Poll

Do you calibrate and periodically check the temperature of your soldering station iron?

Yes, I only calibrated it once it its lifetime
8 (9%)
No, I've never calibrated it and use it as is, out of the box
55 (61.8%)
Yes, I calibrate it and check the accuracy periodically
8 (9%)
No, I've never calibrated it and and have never rechecked it
13 (14.6%)
I don't need calibration, my iron and station are self calibrating
5 (5.6%)

Total Members Voted: 84

Author Topic: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?  (Read 28322 times)

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Offline saturation

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I noticed that there is hardly any discussion on most forums about solder station iron calibration or maintaining the scale and performance to factory specification.

There is equipment that can be had cheaply to do maintenance, and its possible to make good estimates without such equipment with the right K thermocouple and a DMM.

So, a side question is, does having accurate temperature settings really help your soldering, or are you fine with simply having an iron that heats quickly, and with variable temperature to insure whatever solder used flows as you'd like, from tiny spots like SMT pads to large areas like > 20 AWG electrical wires .. and could care less what the real temperature was?




« Last Edit: July 19, 2011, 08:26:22 pm by saturation »
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Offline Semantics

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2011, 09:15:43 pm »
I twiddle the temperature pretty often. I generally pick it up where I left it, raise it when I don't see the solder flowing and I think heat's getting dissipated too quickly, and lower it when I'm done and I'm just looking to clean up the tip and tin it one last time that session.

So, in a sense, it doesn't really matter to me that the tip is 350 degrees or 380 degrees, just that it's at the right temperature at the time. Whether lies the numbers on the dial want to tell me, it's fine, because it's obvious when the soldering is going well.

(now, compare to some other test equipment where all I have is it's solemn vow that it's set correctly... I wish calibration services would cost less so I can do it on schedule and sleep a little better at night, but it really isn't a bother as much as this text is making it out to be.)
 

Offline Time

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2011, 09:17:56 pm »
I agree with Semantics.  I just use temp adjustment to get me in a ball park and depending on the size and shape of what I am soldering I fine tune from there with no care of actual temp.
-Time
 

Offline Psi

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2011, 09:38:17 pm »
+1
I do the same thing.

The temp would have to be ridiculously far out of calibration before it would cause any real issues for most people.

 
« Last Edit: July 19, 2011, 09:41:57 pm by Psi »
Greek letter 'Psi' (not Pounds per Square Inch)
 

Offline ivan747

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2011, 04:21:14 am »
Yeah, I stick to a temperature and adjust it if I need more heat. I try not to do so because flux vaporizes quickly at 400ºC. At 450ºC I have found some sort of blueish oxide forming on the tip. I can clean it by lowering the temperature, applying solder and cleaning the iron.
 

Offline lowimpedance

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2011, 05:42:51 am »
Same here too, I find the actual temperature need not be known (ball park on the dial) since it gets twiddled until I get the joint I was after.
After many years of soldering all manner of things (electronic and otherwise) its more down to experience and knowing how to, rather than the specific tool being used.
Mind you having just said that tomorrow I will get a job that needs prescision temp specs.!!. ::)
The odd multimeter or 2 or 3 or 4...or........can't remember !.
 

Offline hacklordsniper

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2011, 05:46:20 am »
I calibrate about 2 times per year. No good reason to do so since soldering is mostly done by "feeling" but sometimes i dont have better things to do  :)
Oh, the joy of sending various electronics to silicon heaven
 
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Offline cybergibbons

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2011, 07:28:04 am »
One word - Metcal. No need to calibrate.
 

alm

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2011, 08:36:48 pm »
One word - Metcal. No need to calibrate.
Apart from showing off your expensive soldering station, does this feature actually make your life easier in any way?

I agree with the majority, temperature adjustment is a closed loop system for me, the only use of the temperature display is so I can easily remember how to set it up next time. I can see the value in calibration when using multiple soldering stations, or for production use when strict procedures have to be followed. Not an issue for most home labs.
 

Offline cybergibbons

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2011, 09:44:29 pm »
One word - Metcal. No need to calibrate.
Apart from showing off your expensive soldering station, does this feature actually make your life easier in any way?

I just pick the tip geometry based on what I'm soldering, and very rarely need to think about using the higher or lower temperature tips.
 

Offline saturation

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2011, 07:13:28 pm »
There was a post that disappeared suggesting to use the melting point of solder as a quick way to calibrate the scale of adjustable soldering irons; that's simple and brilliant using eutectic mixtures!  Alas, I still have a roll of Sn60Pb40. 

The downside, is that Sn63Pb37 eutectic solder melts at 183C, which is below the scale of low cost stations like the Hakko 936, FX 888 or the Weller WES51.  But in the future, I could get eutectic lead free solder that melts at > 200C that should make it easier to eyeball that the knob setting as representative of the tip temperature.


