This is the fifth and final blog post in support of the RoadTest that does a comparison between the
METCAL GT120-HP-T6 Soldering Station
Weller WT1012N Soldering Station
The subtitle term Comparision is a bit of a misnomer, maybe it should read while using. The data for this post is generated during the use of the equipment.
I've used the Weller to complete a number of solder projects. I gathered some of the project material together to do some soldering with the Metcal to get some hands on experience. I completed the solder assembly of three Arduino holder boards (components shown resting on the breadborad) and one PCB. Terminals, headers and sockets were the components soldered on this board.
I used the Metcal unit for about 90 minutes. During the process of soldering the projects I jotted down observations:
- The AC power adapter connection that plugs into the back of the power controller is very secure. The connectors are mated and then a lock tab secures the connections. I guess the AC adapater coming away from the power controller won't be a problem.
- Locking the solder pencil in the pencil rest took some practice. The lip of the rest is wide to catch the pencil. If you let go at this point the pencil will fall out. You have to push the pencil further to catch a second lip that holds the pencil. I had to always look at the pencil rest to ensure I had the pencil locked before letting go. The Weller has a bar the cross the pencil tip to keep it from falling out. I wasn't keen on having to look to secure the pencil but that might improve once the user gets familiar with the unit.
- I found the pencil iron connection wire stiff and not flexible as the Weller. The grommet that secures the wire to the pencil was also stiff making it difficult to handle. Again I think this would improve once you got familiar with the unit.
- The power controller has menu options. I have attached the quick start guide if a reader has more interest. I confess I am not much of an options guy on a soldering station. I can't every recall using the menu on the Weller and I have had the unit for a few years. Turn it on and it works is basiclly what I do.
- I did explored the Energy Management option, setting the Standby Timer (i.e. inactivity on the pencil) to one minute. If the pencil is left sitting for the duration, the unit backs off the temperature to the settings. In my case it was 200. The sensor that reads movement of the pencil is sensitive. Just working around the bench, installing components, dropping tools was enough motion to keep the pencil on. When I left the bench, the timer did kick in and backed-off the pencil temperature within the time period set. The Weller advertises this feature but it was not supported on the unit I have.
- The view angle of the screen is narrow. It is difficult to read the controller display from the side.
- I set the Tip Tempature to celsius and monitored that. I never full understood the power % reading. It is the power used to heat the pencil. Why I would care I'm not sure. At one poiint the tip temperature dipped to 400 from 418. I suspect it was because it was sitting in the rest. It went back to 418 without me understanding what I did to make it happen. I only saw the power % change as it came out of this condition.
- Before using the unit I attempted to confirm and then upgrade if necessary the firmware. This process has a limited description in the Quick Start guide. Unfortunately I couldn't find any further details or firmware on the site. I can only assume the need of a firmware upgrade hasn't happened in the field yet.
I excercise the tip cartridge options. First using the cartridge that sports an external tip attachement and then just the cartridge. The stand alone cartridge went from 0 to 418 degrees in 19 seconds. The cartridge with tip attachment option took 28 seconds. Recalling the Weller heat up time, I think it was about 10 seconds. None of the tips provided for the RoadTest were a tip I commonly use. Like the nursey story of Goldielocks and the Three bears, I kept trying tips like the little girl tried beds and was critical of all. I confess that I have discovered what I like for a tip and the one I would use was not included. That makes me critical. From a solder perspective they all worked. Strange though, I found the cartridge and tip attachment worked better ( I didn't have to work as hard) than just the cartridge.