Author Topic: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?  (Read 1713 times)

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Offline bd139

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Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« on: June 27, 2018, 06:08:44 am »
I’ve currently got a Weller WTCP51 station and a Quickco T12 setup. Mainly been doing TH and a little bit of SMD work. The TCP is mostly too bulky and too hot and the T12 I don’t really trust as it eats tips and is made of poo. I’m about to hit a few major SMD boards so want something a little better for the job.

Can someone recommend some decent irons. Preferably something I can get from mainstream distributors here in the U.K. Will be handling 0603, MSOP min.

Looked at FX-888D but there’s lots of complaints about the digital version of it. The new weller irons appear to all suck. any alternatives or comments on the 888d?
 

Offline ebclr

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2018, 07:32:35 am »
 

Offline KaneTW

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2018, 07:41:30 am »
My ERSA i-Con 2V works great on 0402/0603s + hot air (Quick 861DW) for soldering ICs
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2018, 07:46:33 am »
You will be surprised with this baby

https://hackaday.com/2017/07/24/review-ts100-soldering-iron/

I’ve discounted that already. There are numerous things I don’t like about it that I won’t go into here.
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2018, 07:47:24 am »
My ERSA i-Con 2V works great on 0402/0603s + hot air (Quick 861DW) for soldering ICs

Anything half that price would be good :D
 

Offline tautech

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2018, 08:01:37 am »
Personally I'd be focusing on the tips you want to use and then finding an iron that they fit.
Something from the Hakko selection maybe:
https://www.hakko.com/english/tip_selection/series_900m.html
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Offline bd139

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2018, 08:10:37 am »
That’s a pretty damn good idea. 2mm chisel + suitable iron.

Looking at Hakko Fx-951 at the moment but worried about tip longevity.
 

Offline tautech

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2018, 08:33:16 am »
That’s a pretty damn good idea. 2mm chisel + suitable iron.

Looking at Hakko Fx-951 at the moment but worried about tip longevity.
Who gives a shit as they're cheap as chips !

Chisels are OK and pretty much only what I use as I haven't bothered to get any hoof types but I do understand they're much better for drag soldering. K style are also very handy on occasion for passive rework.
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Offline tautech

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2018, 08:37:06 am »
Did you watch Daves recent soldering iron vid where he gets a few stirred up and has to do another in some attempt to get ppl on the same page.  ::)
https://www.eevblog.com/2018/03/15/eevblog-1064-soldering-irons-old-vs-new/
https://www.eevblog.com/2018/03/19/eevblog-1065-soldering-iron-power-delivery-explained/
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Offline Cerebus

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2018, 12:31:30 pm »
Metcal, second hand if you're feeling stingy. The SP200 sets can be had for under £100 on fleabay, the MX series go for a bit more. Everybody seems to go for the 13.5MHz MX irons but in day to day use I can see no difference between the 455kHz ones (such as the SP200) and the 13.5MHz ones (such as the MX500). I use an SP200 myself. On both ranges the ergonomics are better than on any other iron I've used - short tip to grip distance (45mm), a pen-like feel to holding them and cords that are thin, light and flexible but with enough 'bounce' to keep them out of the way.

Tips can be had cheaply thanks to Thermaltronics 2nd sourcing them and there's a good range for both supply frequencies. If you're definitely going to need the weird tips such as ones to solder/desolder a whole SOIC package in one go you'll have to opt for the MX range but if you just need normal soldering tips then either range is fine. I use a 1.5mm/60thou chisel tip (SSC-738A) for most things, a 1.78mm/70thou chisel tip (SSC-637A) for things that need a bit more heat transfer, and (rarely) an SSC-726A 0.51mm/20thou bent conical tip for things that need true pinpoint precision without disturbing other parts in the neighbourhood. The 1.5 and 1.78mm tips will both happily solder directly onto 2oz ground planes.
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Offline nanofrog

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2018, 01:55:46 pm »
Looking at Hakko Fx-951 at the moment but worried about tip longevity.
Hakko's tips are thickly plated, so last a long time (10+ years is very doable). Same goes for Ersa's tips. Both brands also offer an excellent selection of tip sizes & shapes/profiles.

Batterfly (in Italy) is currently selling the FX-951 for 279EUR before VAT. If you get the cart to 300EUR or more before VAT, the shipping is free (a few tips should take care of this quite nicely).