« Last Edit: July 21, 2011, 07:15:56 pm by saturation »
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Offline nukie

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2011, 11:37:00 pm »
Adjustable Temperature irons are god sent. I don't care how advance the iron is, if its fix temp, it ain't an iron for me. In fact, what's the point of having a huge ass station sitting on your precious desk space without it?

Calibration is a simple process but once you get used to your iron and tips you will know the right temp to set without the readout. If you see lots of flux splatter and oxidize quickly, you have too high temp. It's very simple adjustment.
 

Offline saturation

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2011, 07:39:52 pm »
I've done very similar to folks here who have replied, often far worse... and never really gave soldering much thought.  But after working with the Hakko 936 for a while, and noting subtle improved differences over my old cheapie open loop feedback irons, it intrigued me to find out what more can be improved, and why.

It seems a simple rule can improve parts reliability and tip life: keep the tip at 350oC or lower and avoid >= 400oC as possible.  But if you don't know the true temp of the tip, then you can't take advantage of rule's benefits.  It took a lot of studies to find this out to become MIL-STD-202G, which is now incorporated into industry standards.  Its also more important as lead free solder tends to wear tips out faster.



We all assume that if our devices work after soldering & assembly that no damage occurred, but analysis of parts failure after manufacture suggests soldering causes a lot of heat stress [from accelerated aging to thermal shock] much of which cannot be detected visually, or in circuit performance.   After all the analysis, it comes down to tip temps at <= 350oC or lower, towards the left of the green line.

http://www.amazon.com/Optimizing-Quality-Electronics-Assembly-Heretical/dp/0070592292/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Although this website is promotional and biased, its written by the authors of the textbook and gives freebie insight into content of the book:

http://www.emsciences.com/HTML/Heat_Details.html

Or this Weller document geared to sales people:

http://ordering.digikey.com/DocumentRedirector.aspx?doc=http://www.digikey.com%2fWeb%20Export%2fSupplier%20Content%2fCooper_72%2fPDF%2fCooperWU_ModuleI_Tips%26LeadFree.pdf

Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 

Offline saturation

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2011, 03:04:20 pm »
I can confirm this eutectic solder test: I had some Sn99.3/Cu0.7 lying around and sure enough at the 227C mark, the solder melted on cue.  I rechecked it the hardware with a thermocouple.

This simple test is a good way to quickly eyeball the cal of the analog stations and it tons easier than using a thermocouple and is good enough for labs that dont' require certifications of any sort.

There was a post that disappeared suggesting to use the melting point of solder as a quick way to calibrate the scale of adjustable soldering irons; that's simple and brilliant using eutectic mixtures!  Alas, I still have a roll of Sn60Pb40. 

The downside, is that Sn63Pb37 eutectic solder melts at 183C, which is below the scale of low cost stations like the Hakko 936, FX 888 or the Weller WES51.  But in the future, I could get eutectic lead free solder that melts at > 200C that should make it easier to eyeball that the knob setting as representative of the tip temperature.

« Last Edit: July 29, 2011, 03:07:27 pm by saturation »
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 Saturation
 

Offline Gall

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #14 on: July 29, 2011, 03:08:28 pm »
I just know that my soldering station shows wrong temperature.

Instead of calibrating it, I just found empirically best settings for all cases and remembered them. It does not matter if it displays temperature in crocodiles instead of centigrades :)
The difficult we do today; the impossible takes a little longer.
 

Offline saturation

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2011, 12:07:40 pm »
You can certainly do that, but if there is a simple way to avoid accelerated damage to your tips and stressing parts, why not prevent?

The corrosion rate on tips rise quickly to 300-400x faster using lead free, once you rise above 350C.   Maybe your prior practices just involved leaded and the difference are not as striking.  Once below 350C, the rates converge and is almost that of leaded solder say at 300C, but you need to know the right temp.

Here is a publicly available graph,  some of the original studies are not free.



http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=1455701&show=abstract

I just know that my soldering station shows wrong temperature.

Instead of calibrating it, I just found empirically best settings for all cases and remembered them. It does not matter if it displays temperature in crocodiles instead of centigrades :)
Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 

Offline robin80

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2011, 01:15:38 pm »
Great . Thanks a lot!
 

Offline saturation

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #17 on: July 30, 2011, 01:35:33 pm »
You're welcome.  If you need more info, Hakko makes this available but keep an open mind as its their own product literature.
However, IMHO I've found Hakko information sheets not to be blatantly promotional.

http://www.tequipment.net/HakkoLeadCompatible.html

Great . Thanks a lot!

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 Saturation
 

Offline Gall

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #18 on: July 30, 2011, 04:35:35 pm »
BTW, I noticed that many Pb-free technologies utilize a lot of Sb instead. This seems to be even worse. Fluxes for Pb-free soldering are much more toxic, too. Looks like it's not about environmental safety anymore, just blindly following Pb-ban...
The difficult we do today; the impossible takes a little longer.
 

Offline saturation

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #19 on: August 05, 2011, 05:34:45 pm »
I recently came across this.  The original Hakko 191 [ oC] and 191B [ oF] sold for $100-200 when new, and has now been discontinued. 

