why soldering station are so expensive?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by bug13, Nov 26, 2012.

  1. bug13

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Feb 13, 2012
    So I am looking to buy a soldering station, I have looked ebay, element14, rs component, and local shop, they are so expensive.

    although there are some cheap Chinese one, so my question is, what make them so expensive? should I go for a cheap Chinese one? (I am a student and I only have little budget)
  2. takao21203

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 28, 2012
    If you live in China, and buy one of these stations, they ship them from China to Europe or the US, and then back to China. Does this make too much sense?
  3. bug13

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Feb 13, 2012
    mmm... but I don't live in China
  4. Sparky49

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 16, 2011
    May I ask which country you live in?

    The reason that the ones from farnell etc are more expensive because they are forced to meet higher safety standards. As such, they are often better built so are safer for you and your components. They also last longer and are easier to find spares for.
  5. MicroMike

    New Member

    Sep 30, 2012
    The major difference between high and low priced soldering stations is power and versatility. Bigger transformer and heating element = more $$$. RF powered units = $$$$$$$$

    I've worked with Weller units and Metcal solder stations ranging from $200 to $1200. The top of the range RF powered Metcal unit can go from room temp. to operating temp. in 5-6 seconds where as the cheaper you go, the longer the heat/reheat time.

    The power affects more than the time you spend waiting between solder joints. It also affects how large a joint you can solder at all. Soldering to a very large and thermally conductive surface or melting a large wad of solder can be near impossible with a low-power unit.

    If you're planning to solder mostly on PCBs and time isn't too much of a factor, you can get away with a cheaper unit using smaller tips. if you're planning to solder large joints to large conductors, you can probably get away with a relatively cheap used solder gun. These typically have an integrated tip and it's typically quite large as they're used for stuff as large as soldering stained glass windows and are quite handy for soldering to large chunks of metal that would otherwise conduct away more heat than smaller irons could even produce.

    As a hobbyist I got away with a cheap iron and cheap gun combination for years until I started an assembly company and found the former woefully inadequate since I suddenly had to solder hundreds of boards a month with hundreds of parts each. Waiting forever to heat up a pad isn't an option in that setting. What I found most surprising is that the big RF units can go from soldering 2-3mm parts to doing work I'd normally do with a gun without missing a beat. You really do get what you pay for.

    For hobbyist and homework applications a cheap unit should work just fine as long as you make sure to get something with interchangeable tips or at least aim for something with a tip that's small enough for the smallest work you plan to do. Nothing more frustrating than trying to solder with a tip that's too large. Soldering to pads that are small and close together with an over-sized tip can mean a lot of pad-to-pad shorts just from solder flow.

    Try looking at used Weller units. I contemplated selling a couple of these on ebay but held off because there were so many listed for really low prices and I figured I could get more for them at electronics swaps. Ive seen listings for an ESD safe power supply, wand and wand stand for as little as 40-50 bucks. Weller makes simple and robust units and tips are cheap and easy to find. My father had some that worked on a daily basis for decades so buying a used unit isn't too much of a risk.

    bug13 likes this.
  6. ARSiq

    New Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Cheap can be expensive...
    I think basic models from Ersa or Weller are not too expensive and are much better then no name.
  7. takao21203

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 28, 2012
    Don't but a cheap Thyristor station and/or low wattage iron.

    You need temp. control + temp display + 50W iron.

    Low temp. - regular soldering
    Mid temp. - soldering larger areas
    High temp. - removing isolation from wire, desoldering

    High temp. will destroy the tip within a few hours, don't use all time.
    As well flux will boil off faster.

    Consider to spend at least $80 to $100.
  8. MrChips


    Oct 2, 2009
  9. takao21203

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 28, 2012
    Crap for anyone who want to solder larger circuits.

    -25W is bad for soldering larger connectors, soldering wires together and all this.
    -The point tip is not suitable for SMD.
    -The tip will wear out quickly.

    Such an iron is good for the occasional hobby kit, but not more.
  10. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
    I tend to disagree. You can get a larger soldering iron if you need it, but most people need a low wattage iron that does not fry the PCB. I have used Velleman units, other than they burn out way too often I would recommend them, but they do have a serious quality issue.

    I have used a dimmer circuit with a fixed wattage Wellman with good results. The main thing is the tip, really cheap irons (such as Radio Shack) you can almost see the tip melt away. Not good. At least the Velleman units didn't do that. With cheap tips a file is a required accessory, to reshape it after several uses.
  11. takao21203

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 28, 2012
    The wattage is only relevant for heat volume, not temp.
    Higher wattage -> faster soldering.

    PCBs rarely get fried from soldering.

    Cheap irons don't have any temp. control.

    Low power soldering irons are for hobby purpose.

