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Author Topic: OKi/Metcal Soldering Stations.  (Read 5229 times)
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Heretic78
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« on: December 15, 2009, 11:49:36 23:49 »

Hi guys, a little new here so hope I've picked the right section.

Seems value on OK International soldering gear is pretty good here in Australia at the moment due to the current exchange rates and I'm quite tempted to put my hands on one.

I'm looking at probably a PS800E which is their entry level station essentially, it covers all I need and is probably overkill for a hobbyist but I've wanted a quality station for a while. I was just wondering if anyone has first hand experience with the unit who can comment on overall build quality and comfort of using the station, I'm especially interested in thoughts on the durability and comfort of the iron setup itself.

Thoughts on other Oki stations would also be welcome as PS-900 and MFR-1120 setups are also under consideration, but I'd like to keep costs down and the PS800E is probably overkill for hobby use as it is.
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Parmin
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« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2009, 03:52:03 03:52 »

It seems that on ebay Australian site there is KADA station thats very suitable for hobbyist.
I used a set for the last year and can recommend it.
The seller seems to be quite decent   Cool
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« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2009, 04:15:24 16:15 »

I bought this, seen it on ebay first and got a better Smiley
http://www.circuitspecialists.com/prod.itml/icOid/9766
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Heretic78
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« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2009, 06:59:42 18:59 »

Cool thanks for your input guys, ideally I'm just looking for a real nice station for mixed pcb assembly tasks, for the most part rework tools will be unecessary as I can make do happily with braid and a little patience. I've gone the off brand route before with soldering gear and found it to be pretty hit and miss quality wise, plus being able to get ready access to tips and elements in years to come is pretty important to me. To put it another way, this will probably be the last station I buy, so I really want a durable, comfortable, quality unit. Not meaning to discount your opinions, I'm familiar with the gear some of the Chinese manufactures are putting out now and a lot of it is pretty good by all accounts, even using Japanese Hakko elements in them etc and direct cloning Hakko designs in many cases, I just fear poor Chinese QA, which seems so variable at times, without some multinational beating the motivational stick.

Initially I was going to go with a Goot RX-711 as they're fairly easy to source parts for here and if you've ever used a Goot pencil iron you'd have some idea of how comfy they are to use over a long time when working on a cramped board (I couldn't see myself being happy with a Weller again). Further Googling, chatting to sales people and so on got me to looking at Hakko's most recent offerings (hadn't touched them since school like 15 years ago but they seem to still be a good workhorse with much better ergonomics now, probably my second choice, due to the decent support here and outstanding quality of the hardware). Recently I'd fortunately come across a couple people who'd had plenty of day in day out professional experience with the Metcal setups, feedback from them has kinda pointed me down this route and sold me on the Smartheat system. It doesn't need any user interaction and will allow you to go from work on a tiny point to a ground plane sequentially with no user adjustment, they're just plug in and go. Tip temperature is applied and regulated by a different system on these irons using RF energy rather than a ceramic element, there's a vid about it on OK Internationals site but essentially the tip temp is predetermined by the composition of the alloys that make the tip and above that temp point it wont accept more power (the magnetic properties of the tip actually changes at a preset temp point which in turn chokes the power). As the temp drops. power applies again in an amount relative to how far away from the max tip temp you are, without the need for any sensors. This essentially sets you up with a just as much power as you need situation within the range of the iron's wattage capabilities and immediate variable power feedback applied as required by the job at hand, instead of preempting bigger points with higher dial settings or waiting for a sensor to pick up temp loss and correct. At least from what I've been told it makes soldering pretty much a no brainer, joint quality is very consistant and heat is applied in a fast predictable manner and considering one of these people has a new pricey Hakko at home and prefers his work setup which is rated at half the power of the formentioned Hakko was a pretty good indication to me.

Now the downside has been finding someone who's played on the newer OKi branded Smartheat units, they bought out Metcal a few years back and are slowly phasing out the last Metcal branded items, which are impossible to get locally new, pretty rare used and when they do come up are industry surplus and pretty thrashed. Because we're on 240volt, sourcing a Metcal branded one from the US isn't an option as they're not multivoltage, however the OKi units accept 90-250Volt so will be perfectly fine to import and are actually pretty well represented here also, tips, spares etc isn't a problem (and there's Mouser and Farnell if I really struggle to find something). So at that all looks pretty encouraging.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2009, 07:25:15 19:25 by Heretic78 » Logged
Heretic78
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« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2009, 04:06:44 16:06 »

Eh, took a chance and ordered one, will dump some feedback here when I've had a play with it for future reference. That might take a while given the whole end of year holiday chaos even if Fedex suggest that it's 3 day shipping.
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Parmin
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« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2009, 10:40:31 22:40 »

So what did you buy?
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Heretic78
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« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2009, 06:30:02 06:30 »

Grabbed one of the PS800E systems plus a couple tips, the 800E is sitting down the bottom of the rung as far as OKi stuff goes, but by all info I could gather a very capable system and probably a little on the overkill side for hobby use in many respects. 

