Author Topic: ERSA iCon Pico vs iCon Nano! Is ESD protection important?? Soldering station.  (Read 37127 times)

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Offline enigma

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Hi everyone! I wish you a Happy New Year!

Now...
I want to buy a good soldering station, but living in Europe (Greece), where Hakko is not an option, i decided to buy an ERSA!
My budget is limited so i have to choose between 3 models: RDS80, iCon Pico, or iCon Nano.
RDS80 and iCon Pico have a very small difference in price, although i couldn't find any technical differences between them.
( I emailed ERSA in Germany, asking about the difference between these two, but no one replied!)
iCon Nano on the other hand has a difference of about 100-120$ with the other two just because it offers ESD protection i think.
(I couldn't find any other technical difference in specifications between Nano and Pico either.)

Links below:
http://www.reichelt.de/Soldering-Stations-ERSA/RDS-80/3/index.html?&ACTION=3&LA=2&ARTICLE=69172&GROUPID=553&artnr=RDS+80
http://www.reichelt.de/Soldering-Stations-ERSA/I-CON-PICO/3/index.html?&ACTION=3&LA=2&ARTICLE=110014&GROUPID=553&artnr=I-CON+PICO
http://www.reichelt.de/Soldering-Stations-ERSA/I-CON-NANO/3/index.html?&ACTION=3&LA=2&ARTICLE=89494&GROUPID=553&artnr=I-CON+NANO

I work with SMD (cellphone main-boards repair) and i know that they are very sensitive components, but i don't know how important ESD protection on the solder station is.
If anyone could suggest me one of them, or give me some feedback/review, i could appreciate it a lot! Does anyone knows if there is another difference between them except ESD protection?
I really don't know if i should buy iCon Pico or add another 100-120$ and buy iCon Nano??
In this moment i can't afford adding 120$ more without a good reason!  Please help!

Thanks in advance!
« Last Edit: January 04, 2014, 06:32:48 pm by enigma »
 

Offline jpb

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I went through a similar decision process a year ago. I went for the iCon Nano as I felt that ESD protection was important, but I can't definitively give scientific evidence of this.

Here is what ERSA wrote to me (they were very good about responding to my e-mails so I'm surprised you've not had a response) :

our ESD-safe solder stations are especially designed for industrial environment
and for working on sensitive electronics. These stations meets the old MIL
standards and the present IPC standards for industrial soldering equipment. This
means that our soldering tips are connected to ground potential via the earth
connection - although our control station electronics is designed as
electrically isolated. So the earth connection is not required for electrical
safety, it's just for grounding the tip. Here the resistance must be less than 5
ohms according to the standards. But this is not the only thing. Also the
housing and the iron must be made of antistatic plastics or conductive material
to avoid electrostatic charge (as well as the soldering iron cable).

All of our antistatic soldering stations are equipped like described above.

If a station is not marked to be antistatic, then it doesn't have a grounded
tip. The mains plug is just a two-pin plug. Neither the housing nor the
soldering iron or iron cable material is antistatic in such case.

Just the mains irons have a grounded tip. But here it's for electrical safety
only. The grip and cable material is not antistatic, too.

In your case:

Stations like the i-CON PICO and the RDS 80 are NOT antistatic and they have no
grounded tip. From the performance side, the i-CON PICO is comparable with the
ESD-safe i-CON NANO. Hint: The RDS 80 has no chance against an i-CON PICO
performance-wise. Our i-CON generation is precisely temperature controlled by a
TC sensing the tip temperature in front of the heater. The RDS 80 just controls
the heater temperature and this makes it quite slow in the way of comparison. So
both stations are typical hobby stations, but the i-CON PICO has industrial
heating performance (9 seconds for heating up only!) anyway. If you just solder
wires to plug pins then you may not need an ESD-safe station...

Hope this will help you making your decision.

 
« Last Edit: March 08, 2014, 05:40:13 pm by jpb »
 

Offline zapta

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If the tip is grounded and if you have a ground strap, what can go wrong with the non ESD safe iron?
Drain the swamp.
 

Offline Dave

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I have heard complaints from several RDS80 owners, that its iron's cable is annoyingly stiff.

As far as ESD goes, I haven't owned an ESD safe soldering iron until just recently and I have never killed anything with static. At least not that I would know (static discharge doesn't necessarily immediately kill the component, it could just damage it and you would have to face the consequences later).

I want to buy a good soldering station, but living in Europe (Greece), where Hakko is not an option, i decided to buy an ERSA!
Don't make it sound like you are settling for an Ersa, they make better equipment than Hakko.
<fellbuendel> it's arduino, you're not supposed to know anything about what you're doing
<fellbuendel> if you knew, you wouldn't be using it
 

Offline AlienRelics

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Keep in mind that if you don't have an ESD mat and a wrist strap, you and the board can pick up a charge and blow a chip when the grounded tip touches the board.

So there is a lot more to it than just an ESD safe soldering iron.
 

Offline quarros

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If the tip is grounded and if you have a ground strap, what can go wrong with the non ESD safe iron?

