.jpg

                                                                     

                                                                    There are other places out there that sell the same microscope. Initially I wanted to get them directly from AmScope but it gets expensive when you take shipping to Europe into account, so I had to find a different source.

                                                                     

                                                                    Wherever you get them from, make sure you look into the video capturing system. You have to be on the lookout for:

                                                                     

                                                                    1) Poor resolution.

                                                                    2) Video latency.

                                                                    3) Lack of parfocality between the eyepieces and the camera (meaning that when the image is in focus through the eyepiece, it wouldn't be in focus on the camera). This is a problem I'm facing, because I don't have the proper adapter for the camera I'm using (a canon DSLR).

                                                                    4) Optionally, you may want to look into a trinocular that doesn't have to turn off one eyepiece in order to direct light to the photo port, but those heads are more expensive.

                                                                     

                                                                    I also recommend getting the 0.5x Barlow lens, because it increases the working distance and increases the field of view at the lowest zoom setting (the magnification gets halved, but the resulting range seems perfect for electronics work). With the .5x Barlow you get almost 20 cm working distance, which means you can poke with a screw driver from an almost 90 degrees angle.

                                                                     

                                                                    I don't recommend the 20x eyepieces, they're useless, but I'd get the 2x Barlow lens, because you can then inspect very small things with it. I also recommend getting an UV filter that you can fit on top of the lens (you can find cheap ones on ebay - it's just glass), in order to protect it from smoke and splatter.

                                                                     

                                                                    Razvan

                                                                    3 of 3 people found this helpful
                                                                      • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                                                        rachaelp

                                                                        Hi Razvan,

                                                                         

                                                                        Thanks for the advice, it's very helpful! I was looking at trinocular and simul-focal variants and was leaning towards a standard trinocular because I didn't think I would care about having to switch one of the eye pieces to the camera for my usage, but I see now that this might lead to annoyance and additional faffing when I do need to switch between the two. I think the right choice would therefore be simul-focal.

                                                                         

                                                                        Are the camera ports on these standard C-mount ports so I can just buy a microscope itself and buy a high quality camera from elsewhere?

                                                                         

                                                                        Good points on the Barlow lenses and UV filter too, I'll definitely add those to the list too!

                                                                         

                                                                        How about for the ring lights? What are the ones that come with these scope like? Again do you know if they standard fittings so I could buy ring lights from other sources or are they a proprietary fitting?

                                                                         

                                                                        Many thanks,

                                                                         

                                                                        Rachael

                                                                          • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                                                            jadew

                                                                            Hey Rachael,

                                                                             

                                                                            rachaelp  wrote:

                                                                             

                                                                            Are the camera ports on these standard C-mount ports so I can just buy a microscope itself and buy a high quality camera from elsewhere?

                                                                             

                                                                            Yes, they're standard, but the tube or adapter that comes out of it isn't. I don't understand the optics of the phototube, but I think each microscope type needs a an adapter specifically built for it, otherwise it won't be parfocal.

                                                                             

                                                                            I had the same idea you do and now I have a bunch of adapters that don't make a good image and it's not parfocal either. I'm sure you can find the right combination, just make sure you do before you buy it.

                                                                             

                                                                             

                                                                            rachaelp  wrote:

                                                                             

                                                                            How about for the ring lights? What are the ones that come with these scope like? Again do you know if they standard fittings so I could buy ring lights from other sources or are they a proprietary fitting?

                                                                             

                                                                            I don't know if they're standard. Mine have 3 screws that tighten around the lens. If you have to choose between a powerful ring light and a less powerful one, get the powerful one. I got the medium version that was available for mine and it's just ok. I sometimes need more light and I bring it in from an additional lamp I have next to the microscope.

                                                                             

                                                                             

                                                                            Regards,

                                                                            Razvan

                                                                            3 of 3 people found this helpful
                                                                          • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                                                            rachaelp

                                                                            So camera wise, I'm thinking something like this https://www.pepleroptics.com/index.php/digital-microscopes/microscope-cameras/dino-eye-edge-am7025x-cmos-microscope-camera-usb-5-0mp.html

                                                                             

                                                                            I need macOS support in any software and the Dino-lite cameras have the DINOXCOPE software available for macOS. A lot of other cameras don't supply drivers for anything other than windows so whilst you might get video functionality out of them you might not get full control of the camera to get the best out of it.

                                                                             

                                                                            Best Regards,


                                                                            Rachael

                                                                            2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                                                              • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                                                                shabaz

                                                                                Hi Rachael,

                                                                                 

                                                                                I think michaelkellett system has dual outputs, HDMI and USB by the looks of it, so will have reduced lag.

                                                                                The USB-only options tend to have lag, because there isn't enough bandwidth available so it compresses first. USB 3.0 would solve this, but then the options may be fewer. I've used a GigE camera, that provides uncompressed video, but nevertheless there is a (very slight) lag, although I have used it for component placement or soldering while viewing on a PC. The lag can be tuned out partially, depending on how it is connected (directly or through a switch) and packet size configuration on the PC and switch.

                                                                                I've tried a few combinations, it is still sub-optimal, but in the end I use a couple of systems with one camera: microscope and camera for very close-up inspection, but mount the same camera with a different lens and stand for component placement.

                                                                                3 of 3 people found this helpful
                                                              • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                                                mcb1

                                                                michaelkellett

                                                                I've been looking for some alternatives as well, and so far your version is looking very promising.

                                                                Do you have the link.?

                                                                 

                                                                Sadly the HUD type vision systems don't have a good enough camera, otherwise this might have been an alternative.

                                                                 

                                                                 

                                                                Mark

                                                                • Re: Soldering Stations & The Right Accessories - Where to start?
                                                                  tbartonnewark

                                                                  Don't know if anybody on this thread is interested but this Metcal Soldering is station is 75% Off.

                                                                  Was: $898.82   Now: Promotional price $94.78

                                                                   

                                                                   

                                                                  MFR-SDI - METCAL - SOLDERING, DESOLDERING & REWORK SYSTEM | Newark element14

                                                                  2 of 2 people found this helpful