OKi recently discontinued the model as they had added a more powerful station to the range (PS900) a while back without much of a price difference, I suppose strategically they realized that both stations were more or less filling the same niche as the price points were pretty close, so ending production of the 800E was sensible. The upside of this is the last of the PS800E stations are pretty heavily discounted at the moment and the cost of entry when I added in all the variables involved in getting either to me in Australia, put a discounted 800E unit near $100US in front by the time it reached my doorstep. I'd suspect in other markets because of variables of what can be done with shipping and greater vendor options this may not be so substantial (Though for continental US ppl I did come across a couple places @$145 shipped for a 800E which was imho really decent).

Supposedly it'll be at my door Tuesday according to Fedex, I suspect customs might hold that up a day or two further, but with a little luck it should still slip in before Christmas. I'll go through it all for everyone here and let you know what I think when I get it, so there's some future reference on the boards for anyone who may want to grab a second hand unit, or pick up old stock.
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MisterX
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« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2009, 01:52:18 13:52 »

I own a OKI PS-800. It's a very good tool. I got mine since 3 or 4 years and I never regret it, he still work like when I bought it. You made the right choice I believe.
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Heretic78
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« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2009, 07:13:23 19:13 »

Thanks MisterX,

Glad to have some thoughts from someone with hands on experience, one question, the power cable, is that permanently installed on the unit or does it plug into a socket? (just wondering if I'm going to have to buy a new plug or a new cable for our power sockets).

It's in Singapore already, wow, go Fedex. Flight left Anchorage, AK and there wasn't a tracking update for about 15hours, I was starting to think it was floating in the Pacific with Tom Hanks and a Volleyball called Wilson for a while. It should hopefully be here in Perth in the morning, So it wouldn't surprise me if it's delivered Monday (though Tuesday was the ETA). I may give them a call Monday morning, if it has cleared customs and go pick it up, as the delivery centre is in a neighbouring suburb.

« Last Edit: December 19, 2009, 10:38:38 22:38 by Heretic78 » Logged
MisterX
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« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2009, 11:18:02 23:18 »

The power cord has a standard socket like the one you found behind computers. I don't know wich kind of power you have in your country but it can be powered from 100 to 220 volts at 50/60 Hz.
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crahak
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« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2009, 01:10:32 01:10 »

I still have an old Metcal SP200. It's a very good machine but it can be tricky to find tips for it (for example a knife i.e. SSC-673A or SSC-773A which even places like digikey and mouser don't stock) compared to brands like Weller for which you can easily find tips locally, at least the common ones.
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« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2009, 10:43:56 10:43 »

Hi Heretic,
    Where did you purchase your Metcal soldering station for so cheap? Amazon's selling it for $199 and they won't ship to India.

Anyone who knows where i can get similar one or any other good soldering station in India?

Thanks for help!
« Last Edit: December 20, 2009, 10:48:09 10:48 by mindfree » Logged
Heretic78
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« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2009, 04:29:09 16:29 »

@MisterX, thanks, was hoping that would be the case, that makes it super simple as I have a ton of them.

I still have an old Metcal SP200. It's a very good machine but it can be tricky to find tips for it (for example a knife i.e. SSC-673A or SSC-773A which even places like digikey and mouser don't stock).

This was another one of the reasons I was hesitant sourcing a used SP200, even though OKi has a MFR model which takes the SSC tips. I suspect it's because the range of tips when you combine both the OKi and Metcal stations is quite large and a lot of stock to keep on hand, still it's not a great situation. It seems to me OKi will kill production on equipment that takes the Metcal sizes eventually and standardize the SVF and SFP tips, which already cover the bulk of their stations (one Cartridge Tip size, one Standard Tip size). It would be most interesting to see if the Handpiece for the the PS800E could readily be adapted for the SP200, they run on the same frequency, I'm not so sure on the wattage, but I don't know if that is an issue as the coil itself isn't the heat source. If the Oki's are this interchangable, it seems like it may be doable.

In the meantime you can keep an eye on ebay as new SP200 tips come up quite a bit in various shapes from industry surplus.
You can also try.
http://www.hmcelectronics.com
http://www.adtool.ca/
for tips.

I'd also suggest filling in Mouser feedback and letting them know you're disappointed in their range of OKi tips given they're an OKi distributor. (I have done the same, they have most all of them in the database but not in inventory).

@Mindfree, I actually got mine from Mouser, their prices sadly aren't competitive against US retailers, but the Australian dollar is very good now against the US dollar and Mouser had free Fedex shipping, which made up a lot of difference as even US Postal Service shipping would've been about $50-60US and taken much longer. There are some North American retailers with excellent prices but only shipping to US and Canada, those that I did find who would ship had run out of stock of the PS800E's.