As I understand it it needs to have around 1 Mega Ohm resistance. So it wont discharge to fast if you're using it in an energised circuit.
 

Offline Dave

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As I understand it it needs to have around 1 Mega Ohm resistance. So it wont discharge to fast if you're using it in an energised circuit.
I thought the same, but it turns out that is only true for wrist straps and ESD mats. Soldering iron tips have a direct connection to mains earth.
<fellbuendel> it's arduino, you're not supposed to know anything about what you're doing
<fellbuendel> if you knew, you wouldn't be using it
 

Offline quarros

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As I understand it it needs to have around 1 Mega Ohm resistance. So it wont discharge to fast if you're using it in an energised circuit.
I thought the same, but it turns out that is only true for wrist straps and ESD mats. Soldering iron tips have a direct connection to mains earth.

 :o Well that don't make much sense to me...
So if you're using an ESD station on either an energised or "self charged" circuit than you can easily fry your circuit by grounding a charged trace...
Well call me stupid but I just don't get it.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2014, 02:16:18 am by quarros »
 

Offline enigma

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If the tip is grounded and if you have a ground strap, what can go wrong with the non ESD safe iron?

That was my question exactly! If the only difference between iCon Pico and iCon Nano is the ESD protection, then why there is a difference of 120$? A quality ground strap starts from 5$ on ebay. You can connect it to a grounded device and you are OK.

Also, to answer some of the questions,there are standards for ESD safe soldering stations, and from the OK International statement of compliance (googled), the strictest would ensure:
* The resistance between tip and ground is less than 2 ohms
* The AC voltage present on the tip is less than 2mV RMS
* The tip presents a leakage current of less than 10mA RMS
* Transients are kept below 2V peak

I'm not an engineer yet, just an EE student who works part time at a cellphone repair shop. The other guys that work there are a bit irresponsible and ignorant about the ESD and other dangers that could result from not taking the right precautions, not working in a clean/safe place, not using quality tools or not handling the PCB with caution.
The other day this happened to us too and i suspect it happened because of ESD.
This is the reason i'm worried about ESD protection in the soldering station now!
« Last Edit: January 07, 2014, 10:29:40 pm by enigma »
 

Offline Spikee

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You are getting close to the pricing of the JBC stations. You may want to consider them too.
Freelance electronics design service, Small batch assembly, Firmware / WEB / APP development. In Shenzhen China
 

Offline enigma

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You are getting close to the pricing of the JBC stations. You may want to consider them too.

I don't think so. Take a look at the pricing of JBC in Greece.

http://www.marelectronics.gr/products.php?category=518&company=JBC&lang=gr
 

Offline Spikee

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I have the first one and i paid like 350 euros at the time.
Freelance electronics design service, Small batch assembly, Firmware / WEB / APP development. In Shenzhen China
 

Offline miro

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Could you figure out what is really the difference between nano and pico? I can't believe that it's only the ESD safe design. The price difference is 50€ or more and the price difference of the replacement irons is almost ridiculous (144€ vs 71€). I want to buy a soldering station that I will use for a long time, so I'd like to be sure, that I don't buy a wrong station for my purposes. I want to be able to safely solder microcontrollers and other CMOS chips. If i would kill enough chips with a pico it would maybe justify a purchase of a nano...  :-//
 

Offline jpb

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This is what ERSA told me about the difference between their ESD safe irons (e.g the Nano) and the non ESD safe ones (like the pico)
(sorry I realise I've already quoted this above but I repeat just the relevant bit here):

our ESD-safe solder stations are especially designed for industrial environment
and for working on sensitive electronics. These stations meets the old MIL
standards and the present IPC standards for industrial soldering equipment. This
means that our soldering tips are connected to ground potential via the earth
connection - although our control station electronics is designed as
electrically isolated. So the earth connection is not required for electrical
safety, it's just for grounding the tip. Here the resistance must be less than 5
ohms according to the standards.

But this is not the only thing. Also the
housing and the iron must be made of antistatic plastics or conductive material
to avoid electrostatic charge (as well as the soldering iron cable).

All of our antistatic soldering stations are equipped like described above.

If a station is not marked to be antistatic, then it doesn't have a grounded
tip. The mains plug is just a two-pin plug. Neither the housing nor the
soldering iron or iron cable material is antistatic in such case.
Just the mains irons have a grounded tip. But here it's for electrical safety
only. The grip and cable material is not antistatic, too.
 


So it sounds a bit more complex than just an esd strap.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2014, 05:38:09 pm by jpb »
 

Offline Xaero1982

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If the only difference between iCon Pico and iCon Nano is the ESD protection, then why there is a difference of 120$?

The Pico and RDS80 is made in China, while the Nano is made in Germany.
 

Offline nanofrog

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The Pico and RDS80 is made in China, while the Nano is made in Germany.
I was under the impression the Nano is also made in China.  :-// Even if it is, I don't believe it matters in this case based on reports from members that own this station.  :)
 

Offline jpb

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The Pico and RDS80 is made in China, while the Nano is made in Germany.
I was under the impression the Nano is also made in China.  :-// Even if it is, I don't believe it matters in this case based on reports from members that own this station.  :)

I just checked and my Nano is made in Germany - at least that is what it says on its base.
 

