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By esklar81
Hello, Folks,
I'd appreciate any help you'd care to provide in selecting a soldering station for occasional use, primarily on through-hole components with Pb-free solder.

I have no current plans to do serious SMD work. However, my experience indicates that this is just as likely due to my lack of foresight as it is to anything else. :wink:

Question 1:
Can anyone compare and contrast (ideally based on experience) what appear to be the two leading contenders for my $:
1) An Aoyue Int2900
2) A Hakko 937
or their analog analogs. The Aoyue I would buy new from SparkFun, the Hakko I would probably buy used.

Question 2:
What else, if anything should I be considering?

A couple of days ago, I was attempting to coach a new (~5 joints in her lifetime, AFAIK) solderer in assembling a Terror-Min. To say "it did not go well" would be to engage in gross understatement. :? There did not appear to be a setting on the 60 W, power-adjustable iron that would enable either of us to make a decent-looking joint. Part of the problem appears to be with wetting, and I hope to solve that with a bit of extra flux. (None was at hand on Saturday, but I expect to fetch some locally tomorrow.) At least part, however, appears to be the iron's inability to both maintain the plating and component lead temperatures while melting the solder, unless one pre-heats the component leads far longer than I'm comfortable doing.

{I'll even admit that, out of frustration, I tried to scare up an old spool of Pb-based solder, but I came up empty.}

Even though I'm in the States and expect to have access to Pb-based solder for several more years, I'd rather convert to Pb-free solder and not teach her my longstanding (I learned to solder ~1970.) bad habits.

By motopic
I have been using that Aoyue for over 2 year now with no complaints.
I got a couple of spare tips, and only recently need to replace the original one.
I use it a few days a week, building prototypes.

I have also used it to make an all smd board. The key is solder paste, and the less the better, and a steady hand, don't drink too much coffee.
By mac

I first purchase a clone of the hakko 937, quickly changed for a clone of aoyue 2901 (the analog version).

The 937 is not a bad station, but is clearly behind the 290x serie: less power, not so good contact between tip and heating element.
If you do only pb solder, 937 is ok, if you do lead free, go with the 290x. Higher thermal inertia and recovery. Tips are more rugged and can be swapped without waiting for them to be cold.
The only downside is the iron holder, which is total crap for the 290x (do not hold well, tip touch the holder).

For the analog/digital it's more a matter of taste, and I prefer analog (faster to set).

Beside good solder flux (a must have), if you plan SMD a good magnifier or better, binocular microscope is a must. I do a lot of work on 0201 series SMD, impossible to do without a x20 binocular.
By esklar81
mac wrote:I first purchase a clone of the hakko 937, quickly changed for a clone of aoyue 2901 (the analog version).
Thanks, mac, for your comments.

Have you any idea whether the contact problem was due to the design of the Hakko unit, or just the quality of the cloning?
By mac

I don't think it's an issue with "cloning", as most chinese products are rebranded and resold under myriad of names (it's a CSI one btw).
It comes from the design of the tip itself: it slides on the ceramic heating element. If not well sitted or dirty (from oxydation) contact can be suboptimal. It is also more prone to beaking in case of drop or bad mounting, wonder why they give a spare heating element?
On the other hand, tips are really cheap and small, where 290x ones are more expensive (they include heating element).
By gmarsh
Our production line at work, with a few odd exceptions, is almost entirely genuine Hakko 936's. We use the same station in the lab, and i use the same one at home. Couldn't be happier with the units - they work well (Pb and RoHS) and they rarely ever break despite being switched on and seeing heavy use for 10 hours a day, being frequently left on overnight, etc.

I know people who have had success with the clones, but if you can afford it I'd go with a genuine unit. They come with a calibration certificate, so you know they at the very least put in the effort to make sure that the 300C setting isn't +-50C off, something you can't really guarantee with a clone station. And you know that the build quality's good.
By NleahciM
I believe all Aoyue units are clones. I don't trust them. I also am against the whole practice of ripping off other people's designs that is so prevalent in China.

I have a Hakko 936, and a friend bought the Circuit Specialists clone of the 936. They look identical, when compared side by side. However, the clone simply didn't perform as well as the 936. It took maybe 3x as long for the tip to heat up on the clone. The handle of the clone got too hot to hold after limited use, while the Hakko's handle remained cool much longer.

The Internets are also full of reports of the electronics inside the clone failing (I seem to remember the potentiometer being a weak link, but I could be remembering wrong). I have not heard any such reports of failures of the Hakko. I bought my 936 around the turn of the century. Have had zero problems in all that time.

But I cannot speak to the quality of this specific clone.
By smbaker
esklar81 wrote:What else, if anything should I be considering?
I've had an Xytronic temperature controlled iron for 20+ years and I've always been happy with it.

As far as Aoyue... Recently I bought a Aoyue product, an 851A++ hot air rework station, for my SMD projects. The Aoyue product seems to be of reasonable quality. I was worried at the time about it being a cheap clone, but it seemed the risk has paid off at least so far. It really depends on how much SMD Work I intend to do; if it ends up being something I'm still doing another 20 years from now then I'll probably wish I'd bought a better name brand.
By esklar81

Does anyone know whether one can get the smoke extraction function of the HR2738 in a soldering-only device? I found a replacement iron for that station, but I haven't found a statement as to with which station bases that iron is compatible. OTOH, if the irons are interchangeable between that station and, say, a int2901, I could buy the plain soldering station and a replacement iron for the 3-in-1 and have smoke extraction on the iron (providing, of course, that I get some sort of suction device going) and a spare handpiece.