Cool Tools: Desoldering Station - 110V - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Cool Tools: Desoldering Station - 110V

Author: ralphjy

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Workshop Tools

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?:

What were the biggest problems encountered?: There were minor spec and instruction manual issues and the tool nozzle was slightly bent.

Detailed Review:

Unboxing

The Desoldering Station arrived in a sturdy corrugated cardboard box with fitted styrofoam pieces on the top and bottom.

The unpacked components are shown below followed by the Packing List from the User Manual.

 

 

The Main Station Unit: 

The connector for the vacuum hose is on the left.  The light to the right indicates when the vacuum pump is on. 

The connector for the soldering iron is in the center.  The light to the right indicates when the heating element is on.

   It will start to blink when the temperature is at the set point.

The temperature setting knob is on the right.  It is marked with positions from 1 to 8 but there is no corresponding temperature indicated.

   There is what appears to be a "cal" port below the temperature knob, but there is no mention of it in the User Manual. 

   I pulled out the plug in the panel and there is indeed a potentiometer, but I did not mess with it.

 

Here is a link to the User Manual: http://farnell.com//datasheets/2365580.pdf

 

The Desoldering Gun:

The Desoldering Gun has replaceable tips and cleanable/replaceable filter elements.

There is a pressure indicator on the handle that lights to indicate a clogged condition.

 

I noticed that the nozzle on my desoldering gun was bent downward.  I'm not sure if it was damaged or an assembly defect,

   but it did not seem to affect operation although the fit of the filter assembly was noticeably "off".

 

    

 

The Assembled Desoldering Station

 

 

Power

I received a US version 110V unit with a 5ft standard grounded IEC cord.

I used a Kill_A_Watt Power meter to measure the unit power.

 

 

ConditionCurrent
  A
Power
  W
Idle0.1113.2
Heating0.84100.8
Temp Cycling0.6072.0
Operating with Vacuum0.7387.6

 

The table above shows power for different operating conditions.

Idle means not heating and no vacuum (must be the controller overhead).

Heating is the transition to the temperature set point.  Appears to be only one rate.  This is the max power condition (assumes that you do not draw vacuum while heating).

Temp Cycling is the condition at set point without vacuum.  This number bounces around +/- 100mA as it cycles.

Operating with Vacuum is the normal desoldering operating condition.

 

The Power Consumption from the spec sheet is 80W max, so the unit clearly does not meet that but probably doesn't matter in most applications.

 

 

Noise level

I used the Decibel X app on my iPad to measure the noise level.  The noise level with the vacuum pump running was around 70dB which is very acceptable.  The ambient noise level in my workroom is about 37dB, but it is quite a bit noisier with other equipment running (3D printer, Fume Extractor, etc).

 

 

 

Temperature range

I struggled with getting temperature measurements because the operating temperature range (150C - 380C) is higher than I would normally measure.

 

I borrowed a Flir C2 thermal camera which unfortunately has a max measuring range of 150C.  I did notice something interesting in the thermal image  Unlike a soldering iron where the heat is generated at the end of the tip, the desoldering iron is heated from the base of the tip.  I suppose this is done to keep the solder molten to prevent clogging.

 

  

 

 

 

 

I then thought that I might try a 100Kohm thermistor that I use in the hot end of the extruder for my 3D printer.  The NTC 3950 is only spec'ed to 300C, but I thought I might be able to extrapolate the rest of the range.  Unfortunately the curve is pretty flat past 300C and I wasn't getting very repeatable values (measuring in the 10's of ohms - the thermistor at 300C is spec'ed at 106 ohms).

 

I finally settled on using a Type K thermocouple with a Signstek ST300 Dual Input Meter.  I needed to buy a new thermocouple because even though the Type K has a 1350C range, many commonly available thermocouples come with insulation that is only rated to 200C (like the ones that came with the meter).

 

   Knob
Position
Temperature
      C
    1   233
    2   255
    3   276
    4   312
    5   366
    6   395
    7   426
    8   459

The measured temperature range is fairly linear (vs knob setting) but is clearly above the spec range of 150C-380C.   It does have approximately the correct span, so maybe the cal adjustment moves the curve up and down.

 

I decided not to mess with the adjustment as the midpoint of the curve (350C - knob at 4.5) is about where I would want to use the tool and this is where I did my operational test.

 

The unit took about 30 seconds to reach min temp and 1 minute to reach max temp from a cold start which seems fairly reasonable.

 

 

Station dimensions

Just a quick note about dimensions.  The dimensions in the spec sheet are for the main station only.

More useful dimensions for the assembled unit are 10" W x 11" H x 18" D.

 

 

Operational Test

For a test of the desoldering functionality I am going to remove all the components from an IF module from an old portable television.  The PCB is shown below.  It has a mix of leaded components with large and small leads and varying amounts of solder and thermal mass - ceramic disc capacitors, resistors, IF coils in shielded cans and a Sprague IC.

