High end soldering equipment - how/what to choose?

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Hi - I'm looking at purchasing a high end soldering station for my employer. In my professional career - I've only used Weller irons. At my last job, my iron was a WD1002 and I found that to be a good iron, though the collet that holds the tip in place had a tendency to get loose at times (severely impairing thermal conduction) so that was a nuisance.

In my personal life - I've had a Hakko 936 for about ten years and it works great. Zero complaints.

However - I've also heard great things about Metcal. Metcal seems to inspire fanboyism that no other soldering company can generate.

If I get a Weller, I'd probably get the WD2000M. If I get a Metcal, I'd probably get a MX-5041. If I got a Hakko, I'd get the FM-203.

How can I go about comparing these? It seems fairly impossible. Availability of tips seems one good measure - Weller tips are readily available while Hakko and Metcal tips are more scarce. I'm trying to arrange demos of the units but have not made much progress with the local reps. Still trying though. I guess they don't care much about a $1K sale. Can't blame em.

Suggestions?

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nleahcim wrote:
Availability of tips seems one good measure - Weller tips are readily available while Hakko and Metcal tips are more scarce.
"Similar to Metcal" tips:
http://www.ameritronics.com/mxtrasolderingtips.htm
Just a FYI; this is new to me and I have not tried these.

"Dare to be naïve." - Buckminster Fuller

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I've used a number of Metcals in several settings for both through hole and smt. Always worked very well. They heat fast yet don't overheat, which is a delight. Tips range from microscopic to large. With the right tip, I've never had problems even soldering ICs with underneath "thermo-pads" but it DOES take persistence and a large tip. It is pretty easy to change tips.

Hope this helps,

Jim

 

Until Black Lives Matter, we do not have "All Lives Matter"!

 

 

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Metcal makes the best soldering equipment.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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No, JBC does.

Hint: As an engineer you should know that "the best" is a pretty meaningless description, since technical design decisions are always a compromise.

Stealing Proteus doesn't make you an engineer.

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I am with ArnoldB, JBC produce really nice irons & stations. Great for SMD work.

Charles Darwin, Lord Kelvin & Murphy are always lurking about!
Lee -.-
Riddle me this...How did the serpent move around before the fall?

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I am with ArnoldB, JBC produce really nice irons & stations. Great for SMD work.

Charles Darwin, Lord Kelvin & Murphy are always lurking about!
Lee -.-
Riddle me this...How did the serpent move around before the fall?

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I like to buy from here:

http://www.howardelectronics.com/

They carry some units that are not so 'well known' but in a smaller company that does not have a large budget for this kind of thing, I LOVE the products they carry! So much better than not having a good workstation.

Though, on the other hand, Metcal is quite good. Any of the high end stations have been good, IMO. I guess I am not so picky.

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The metcal base units generate 13MHz rf that travels down coax to the handpiece. Tip is heated by induction? I learned this little tidbit when searchng for some repair info like schematics. They keep that bit locked up pretty tight.

Imagecraft compiler user

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I'm a pace user and I've used a metcal and can understand why people rave about them. As for the Jbc, what sets them apart?

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JBC might make good equipment, but they can't spell properly - "consumibles" is repeated several times on their web site!

Leon Heller G1HSM

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One major downside to Metcal is that I've been told most of their equipment has approximately two month lead time thanks to the recent acquisition of them by OKI.

Has anybody actually done side by side comparisons of these units?

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The JBC equipment looks interesting. I worry about it being a Spanish manufacturer. It seems to have limited distribution in America, but a couple legit companies carry them.

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OKI acquired Metcal a couple of years ago, or more. Farnell has 45 of the MX-5010 systems in stock:

http://uk.farnell.com/jsp/displayProduct.jsp?sku=1697226

RS has them in stock, as well.

