Editor's Choice


What to look for when choosing a soldering station

EMP 2023 Electronics Manufacturing & Production Handbook Editor's Choice Manufacturing / Production Technology, Hardware & Services

If you’re in the market for a soldering iron, there are many options available. Whether you are an old hand at these tools and already have a favourite brand and design that is purchased every time a replacement is needed, or you are newer to the scene, there is value in knowing the full range of options available.

If one is testing the waters and just feeling one’s way, it’s worth trying a few different soldering stations until one is found that suits all needs. And even if you think you’ve already discovered the only model you’ll ever really want, we’d like to challenge you to test your limits by exploring the other options that are out there.

To help you explore the different models available, a guide on how to choose a soldering iron has been written. Some of the specific options available will be considered, while we also take a serious look at which criteria one should be considering when it comes to the type of soldering iron to purchase.

How to choose a soldering kit

Like many different tools, a soldering kit is a personal choice. Everyone is going to be using the soldering iron for a slightly different purpose and will therefore have different criteria that they want the soldering iron to meet. Because of this, it’s not as simple as merely pointing out the ‘best’ soldering iron.

Instead, the requirements and the intended application, need to be looked over and the question “what is right for you?” needs to be asked. Below are a few different criteria to keep in mind.

Price

Cost will always be a factor. No matter what the budget is, the simple fact is that everyone has a budget they are working from and everyone has a price limit they cannot exceed. In some ways, this makes the choice easy, as any irons that fall far above the price limit can be ruled out, just as irons that fall far below one’s budget may also be disregarded.

Rather than simply setting an arbitrary price limit, however, it’s a good idea to first look around at some of the different types of soldering irons for sale. See what’s out there, and begin to get a feel for some of the typical prices. Then, decide where one’s budget falls, and certain models can quickly be ruled out on either end of the budget.

Usage

Different soldering irons have different strengths, weaknesses and capabilities. If one is looking for the best soldering iron for circuit boards, for example, one would not want to choose an iron that’s better suited to automotive work.

One of the best methods for choosing a soldering iron, then, is to first ask what the soldering iron is going to be used for. Is it going to be in a professional setting, or an educational one? Are you going to be working with circuit boards? Stained glass? Automotive parts? All three, on different occasions?

The way this question is answered will play a significant role in determining which soldering iron is best for those needs. Each potential soldering iron can then be examined regarding its intended use. Ideally, an iron will be found that is perfect for the industry and the intended work. Another option, however, is to choose a more generic model that can easily handle a variety of different applications. This is an excellent choice particularly if you frequently solder many kinds of items.

Specifications

Depending on what kind of work is going to be tackled, a soldering iron with different capabilities and specifications will be required.

Many different specs might be important. Maybe a soldering iron or soldering station that reaches a specific temperature is needed. Maybe it needs to be compatible with a tool that is already owned. Maybe there is a specific application that needs to be soldered, or certain regulations or requirements need to be met. Maybe it needs to be small enough to fit into a tight workspace.

Making a list of all the features that are needed in a soldering iron will be a great starting point. A secondary list of things that that are not strictly needed, but that would be nice to have, could also be compiled. Then, refer to this list as different soldering stations and irons are viewed while shopping. In this way, any irons that don’t have all the features that are required can be quickly discarded.

Examples of Weller soldering solutions

With a better idea of things to look for, let’s take a closer look at a trio of example soldering irons and kits, as well as what makes them unique.

1. Weller WE 1010

For an easy, convenient and highly versatile tool for many situations, consider the Weller WE 1010 soldering station. This station comes equipped with the WEP70 soldering iron, an excellent tool for a variety of different purposes and one suitable for professional, prosumer and educational settings alike. Because this iron is so versatile and can accommodate so many situations, it is the only tool available for this station.

Just a few of the features that make the WE 1010 worth one’s time and consideration include:

• Fast heat-up and recovery time. Time is precious. That’s why it is important to use a soldering iron that heats up quickly. Then, once finished, the recovery time is quick and convenient as well.

• Intuitive navigation. Nobody likes a machine that feels like a chore to navigate. With the WE 1010, that won’t be a problem. A handy menu button and easy selection keys make the navigation both intuitive and easy.

• Digital LCD screen. With this bright and clear screen, it’s easier than ever to view the level readouts and monitor the progress.

• Power switch location. The power switch on this model is exactly where it is needed – on the front and in easy reaching distance, making it a breeze to switch on and off.

• Greater power. A powerful tool that can get the job done when it counts is needed. This machine packs 70 W of power, completing any task quickly and efficiently.

• Easy tip change. This model is designed for toolless tip changes, meaning one can easily disassemble the iron, change the tip and reassemble it with minimal hassle.

• Reinforced safety rest. The handy design of this safety rest allows for extra stability when the soldering iron needs to be set down for a moment, meaning that one can rest easy knowing that it won’t fall to the ground or cause any damage to your tabletop.