 

The following is a video showing the removal of one of the capacitors.  I apologize for the format and lack of sound in the video.  I did not realize that the camera that I used recorded in MTS format and I was having a problem converting it and I ended up doing a video capture of Windows Media Player playback.  You can see in the video that the desoldering is very quick.  I used the temperature control at its middle setting.

 

 

The following pictures show the components removed and the blank PCB.  The holes are reasonably clear and there was no damage to the PCB.  The entire operation took just over 5 minutes.  I'm sure with more practice the holes will end up much cleaner but it is easy to touch them up with a soldering iron if you were replacing the components.

 

 

I am also working on repairing a broken irradiance meter.  I don't have time to put that in this review but I'll try to put that in a blog later.

 

 

Maintenance

I didn't accumulate enough solder to require any serious cleaning but I thought I should go through the cleaning process as part of the road test.  Disassembly is very straightforward and everything came apart easily.  As I mentioned earlier, the nozzle on my tool was bent slightly downward so the end of the desoldering tip entered the filter barrel at a slight angle.  I just needed to account for that when I reassembled it.  The fit of the rear filter dock into the back of the filter barrel appeared to be slightly askew (the pieces didn't fully mate) but the O-ring must have been making a good seal because I did not have any suction issues.

 

I have a couple of complaints about the Instruction Manual.  It turns out that rear filter pad (small yellow sponge disc) should be dampened with a little water before operating the tool.  Because this was under Desoldering Gun Maintenance rather than Operation Guidelines, I had not done that initially.  I guess one should really RTFM (the whole thing) before using a tool.  Another complaint is that there is a tube of silicon grease provided with a label indicating that it should be used to clean the "spare parts" after every usage but there is no mention of how to do this in the manual (so RTFM wouldn't work in this case).  And there is there issue of how to "Cal" the unit if one so desired.

 

The picture below shows the disassembled gun with the tip, cylinder with locking nut, and filter barrel components removed.

 

 

Summary

There were minor spec and instruction manual issues but I was happy with the way the tool performed and I will definitely be putting it to good use.  I hope that some of the "fit" issues that I observed do not cause problems in the future.  They did not affect the functionality so I did not deduct any points for them.  I did not try this tool with SMD components because I feel that it is not intended for that application.

 

As an aside....  there should be a way to put an N/A in some of the scoring categories as some of them clearly do not apply for this tool (e.g. Demo Software).

Anonymous
  • Good review. Well done and well balanced between the technical details (useful) and the pracitcal application (interesting). Thumbs up

     

    Enrico

  • Nice road test report.

     

    DAB

  • Hi Ralph,

     

    I enjoyed reading your review. I looked at it a couple days ago and meant to leave a comment but I got distracted.

     

    John

  • Nice roadtest review.  Looks like the desoldering (including the video) went very well.  Nicely done!

    Gene

  • Hi Russell,

     

    Thanks for the correction on the noise level units.  Must be old age getting to me.....

     

    I use the noise level app as a quick relative check for myself.  I can see that it could be misleading to someone reading the numbers.  My work space is in a reasonably quiet location in my house.  My "normal" ambient noise level using the app around the house is 50-60dB although I don't have a standard of reference.  I'll try to be more precise with my measurement conditions if I do future reviews. 

     

    Ralph

  • Nice review, Ralph! It's very interesting to see your approach to reviewing the tool; it's different than the approach I took, and it's given me some ideas about how to improve my own work.

     

    I found that the best use for the silicone grease is to apply it to the inside of the spring filter tip; this prevents solder clumps from sticking to the filter, inhibits clogging, and makes cleaning the spring filter easier.

     

    A quick note on your noise measurements: dBm is a power ratio used for RF work (dB with respect to 100mW, if I recall correctly.) The ratio you're looking for is dB SPL (Sound Pressure Level) which is dB with respect to 20uPa (the lower limit of audibility for people's ears.) Additionally, because SPL falls at 1/r with respect to measurement distance r, it's vital to include the measurement distance to give the measurement meaning. Finally, it is important to include weighting information; there are four weighting curves that can be used with acoustic measurements: A, B, C, and D. A and C are common, B and D are not. For example, I recorded a level of 80dB SPL (unweighted) at 1m with the vacuum pump operating on my Tenma desoldering unit.

     

    You may want to look into the app you're using to measure SPL; 37dB is fantastically quiet, and unless your workspace is located in a rural area, it's implausibly low (the acoustics lab I work in has a background noise level around 49dB SPL (C-weighted) with the AC turned off, and that room is designed to be quiet and acoustically dead.) If your measurement distance with the vacuum pump running was 1m or less, it seems possible that your SPL measurement setup has a systematic offset in it somewhere.