Metcal needn't be expensive; I bought a second-hand STSS power unit with a new MX-500 handpiece, a stand, and a selection of new cartridges, for £125. I subsequently got a second STSS unit for £70 on Ebay, as a spare. The ancient STSS can even take the latest MX-5000 handpieces, I believe. Some people prefer them to the newer power units as they can have two handpieces ready for action by using two STSS units, instead of having to switch between them on the MX-500 or MX-5000.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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I'm fortunate to have a Metcal iron (though a fairly old one) and a JBC hot air rework station.

The JBC is brilliant for removal of large chips using it's vacuum tripods and the Metcal great for just about any soldering task on smd especially.

One thing to watch with JBC is the price of the spares - they can be eye watering for the simplest part, e.g a small size hot air nozzle for £48 iirc.

Cheers
Robin

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Quote:
I worry about it being a Spanish manufacturer.

Why, I don't worry if it is not made in Australia! It is a global village now!

Charles Darwin, Lord Kelvin & Murphy are always lurking about!
Lee -.-
Riddle me this...How did the serpent move around before the fall?

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I have a Weller WMD-3, a bit pricey, but a great solderingstation with good tools.
http://www.cooperhandtools.com/e...

/Jesper
http://www.yampp.com
The quick black AVR jumped over the lazy PIC.
What boots up, must come down.

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On the JBC irons, you can throttle back the standby temp to a point that can produce VERY long tip life. It is possible to set it to a point that when you pick it up, it will return to the set temp in the time it takes you to touch the circuit board. Given the cost of the tips, that sets it apart from the metcal.

Rick

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I've not used one of the latest Metcals, but I think that it should heat up fast enough. The MX-5000 has twice the power of the earlier model. My older model takes about 10 seconds from cold.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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I've not used one of the latest Metcals, but I think that it should heat up quickly enough; the MX-5000 has twice the power of the earlier model. My older model takes about 10 seconds from cold.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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RickB wrote:
On the JBC irons, you can throttle back the standby temp to a point that can produce VERY long tip life. It is possible to set it to a point that when you pick it up, it will return to the set temp in the time it takes you to touch the circuit board. Given the cost of the tips, that sets it apart from the metcal.

Rick


The Wellers do this and the tips cost a fraction of either JBC or Metcal tips... They're much more available in the USA (at least through the vendors that I typically use), as well.

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The RF heating system that Metcal uses means that the tip temperature is maintained much more accurately than with other equipment, making their system more suitable for professional use. The cartridges cost more to make than Weller tips, of course, but they last a long time. They are available world-wide from the usual sources like Digi-Key, Farnell and RS.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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leon_heller wrote:
The RF heating system that Metcal uses means that the tip temperature is maintained much more accurately than with other equipment, making their system more suitable for professional use. The cartridges cost more to make than Weller tips, of course, but they last a long time. They are available world-wide from the usual sources like Digi-Key, Farnell and RS.

Leon - I know you think Metcal and Microchip are the greatest things in the world - but have you spent much time with competing products (Weller, JBC, Hakko, etc)? Your posts sound a lot like that of a fanboy's, so I am skeptical...

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How do the other irons heat? Resistance wire? Is there another heat generation technique besides rf and resistance heating? Propane blowtorch?

Imagecraft compiler user

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nleahcim wrote:
leon_heller wrote:
The RF heating system that Metcal uses means that the tip temperature is maintained much more accurately than with other equipment, making their system more suitable for professional use. The cartridges cost more to make than Weller tips, of course, but they last a long time. They are available world-wide from the usual sources like Digi-Key, Farnell and RS.

Leon - I know you think Metcal and Microchip are the greatest things in the world - but have you spent much time with competing products (Weller, JBC, Hakko, etc)? Your posts sound a lot like that of a fanboy's, so I am skeptical...

I had a Weller soldering station before I got the Metcal, it was OK but there was no comparison to the Metcal system and I sold it on Ebay a few weeks after I got the Metcal station. I first saw Metcal in use when I worked for Racal Comms, they had a couple of systems in the lab for reworking the very high spec. surface mount boards used in the Bowman radios we were developing.