You can find used ones for $50-60 on eBay.

However,  there is a China based vendor selling "new" ones for $10, + $6 shipping.  The tip thermometer is just a mV DVM calibrated for thermocouples, its not exotic to make, so even if these were counterfeit it could still work well. 

http://cgi.ebay.com/Tip-Thermometer-Solder-Iron-Tip-Digital-Tester-HAKKO191-/180675527416?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2a1119c2f8

I got one, and it does work very well.  10 thermocouples are enclosed that are good for 50 tests each.  For individual use, and for whatever reason tend to spot check your irons 10x a year,  it will take 50 years to exhaust the supply of thermocouples.


Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 

Offline nukie

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #20 on: August 07, 2011, 02:15:47 pm »
I bought a temperature calibrator in 2008, it's the blue/yellow Hakko FG-100, most of the ones on ebay are fake. I took it apart, the moulding job is terrible, the plastic parts don't fit together properly and you can see bits of untrimmed of plastics around the edges. It's worst than kids toys.

I sent pictures to the seller, the seller claimed that it was from the supplier so he knew nothing about it. I left him a negative feedback then he refunded my money in full and lots of apologies. The item was also removed from Ebay but there are still plenty of people selling it.

Having said that, it works perfectly except a bit flimsy.

Please excuse the deliberate captions and text on the images, I was very furious about the fake product I received. Some makes no sense at all.. "cheap raw plastic" ???? LOL I don't know what I was thinking at that time but I did setup my DSLR macro lens to take the pictures.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2011, 02:34:31 pm by nukie »
 

Online Fraser

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #21 on: August 07, 2011, 05:22:55 pm »
I use a Hakko 191 tip thermometer to check that all is well with the tip temperature.... I had a Weller TCP overheat once due to a faulty internal magnet switch.

I bought my 191 here for a very reasonable price of less than GBP 10 delivered to the UK:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=140487231603&ssPageName=ADME:B:EOIBSA:GB:1123

ebay auction: 140487231603

Build quality is good and all parts look to be well cast and constructed. It includes the little black protection disk that covers the thermocouple tensioning post. This was missing from Nukie's unit.

I have no idea whether it's genuine or a clone but it appears accurate when compared to my Fluke 52 thermometer. 10 thermocouple sensors are provided with it and they are the newer lead free compatible version too. I also found the thermocouple sensors cheaply on ebay (under GBP5 for 10) so don't pay big bucks for them either.

I have seen 191's selling for significant sums of money in both new and used condition. I noticed some have a K type thermocouple port at the front, for connection of a solder-pot probe.

« Last Edit: August 07, 2011, 05:37:59 pm by Aurora »
 

Offline saturation

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #22 on: August 08, 2011, 08:12:30 pm »
Thanks nukie.  Yes, you have to beware that many items on eBay sold as Hakko, is probably counterfeit; it would be a shame to pay for Hakko and get a fake, but its less painful to buy a copy and know its a copy, if this was sold as "Hakko compatible" for $10 I would still give it a try.  I haven't had a chance to open my 191 but I spent most of the time checking its readings against my manual theromcouple and the eutectic solder; its surprisingly accurate.  Also, the original 191 is really very basic, so its easy to copy well; opening it will probably tell more about how well it was counterfeited and I'll post when I've time to do so.

The blue-yellow Hakko FG100 replaced the 191 and cost about $200 new, from Hakko.  But functionally it does the same thing and luckily, they use the same type of Hakko sensors.  However, the 191 case uses a thermoplastic insulator against the heat of the iron and photos of some in the field looks like it get pretty abused.





I bought a temperature calibrator in 2008, it's the blue/yellow Hakko FG-100, most of the ones on ebay are fake. I took it apart, the moulding job is terrible, the plastic parts don't fit together properly and you can see bits of untrimmed of plastics around the edges. It's worst than kids toys.

Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 

Offline Kozmyk

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #23 on: August 09, 2011, 01:30:25 am »
I have an analogue station so I measured it at 5 positions around the dial to have a ballpark idea of where the temp is at.
I just used a DMM and thermocouple on a tinned bit for heat transfer.
I'll bump it up a bit for a big work-piece that will sink heat away or for the rare lead-free job.
i might adjust up or down for different solder guages or fluxes on lighter work.

Most of my work soldering was done in the field with an Antex XS25, never killed a chip with heat or static, not once.
The old Weller magnetic controlled irons I used in industry way back did more to protect and extend the life of the tip than make a better solder joint.
With good technique, temperature controlled irons aren't essential.
They're everywhere now so I use them.
 

Offline nukie

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Re: Do you calibrate your soldering station, if not or if so, why?
« Reply #24 on: August 09, 2011, 01:55:41 pm »
Just open it up and look at the silkscreen on the PCB, look for hakko logo and print, the clones don't have them.

I love my 15w and 25w Antex. Unfortunately the PVC cable is too stiff, I believe the silicon wire is more flexible.
 


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