I am actually curious as to what people think is defining as a great soldering station? I have now tried a handful and I have found that some legend like products really did not perform any better, and sometimes worse than a simple cheap off the shelf device. I think that we can all agree that a non-temp controlled fire starter soldering iron that you can get for $5 is really useless, but other than that, the principles of how to drive a soldering iron are not that complex. The iron itself has a relatively large thermal mass, so even good power regulation should not be extremely critical.
From my perspective here is my short list of critical things:
-Ability to get to temperature fast
-Not oscillate around the set point significantly
-Ability to provide instintaneous heat energy to maintain soldering temperature while soldering
-Easy to use
-Availibility of consumables
I have been looking into actually creating my own soldering station over the last few years to accomodate some reatures that I would really like to have, and really other than the cost of a transformer, the rest of the parts are really cheap, and can be implimented with a very small 8bit uC (can be done in analog components as well). On things such as durability of components, the tips and heater elements are the main components to fail. Most of these units are using the same interfaces with the well known brands.
I am very intereted to hear your thoughts on this.
I could never trust such a low cost unit.
I own a couple Weller stations that were used on the Apollo program, which are very robust. I own a couple Weller semi modern stations with potentiometer temp controls and led displays (WES51?) and those are ok. I also use a JBC rework station which I feel is a piece of junk and two Hakko FM-206's which are my new best friends.
Through trial and error I have always felt any sub $150 solder station is not worth my time and frustration. I want to get the job done in the least amount of time with the highest quality and least frustration.
I don't like those Hakko tips. I've used Weller and Hakko irons, and I find the Hakko tips have a life-span shorter than the average housefly, while the Weller tips seem to last until at least the next leap year.