Hakko copied the patented Metcal RF heating system a few years ago, was sued, and had to pay Metcal a lot of money.

I think you will find that Metcal equipment is used more than any other soldering system where quality is paramount. JBC seem to have a good reputation, my local PCB assembly company uses their equipment for board rework. We had a Pace system where I used to work but I didn't like it much, I took my Metcal system in to work with me when I needed to do any PCB assembly.

Leon Heller G1HSM

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Well, thanks to two very helpful local reps, I had the chance to compare the top of the line Metcal and Weller equipment. My Weller setup consisted of a WD2m base station with WMRS iron, WMRT tweezers, and a WP80 iron. My Metcal setup consisted of a MX-PS5000 base station, MX-PTZ tweezers, MX-H1-AV iron, and a MX-H2-UF iron.

OK - Weller first. WD2M is a nice station, though the menu is not very intuitive. WMRS iron is the nicest feeling iron I've held in my life. No question. Ultra light weight, light cord, but still feels solid. Performed admirably for SMT work, though I only had a fine chisel tip for it. I didn't have any large stuff to solder, unfortunately. The WMRT tweezers are also pretty good, though I think tip temperature regulation wasn't great. But maybe the tips I was using just weren't good. Not sure. The WP80 iron is one I've used before and it's a good iron, but the device that holds the tips to the heater has a tendency to slowly loosen, so you have to tighten it periodically. You also have to unscrew this to change tips. Annoying, but otherwise a good all purpose iron. Every other iron and tweezers mentioned here has tips that can be pulled out without any unscrewing.

The Metcal base station pissed me off. The connectors are god awful. I mean the Weller connectors suck too, but Metcal connectors are a royal PITA. Hate hate hate hate. The base station can only drive one iron at a time. Not that big of a deal, but it is a bit surprising. The tweezers were big and bulky and felt cheap in my hands. They weren't springy at all. I wonder if they were worn out? (they were demos after all). Both of the irons felt pretty similar (super lightweight, but fairly solid), but the handle of the smaller one heated up after maybe 10 minutes of use at most. It never got uncomfortable, but I bet it would have. The tips heat up incredibly quickly - about double the speed of the Wellers. (about 5 vs 10 seconds). I did not like the heavy cords attached to the irons - it was quite noticeable especially since the irons themselves weigh nothing. I really like the tip exchange system on the Metcals.

Try as I might - I couldn't get one iron to outperform the other when it came to actual soldering. And believe you me, I tried. I soldered the crap out of everything I could get my hands on. One time it seemed like the Metcal did a better job of wicking up solder than the Weller, but I couldn't reproduce it. Performances from both were stellar. Zero complaints.

So - conclusion: this is purely a preference matter. Both have pros and cons. Neither is perfect. Anybody that says there is a clear better iron (between these two brands) has not actually given the competition a fair trial.

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I use a Hakko 935FX soldering station. It's quick to heat up and easy to use and has idle temperature setback. I also purchased a variety of tips for it. This is my first personally owned soldering iron that I could actually adjust the temperature setting.

I used the Weller WMD3 and a model of the Metcal and Hakko in my last job. I bought the Hakko 935FX based on my experience with daily bench use of these soldering stations in a professional setting and wouldn't trade the Hakko 935FX for any of the other "High End " brands. I think I paid about US$350.00 for the Hakko 395FX.

You can avoid reality, for a while.  But you can't avoid the consequences of reality! - C.W. Livingston

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Quote:
Leon - I know you think Metcal and Microchip are the greatest things in the world - but have you spent much time with competing products (Weller, JBC, Hakko, etc)? Your posts sound a lot like that of a fanboy's, so I am skeptical...

Micheal, lets not hold back here! How can you justify a statement saying that Leon is a fanboy? I think you'll find his statements are quite balanced and easily verifiable. At least one person has challenged his statements and had to recant.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/d...

Whilst Leon mentions Microchip more than one would like, he gives a compelling argument. Also consider that he is active in quite a few different manufacturers/architectures suggests he is far from being a fanboy.