    50W is pretty standard for regular usage. Also for SMD 50W is appreciate. If the parts are too small, they should not be hand soldered at all.

    Point tips are best avoided completely, even the permanent tips will oxydize quickly.

    Only use retangular/Chisel tips. There are larger, really broad one's, and smaller one's, about 1.5mm to 2mm.

    I don't make this up, I had usage of different irons, tips and soldering stations over the years.

    Desoldering wick is also a pain. Use a metal-made desoldering pump.

    If your permanent tip oxydizes, you actually can clean it carefully with P100 sandpaper. Bend a small piece sandpaper together, and pull it over the surface, carefully with not too much force, and until the paper does not turn black anymore.

    About the soldering wire, the composition is secondary. The type of flux makes it easy, or more difficult to use.
  12. takao21203

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 28, 2012
  13. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
    I have one of these, not sure what EBay vendor I used. Priced here at $84 USD free ship. It is a decent unit for the price. It uses Hakko tips. Mine works just fine, did see the one at work (the only other one I have seen) have the hot air tip die for reasons I did not explore.

    I mostly use the tip side but having hot air can be really helpful at times. Reflowing an entire board is not its strong suit as it will blow small parts aside unless held by tweezers, but very helpful to remove parts for rework or to do one QFN package.
  14. Stuntman

    Active Member

    Mar 28, 2011
    It's not the tool, it's the guy using it. My first iron was a simple wand iron I bought for $5. Controls or safety guards (or even a stand) need not apply. This iron was short lived, but worked fine, putting together a few boards and hobby projects before being left on too long, overheating, and shorting out.

    Expensive irons:

    HELP not overheat small parts
    HELP not burn up tips as fast
    HELP heat up quicker
    HELP maintain temperature, regardless of part size.
    HELP safer operation

    You'll notice these are aids in doing a quality job, not guarantees. You can get a great iron for less than $100, which isn't TERRIBLE for a tool so crucial to the hobby/profession.
  15. bug13

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Feb 13, 2012
    I live in New Zealand, a little country to the lower right of Australia :)

    Already got a cheap 25W one, I will need to upgrade it to a temp. control one, as I will need to solder some temp sensitive component.

    I think I am going to get this one, oh dear, more spending, hope I can get a decent job to when I done school:cool: (but not looking good in NZ)
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2012
  16. Audioguru


    Dec 20, 2007
    The problem is how much MONEY!
    Poor people buy a cheap soldering iron that performs extremely poorly.

    I am not weathy but not poor. I save as much money as I can.
    I found a Weller soldering iron in the garbage can at my first job with Philips about 47 years ago. I discovered that its mechanical magnetic switch didn't work and bought a new switch for a couple of bucks.
    I have used the repaired soldering iron at home nearly every day for 47 years. I bought another one for work.
    The tip does not corrode and does not burn out like a cheapo soldering iron because it is temperature is controlled.

    When I try to solder something with a cheapo soldering iron then the soldering is terrible because the tip is corroded from being too hot, the rosin in the solder has burned away because it is too hot and the results are horrible because it is too hot.
    If I use a cheapo soldering iron to solder something big then it cools too much and does not make a solder joint.

    My temperature controlled soldering iron senses that it needs more power then BLASTS power to solder something big very well.

    The cheapo soldering iron gets hotter and hotter and hotter and hotter and hotter and and hotter then when it sits all day it burns away.
    My temperature controlled soldering iron remains at the correct soldering temperature without burning anything.
  17. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
    buy a $10 unit a the local electronics store (radio shack) or big box store. If you realize it does not meet your needs, you are out about $10. If you pay $100 for a good one and it far exceeds your needs, you wasted $90.

    Projects for an undergraduate engineering programs or electronic technician programs will only need a $10 soldering pencil type unit.

    I would seriously start with the $10 unit sold by a US company that has a UL, CSA other safety listing. Do not buy anything directly from China (e.g. eBay) that you plan to plug into the wall of your home.
  18. takao21203

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 28, 2012

    Your reply is weird in regards what OP wrote.

    $10 and US made- I guess not.
  19. Audioguru


    Dec 20, 2007
    RadioShack sells a cheap $10 soldering iron for "a few hundred bucks"!
    They make more profit than they should.

    RadioShack is gone from Canada. Circuit City in the US bought a few stores then sold them to Bell Canada. The new stores are called The Source. I went to one store recently to buy something then of course the salesman tried to sell me an expensive cell phone.:rolleyes:
  20. gerty

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 30, 2007
    I bought one of these 20 years ago and still use it, I'm on my second tip.

    The tips are plated iron, you do not file them. A file will remove the plating and expose the iron which will allow you to solder. I bought a couple of these for the school where I teach electronics. Both still work fine and they are 6 years old. I paid $39 for my first one and now you can catch one on sale for $59. Usual price is $79.