2. Weller WT 1010

The WT line is Weller’s mid-range soldering station, which comes with 12 compatible tools to choose from. The WT 1010 and the entire WT line of products all pack some serious power, meaning these are great tools to help get the job done. They’re extremely flexible, making them suitable for a wide array of different applications.

One of this soldering iron’s greatest strengths comes from the small and compact nature that allows it to fit neatly onto any workbench or tabletop. Best of all, this model is compatible with all tools across the entire WD and WSD families, making it versatile and usable in multiple applications.

A few of the features include:

• WTP 90 hybrid soldering iron. This high-performance 90 W hybrid soldering iron is a combination between a micropencil (meaning it offers the highest performance with the best heat transfer) and a passive tip pencil with very good heat transfer, while also controlling costs. It comes equipped with a motion sensor in the iron, allowing it to automatically enter standby mode when not in use.

• Changeable heating element. On the soldering iron itself, the heating element is easily changed and replaced, instead of requiring a long and laborious process to access.

• Replaceable soldering tip. Changing the soldering iron tip is a critical part of maintaining an iron. With this model, changing the tip is an easy and convenient process that can be done independently of dismantling the rest of the iron.

• Adjustable background illumination. No matter the lighting or working conditions, the information on the screen will always be clearly seen so that the work can be monitored. This LCD displays all necessary functions in a simple and easy-to-read display.

• Front-mounted tool connection. This soldering station places the tool mount conveniently in the front, allowing for easiest access and simplest means of use. This means one can spend more time working and less time untangling cords and reaching for inaccessible connections.

• Simple menu access. No one likes a machine that is complicated and difficult to navigate. The simple menu button allows for quick access to the machine’s different functions.

• Front-mounted main switch. Like the

front-mounted tool connection, this main switch is prominently located on the front of the machine, providing convenient access to it.

• Reversible safety rest. With so much versatility and flexibility throughout the rest of the soldering station, it’s important to extend this to all applicable accessories. That’s why this safety rest is entirely reversible, and features both wet and dry cleaning for convenience.

3. Weller WX 1010

The WX line is Weller’s high-performance offering, and the WX 1010 boasts 15 compatible tools, a motion sensor, micro tools with ultra-precise performance, and extremely accurate tip temperature. Retraceable process reliability, otherwise known as traceability, is extremely important in particular sectors of industry such as automotive and electronics. If this is an important criterion, the WX 1010 may be best suited to your needs.

Some of the handy features you’ll find embedded in this model include:

• Traceable capacities. In many areas of industry, the ability to perform in a traceable capacity is becoming increasingly important. The WX 1010 delivers this ability.

• High levels of compatibility. When the WX 1010 is purchased, a machine that is compatible with every soldering tool in the WX line is obtained, providing a higher degree of flexibility and allowing the use of more than simply the pencil that comes with this set.

• Use as a benchtop controller. Integrated USB ports allow WX stations to connect to and control pre-heat plates, fume extractors, and programmable logic controllers. Any connected tools will feed its parameters and status back to the display.

• Intelligent tools and integrated parameter memory. Different parameters can easily be stored in the soldering iron, including standby temperatures and automatic switch-off time. These program parameters need to be entered only once. The soldering iron stores them and can use them with any WX station. The stations automatically detect individual tools and shows the tool names on the display.

• Large LCD. All the necessary data and readings can be easily viewed on the screen.

• Intuitive controls. The WX 1010 features an intuitive set of controls that react in just the way expected. From the turn-and-click wheel to the Enter key and finger guide, these controls are extremely easy to operate.

Comparing the options

These are far from the only options out there, and we encourage more research on the other models available. Between these three models presented here, however, one can get a good idea of some of the different types of models that will be found. So, let’s look at how these three models stack up against one another.

Price

The WE 1010 is by far the most inexpensive option of the three, representing a highly affordable option that can fit almost any budget. The WT 1010 is slightly more expensive, coming in at more of a middle-of-the-road price. Finally, the WX 1010, being the premium model, is priced accordingly as the most expensive item on this list.

Usage

Wondering what type of soldering iron should be used for electronics? Not sure how to choose a soldering iron for stained glass, cords, or automotive parts? Let’s look at the intended uses of each of these three models.

The WE 1010 is a very versatile model that can perform good-quality work without having one specific area that it specialises in, whether one is a professional, prosumer or educator. The WT 1010 has a handy ability to perform micro-soldering tasks, making it convenient in areas that larger tools might not be able to accommodate. Finally, the traceable abilities of the WX 1010 make it ideal for both the electronics and automotive industries.

Specifications

While all three of these soldering iron stations have the same basic capabilities, one will find that each brings a unique set of features to the table. For example, the WE 1010 allows the soldering tip to be changed without the use of additional tools. The WT 1010 offers a 90 W hybrid pencil. The WX 1010 boasts compatibility across the WX line. Decide which features mean the most to the intended application and move forward from there.


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