He also takes this abuse and it never seems to rile him. He quietly states the facts and leaves it as that.

Maybe I'm just a Leon fanboy, but you won't see me waving the flag for Microchip.

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Micheal:

The WMRS is an obsolete soldering station. The iron for it is a WMRP. Does it work with the WD2M station?
The WD2M is a current p/n and the listed iron is the WP80. The WP80 is an ordinary iron/tip and is not remotely comparable to the irons on the WMRP or JBC stations.
The tips for the WMRP are $32 to $47 from 1 supplier.
The JBC BD-1A station is $375 for the complete station including iron and the tips are $29 to $35. Extended life tips are a bit more
Where did you get the idea that a COMPARABLE Weller tip was "a fraction of either JBC or Metcal tips" They're all pricey.

Before making a decision you really should get a demo of a comparable JBC station. I don't know what the demo policy is for Howard Electronics but they do have a 63 day money back guarantee. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples and not to bananas when comparing prices.

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RickB wrote:
Micheal:

The WMRS is an obsolete soldering station. The iron for it is a WMRP. Does it work with the WD2M station?
The WD2M is a current p/n and the listed iron is the WP80. The WP80 is an ordinary iron/tip and is not remotely comparable to the irons on the WMRP or JBC stations.
The tips for the WMRP are $32 to $47 from 1 supplier.
The JBC BD-1A station is $375 for the complete station including iron and the tips are $29 to $35. Extended life tips are a bit more
Where did you get the idea that a COMPARABLE Weller tip was "a fraction of either JBC or Metcal tips" They're all pricey.

Before making a decision you really should get a demo of a comparable JBC station. I don't know what the demo policy is for Howard Electronics but they do have a 63 day money back guarantee. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples and not to bananas when comparing prices.

You're right that I meant WMRP. Yes it works just fine with the WD2M. Take a look at the WD2000M if you don't believe me. How is the WP80 not comparable? I found it to perform just as well as the Metcal unit, besides longer heat up time. Have you compared this unit to others?

I will try to demo a JBC. They don't have the availability that Weller and Metcal have, but they are obtainable.

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Kartman wrote:
Quote:
Leon - I know you think Metcal and Microchip are the greatest things in the world - but have you spent much time with competing products (Weller, JBC, Hakko, etc)? Your posts sound a lot like that of a fanboy's, so I am skeptical...

Micheal, lets not hold back here! How can you justify a statement saying that Leon is a fanboy? I think you'll find his statements are quite balanced and easily verifiable. At least one person has challenged his statements and had to recant.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/d...

Whilst Leon mentions Microchip more than one would like, he gives a compelling argument. Also consider that he is active in quite a few different manufacturers/architectures suggests he is far from being a fanboy.

He also takes this abuse and it never seems to rile him. He quietly states the facts and leaves it as that.

Maybe I'm just a Leon fanboy, but you won't see me waving the flag for Microchip.


Kartman - I stand by my statements.

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By comparable I mean the features like the ability to drop to a lower temp when you put it back in the holder to greatly lengthen tip life, 2 sec reheat time when you pick it up, and very short tip to grip distance. The WP80 has none of that. I don't doubt the WP80 solders well, but compare soldering a fine pitch pkg or a 0201 resistor with a WMRP or Metcal or JBC to a WP80. It's not in the same league.

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RickB wrote:
By comparable I mean the features like the ability to drop to a lower temp when you put it back in the holder to greatly lengthen tip life, 2 sec reheat time when you pick it up, and very short tip to grip distance. The WP80 has none of that. I don't doubt the WP80 solders well, but compare soldering a fine pitch pkg or a 0201 resistor with a WMRP or Metcal or JBC to a WP80. It's not in the same league.

RickB - with the right stand the WP80 supports throttling back the temperature. It takes about twice as long as the Metcals and the WMRP to heat up, but big deal.

I've used the WP80 to solder 01005s and 0201s before and I've had no issues.

I do prefer the feel of the WMRP though.