Our soldering irons and supplies are the most heavily used items we have. Most people are actually using our irons properly, but they are getting used A LOT for a lot of different types of work. We are also now lacking a good iron capable of SMD work, etc. For a long time now, I wouldn’t work on one of my sensitive PCB’s with that Weller - I’ve been using my hakko irons at home and in my office at UC.
Our xytronics soldering iron was more acceptable, but not that great (14 years old).
Here’s my suggestion:
Rehab Ol’ Weller and load it with chisel tips for every day wiring, electro-mechanical, heavier duty, etc. With a new element, barrel nut, and some hot tips (mediium and small chissel tips hold heat better than conical, and weller is great for that type of work). In fact, that iron is the best iron ever for misc jobs. The wear and tear on it is normal for its age, and the station has life left in it. For small jobs, for most misc jobs, this can be our go-to iron.
Invest in a production quality precision iron for fine and precise work. My first thought is a MetCal PS900. We need a quick recovery iron which can handle various thermal loads without overheating. Think of this as a PCB and SMD soldering iron. We’d keep a fine tip on it. This is a $250 investment, but has smart temperature control, turns itself down when resting in stand between solders, etc. It’s designed to LAST in a production environment. I’m thinking buy right, buy once. Also, it’s less likely a precision iron like this would be abused since it is impossible to use it to solder two pennies together because it will not allow you to overheat it (temp is controlled via sensor, and it’s smarter than said penny-solderer).
Throw a big ol’ chisel tip on one of the cheap irons precisely for folks who’'d like to solder 2 pennies together, Jewelry, etc.
Thoughts? I am not proposing a formal vote now. I am asking for feedback before doing so. It is inevitable that an electronics area renovation vote will be coming soon, though, and this is probably the biggest part of it.