Offline nanofrog

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The Pico and RDS80 is made in China, while the Nano is made in Germany.
I was under the impression the Nano is also made in China.  :-// Even if it is, I don't believe it matters in this case based on reports from members that own this station.  :)

I just checked and my Nano is made in Germany - at least that is what it says on its base.
8) Good to know.  :)

Although, given the standards/requirements to meet "Made in Germany" do leave a lot to be desired IMHO (20% content or "significant transformation" rules last I checked).

For example, my Weller WD1 states "Made in Germany", but the power board (one that connects to the iron), is made by an Asian contract supplier. Not sure about the controller board (no ID marks that I recall), no Weller logo or P/N's on either board, unlike the transformer (and what I'm accustomed to with Weller; made getting replacement parts easy). Final assembly is done in Germany, and both the stands and irons qualify as "Made in Germany" (suspect the stand is 100% German, and the iron a bit mixed based on the PCB in the WSP80 <quite rough looking>). Can't even access the one in the WMP (replace the entire iron if it dies scenario, as there are no replacement parts at all).

Also seeing issues with German hand tools that are outsourcing at least part of it's manufacturing (i.e. Asia for metal work w/ plastic molding done in Germany <think screwdrivers>). Definitely not what they once were back when they indicated W. Germany on them (cough, cough - Wiha - cough cough). They own a plant in Vietnam FWIW, so it may at least be under Wiha's control the entire time, unlike going with a contractor route.

So I see "Made in Germany" as a mixed bag these days.
 

Offline miro

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Thanks for the replies! So the huge price difference is mostly because of the ESD safe design and a "made in Germany"-label?  At the moment i don't even have  an antistatic mat & wrist strap, but maybe in the future. Do you think, that a purchase of an ESD safe station is generally necessary for a hobbyist? I mean, many things, that hobbyists do don't meet the industrial standards but still work.
 

Offline jpb

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Thanks for the replies! So the huge price difference is mostly because of the ESD safe design and a "made in Germany"-label?  At the moment i don't even have  an antistatic mat & wrist strap, but maybe in the future. Do you think, that a purchase of an ESD safe station is generally necessary for a hobbyist? I mean, many things, that hobbyists do don't meet the industrial standards but still work.
I debated this before buying the nano. I felt I was spending a lot of money on other stuff like an oscilloscope, power supply and so on and the difference between the pico which is £130 at Conrad presently and the Nano which I paid £185 for from the importer (who where much cheaper than Conrad, Farnell etc.) was £55 which was not a big fraction of what else I'd spent. So I thought it was worth it for peace of mind. (I think the price difference was from £115 to £185 at the time so about £70. It is a big percentage of the soldering station cost but a small percentage of overall equipment cost.)

But, I suspect that for the hobbyist the pico is fine. You say that the Hakko isn't an option in Europe, it is an option in the UK and in Holland so it may be possible to buy via those sources - though the UK one may be restricted to UK only. The UK agent is http://www.dancap.co.uk/. There are quite a lot of European agents listed on the Hakko web site but not Greece :
http://www.hakko.com/world_network.html.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2014, 11:26:05 pm by jpb »
 

Offline miro

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Thanks, i've considered buying hakko, but the prices and tips availability in Europe/Germany is rather bad compared to ERSA. There is a german distributor, but his webshop is currently offline. The UK price of a FX888D is just about the price of an i-con pico. I've considered buying a hakko clone as well, there are many clones in the sub 100€ price range that claim to be ESD safe, for example aoyue, that has a distributor in Germany http://www.aoyue.de But i don't know anything about the quality of aoyue, maybe it's not as good as ERSA.
 

Offline jpb

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The UK price of a FX888D is just about the price of an i-con pico.
The difference is the FX888D is ESD safe whilst the pico isn't.

I'm not pushing you towards Hakko as I am very pleased with my Ersa - but I have the nano. If I was choosing between the pico and the Hakko 888 I might be tempted to go the Hakko route to get the ESD protection.
 

Offline WVL_KsZeN

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I once contacted Dancap, but they only sell the hakko's in the UK and will not sell abroad. You could try http://soldeerpunt.nl/ maybe.
 

Offline miro

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I asked ersa-shop.com about the difference pico vs. nano and just got the answer. They stated that pico's temperature control is based on the measuring of the heater resistance. Nano has a "true" temperature sensor (probably a thermocouple, don't know what do they mean otherwise), which makes the measuring preciser and quicker, so nano is better for large solder joints.
This contradicts to the mail from ersa, posted by jpb, where they state, that pico and nano both have a thermocouple....
« Last Edit: March 17, 2014, 04:28:58 pm by miro »
 

Offline barnacle2k

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I use an Ersa nano as my main iron.

Positive:
instantaneous heat up
tight temperature control
perfect for lead free.
Lots of tips to choose from

The downsides:
no knob - we all love knobs
Power switch on the back  :palm: - so annoying that i am thinking about moving it to the front. 
« Last Edit: March 20, 2014, 11:21:11 pm by barnacle2k »
 


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