Another iron to consider would be an Ersa i-Con 1V (~386GBP before VAT directly from Ersa). More money up front, but the tips are cheaper as they're not cartridge types. And it's more powerful than the FX-951. I'd suggest getting some additional collars/tip retainers as well, as it makes tip changes faster & easier.

If you are in the market for hot air, I'd second the recommendation for a Quick 861DW.  :-+
  • plenty of power
  • heats quickly
  • fan isn't too loud (you'll hear it, but it's nowhere near a jet engine like some)
  • the UI is easy & intuitive to use
  • uses a separate stand that's rather substantial (more options in placement of main unit). It also contains magnets to activate setback features when the handle is in the stand.
  • build quality is decent
  • you won't find a better station for the money (or 2x or more for that matter)
 

Offline KaneTW

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2018, 03:00:18 pm »
i-Con 1V has the same price as 2V, so no reason to buy it (at least where I bought it, ersa-shop.com)
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2018, 04:41:07 pm »
Thanks everyone for feedback so far. It’s all going into a big spreadsheet :D
 

Offline blueskull

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2018, 05:02:51 pm »
Thanks everyone for feedback so far. It’s all going into a big spreadsheet :D

This will be addictive, just like DMMs and scopes.



And that's only the irons at home, I also have a JBC HDE, another set of Metcal MFR1100/iron/tweezers, a Quick 861DW, and a butane iron at work plus a Hakko 888D borrowed by a friend...
 

Offline Terry01

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2018, 05:09:58 pm »
I have the 888-d and have no complaints with it at all. I can see where some people would say it's a bit of a fiddle to change temperature but to be honest unless your changing temp every 5 minutes it's easy. You  can also set 5 set temperatures if your jumping from one thing to another. It also stores the temp you were at when you switch off so again unless your changing temp loads you normally don't even touch temp.  I use a small chisel tip for most stuff, 1.6mm I think. I have a few and can go bigger or use a point if what i'm doing requires so. One thing I would say though is if you go Hakko get genuine tips, they make a world of difference especially on doing bigger stuff. It has plenty grunt when you need it and holds temperature well.

I would recommend the 888-d.
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Offline Wirehead

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #15 on: June 28, 2018, 03:40:37 pm »
Any half decent soldering iron (yup, including the Chinese T12/T15 with a genuine tip) with a chisel tip will let you solder SMD... (1.6mm - 2mm - something like that). Just use some good quality solder.

However, even for low volume assembly, I'd go for the stencil+cheap oven combination any day, with a hot-air station for minor reworks (again: forget the lead-free stuff for home use)

Much faster results...
"to remain static is to lose ground"
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #16 on: June 28, 2018, 07:37:53 pm »
Thanks all again.

So far I'm going for the Metcal PS-900 kit. Mainly because availability is better than Hakko FX-951 and other brands. I can get it from mainstream retailers here (Farnell and RS) without being buggered by postage fees from Dancap and the tips aren't that much more expensive than Weller ones. It's not quite as good as the higher end Metcal units but it's way ahead of the Weller.

Not doing stencils. If I needed that I'd pay someone else to do it :) ... I do a lot of dead bug prototypes as well so I need a versatile iron.
 

Offline Cerebus

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #17 on: June 29, 2018, 12:49:06 am »
A word of caution. I have no experience with them, but the PS-900 uses the third type of Metcal tip, where the coil isn't an integral part of of the tip but is a separate assembly whereas it is integrated into the tip with the other 455 kHz and 13.5MHz types. I don't know if this makes a difference to either heat delivery or ergonomics. It allows the tips to be manufactured more cheaply but whether that saving is fully passed on is another question. Most of the experience of Metcal around here (including mine) is based on the integrated coil type of tips used on the SP200 and MX500 series. It's quite likely the production irons with the non-integrated coil work just as well but it might be worth taking some soundings around here for someone with experience of them before pulling the trigger.

Edited to add: Oh, I see from another place that you've already pulled the trigger, guess that means that you can become the voice of experience on this. As blueskull says below, I believe you can use the handles from the integrated coil 470kHz tips on the PS900, so if it's pants you can swap to the tried and tested.