While I'm here I'll round up what else I looked at and what info I've gathered so far, most should be verifiable with a little googling.

Hakko 936 - Recently obsolete and probably the most heaviily cloned station around. Genuine units are better build quality, the genuine Hakko elements last longer (some clones ship with Hakko elements), there are some clones which are very good and can be had very cheap, often with a spare element. The model is like the industry workhorse, perhaps less so on the assembly line but very common in smaller businesses and service departments, reliable, parts are easy to source, can be had at a real nice price and they seem to work forever, the iron itself is pretty comfy too. (The clones can be well worth a shot if you're on a tight budget, often available for less than $50US)

Hakko FX-888 - The 936's replacement, compact power supply, haven't had a hands on with it but the iron by appearances looks the typical modern Japanese design ceramic heater iron so should be comfortable. I would be surprised if the quality isn't up to Hakko's usual standards and it's Hakko, you can get anything you need for it fairly easily, Still ships with a tip. Silocon Chip did a small review (http://www.siliconchip.com.au/cms/A_111773/article.html) Issue 255.

Hakko FX-950 - Uses the new cartridge style tips with Hakko's new iron style, as the element is contained in the tip cartridge recovery and heat delivery is better but tips are about 25% pricier. Looks to be a real good station and was one I was considering. No tip included.

Hakko FX-951 - Same iron and power output as the FX-950 adds digital display to the PSU, temp display, push button temp adjust, temp offset. (I couldn't see a huge advantage in the digital features for the extra money over the 950, but at a good price I think it'd be a nice station. No tip included. This model is also heavily cloned by various chinese manufacturers, most clones don't use the cartridge style tip, performance is likely to highly vary from the originals.

Goot RX-711 Something I'm personally familiar with, light comfortable iron, the default tip it ships with is a little too fine to get heat into a lot of work but at least it does ship with a tip, which is a rarity these days. Quality and ergonomics is great across the board, to be expected as Goot/Taiyo Electric are about the last of the Japanese companies who still build their gear in Japan. Tips and elements are a little hard to source unfortunately but not too badly priced. It's a great unit to use, digital display and a rotary knob to adjust the temp, much better than push buttons found on a lot of new digital temp control irons, it recovers quickly but it does seem to lack a little in sustainable power. I'm not sure how well it'd go with lead free work (wasn't a concern for me personally) They do have more powerful lead-free models which use newer cartridge type tips but the price was getting a bit beyond what I wanted to spend, nonetheless I would expect them to be very good stations as every Goot product I've used has been first rate quality.

ERSA - German made, great quality (except their very bottom station RDS80, Which from what I can find is made in china to a lower standard). Used stations can be picked up on ebay for a great price but be warned the tips are extremely expensive.

JBC - By all accounts outstanding quality stations with good power delivery and fantastic ergonomics, but quite pricey, sometimes good bargains can be had but as with Ersa be warned the tips can be very pricey.

Weller: US/Australian (UK Also?) Cooper Tools built units are tanks, they go for ever, you can get tips and anything else you need easily, ergonomically they're lacking a little and feel dated but great stations. Newer Weller German designed units (ie WD1000) fix up most of these misgivings across the board, versions for 220-240Volt however, aren't currently competitively priced.

**Additional**
Received the PS800E in Monday (Go Fedex!), so far have just done a small amount of through hole work with it, but really impressed thus far, joints have been effortlessly consistent, leaving a mirror gloss finish every time and my work speed with it is very fast, it does seem that the RF system works very well and delivers as suggested so far. Construction quality overall is good but the casing of the PSU feels a little on the light side in my opinion, not bad, but it feels consumer electronics quality rather than industrial. The iron itself is quite nice, well balanced, comfy and quite compact, Oki have chosen to use a softer impact resistant plastic which I suspect is metal reinforced, it looks like it should be durable. The irons foregrip which also contains the coil assembly is made out of the same material and snaps into the handle by means of a pushbutton release. There's a textured rubberised area on the fore grip which provides good comfort and control of the iron, though I'll wait until I've soldered with sweaty hands before if I decided it it's superior to the foam grips used on many irons. Installing tips is straight forward they slide up up over the coil and into the foregrip, removing them requires just a gentle tug using the included silicon pad to hot swap to another tip and takes only a few seconds. The stand that ships with is solid, very stable, holds the iron in place firmly, yet the iron is easy to pull out when needed (personally I find it to be the best stand design I've used) .

Overall so far I'm real happy, but I still need to do more varied work with it and really put the iron through its paces.



« Last Edit: January 01, 2010, 02:27:23 14:27 by Heretic78 » Logged
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