Edited to further add: Interesting, hadn't seen/noticed this before. If you're updating a post you don't get the "Someone else has replied..." warning, so I didn't see your new message as I updated this.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2018, 01:09:05 am by Cerebus »
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Offline blueskull

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #18 on: June 29, 2018, 12:51:29 am »
A word of caution. I have no experience with them, but the PS-900 uses the third type of Metcal tip, where the coil isn't an integral part of of the tip but is a separate assembly whereas it is integrated into the tip with the other 455 kHz and 13.5MHz types. I don't know if this makes a difference to either heat delivery or ergonomics. It allows the tips to be manufactured more cheaply but whether that saving is fully passed on is another question. Most of the experience of Metcal around here (including mine) is based on the integrated coil type of tips used on the SP200 and MX500 series. It's quite likely the production irons with the non-integrated coil work just as well but it might be worth taking some soundings around here for someone with experience of them before pulling the trigger.

I think PS900 uses the same technolog as MFR1100 series. The default handle for PS900 is a heater and tip style for lower tip cost compared with cartridge systems, but thermal regulation is worse. You should be able to install an MFR handle and cartridge to PS900 power unit and it will work fine. MFR1100 series also come in heater and tip flavor.
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #19 on: June 29, 2018, 12:58:42 am »
A word of caution. I have no experience with them, but the PS-900 uses the third type of Metcal tip, where the coil isn't an integral part of of the tip but is a separate assembly whereas it is integrated into the tip with the other 455 kHz and 13.5MHz types. I don't know if this makes a difference to either heat delivery or ergonomics. It allows the tips to be manufactured more cheaply but whether that saving is fully passed on is another question. Most of the experience of Metcal around here (including mine) is based on the integrated coil type of tips used on the SP200 and MX500 series. It's quite likely the production irons with the non-integrated coil work just as well but it might be worth taking some soundings around here for someone with experience of them before pulling the trigger.

Well will find out. Have ordered it to arrive tomorrow. Yes the coil is part of the handle. That makes the consumables somewhat less expensive (£10-11 a tip). Coil is £20 and has longevity of about 300-400 hours. I did a lot of reading around and emailed someone who I worked with years ago who has a few and it's apparently nearly as good as the earlier MX/SP handpieces in performance but the shank of the tips are larger due to the handle integrated coil and there is less variety of rework tips available which are compromises I'm fine with rather than pay for an MX5000 :D

Main thing is the distance from a magnastat and/or ceramic/thermistor combo is still large and it's less of an ass ache than a Hakko for parts. And fuck Weller (I'll create another thread for that comment)

Edit: Worst case, everyone gets a soldering iron review at my expense :-DD
« Last Edit: June 29, 2018, 01:01:19 am by bd139 »
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #20 on: June 30, 2018, 02:23:22 am »
Reposted content here from another thread. Metcal arrived. I will do a full review thread of it after a couple of months of use but not before.

Mini review.

Box - brown, cardboard, boring.



Out of the box



Feels good, even in my manky mit



Comparison to T12 / 9501. It's actually nicer to hold due to the indent in the shaft.



Quick test



Happy so far :-+
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #21 on: September 07, 2018, 10:36:34 pm »
OK time for a quick update on this iron as promised. 

Was going to write a massive review but will keep it short. Basically it's awesome, reliable and scales up and down to literally any job I've thrown at it from placing 0402's up to soldering BNC connectors to PCBs and working with thick cable. I haven't bought any additional tips or had to replace anything yet and it's been used for 30 mins to 4 hours a day nearly every day since I bought it. Money well spent. Glad I didn't buy a Hakko.
 

Offline nanofrog

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #22 on: September 08, 2018, 01:39:47 am »
Glad you like it.  :-+

But where's the f*** Weller thread you mentioned starting?  :o  >:D
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #23 on: September 08, 2018, 02:42:06 am »
Unfortunately I sold the iron before I had a chance to ram it up the arse of Cooper Tools CEO  :-DD

 

Offline nanofrog

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Re: Which iron for low volume SMD assembly?
« Reply #24 on: September 08, 2018, 02:53:09 am »
Unfortunately I sold the iron before I had a chance to ram it up the arse of Cooper Tools CEO  :-DD
Well at least it kept you out of the dock, so not a bad thing.  :-DD

Still though, any report on their gear can help others. For the record, I've a Weller WD setup. It's decent, but if I were in the market now, I'd be looking very hard at Pace.
 


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