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<$100 "hobby" digitally controlled soldering station, Hakko FX-888D, is it any good?

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    <$100 "hobby" digitally controlled soldering station, Hakko FX-888D, is it any good?

    Click image for larger version  Name:	fx888d-23by_1.jpg Views:	1 Size:	1.17 MB ID:	77063

    I bought one of these [new] locally for <US$90 about a year and a half ago. I do a lot of soldering these days for my customers. It's mostly extremely small stuff and mostly using my customer's very high-end stuff (including microscopes). I've been doing plenty for about five decades. I don't do much around the home office, but enough that I decided to upgrade and buy something that would do the micro-SMD and also the large RF connectors I handle. Oh and of course e-bike stuff =]

    I've gotten time enough on it to feel comfortable recommending it: https://www.hakkousa.com/products/so...g-station.html

    It's a 70W unit and comes in a fisher-price blue and yellow color scheme. I understand they make a more subdued adult-themed color but it's not available anywhere I could find - overseas may be different. It has a digital readout and control. There are 29 different tips available for it and they are a very reasonable at $5 for most, $6 was the most expensive one I got for the micro work (it has a tiny little 0.125mm tip). On the large side I got a 3.2mm chisel and they offer a 5.2mm. I ended up with about five or six tips but for most folks two or three would likely be enough.

    The stand has both a little sponge and a wire ball (think steel pot scrubber) for tip cleaning. Use the sponge unless it's stubbornly gummed up (or you forgot to wet the sponge =] ).

    Setting the controls was not very easy - very convoluted "menu" but once setup it's very easy to use and after the initial setup and some minor tweaking, I haven't had cause to fiddle. I'd say this is the greatest foible.

    It has five user-programmable presets. I set mine to:

    P1 - 150°C - "sleep"
    P2 - 250°C - tip tinning, standby
    P3 - 350°C - low temperature soldering
    P4 - 400°C - medium temperature soldering
    P5 - 450°C - hot, hot, hot

    Sorry, I don't do that oddly american thing of fahrenheit...

    Changing the level is very easy, just push the up arrow to step up the level until you reach the level you want and hit enter. It then shows the setpoint temperature in the digital display and then rapidly changes to the real-time temperature.

    Since it doesn't auto-sleep like the more expensive ones I set it to P1 when I want to just let it sit around but heat up quickly. It's too cool to melt solder here so the tip won't oxidize easily if you leave it there for a very long time. P2 is a reasonable standby for sitting around for under fifteen or twenty minutes or so and heats up to P4 (my normal) in 15-20 seconds - not as fast as the expensive ones but pretty darn reasonable. I use P2 to tin the tip before putting it away.

    I've done very tiny work (0402 parts for those who know or care) with the tiny tip and done some 10AWG wires with the chisel and it works great.

    BTW - Use flux!!! At some point I may post some soldering pointers but near the top is use flux! I much prefer a liquid flux dispensed with a little needle pointed flux bottle but for the big stuff a good electronic suitable paste will do.

    Typically I run it on P4 which is on the hot side of things for the small stuff unless you are fast. But it allows you to be very fast so I run it there [as I do the high-end] with a SN63 solder and it's a good setting for those with practice. P3 is slower but less likely to damage... it's a trade-off between speed and overheating. P5 is for high-temperature alloys.

    The heating element is economically replaceable too.


    Anyway, I give this guy a thumbs up and would recommend it for a hobbyist that does more than once a year or just wants a "real" unit - i.e. a controlled temperature.
    Last edited by AZguy; 2 weeks ago.

    #2
    I have had that same soldering iron on my wishlist since June. Maybe I should finally pull the trigger on this one. The digital iron I have which cost a whopping $20 has not turned out to be the great deal I was expecting, imagine that :)

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      #3
      Once I started doing more than a little of the teeny-tiny stuff in the home office I didn't really have a choice. Saw this one and since it's a business expense figured it was worth a try. I've used the higher end Hakko's at my customers' locations and they have been fine although they all are a bit tricky to setup - this one a bit more so - there's no way I could figure it out without the manual. OTOH after fiddling with it a few times and coming up with that profile I haven't touched it since. Like PAS profiles it may not suit other folks but it works very well for me.

      Granted, I haven't really wrung it through the wringer but felt I had enough time on it and other Hakko's to make a recommendation. I've been very pleased with it and can do anything the very expensive ones do although I appreciate using them for what they bring to the table. The JBC I use frequently, sleeps and hibernates automatically, heats up in less time that it takes to move the iron from the holder to the work automatically, and I can change tips while hot in a second. It's a pleasure to use good tools.

      They even sell other irons that can plug into this for rework - like tweezers that are basically two irons that make pulling tiny little SMT parts off the board for example.

      This one would handle pretty much anything an e-bike would throw at you from working on the PCB's to the big high current wires.

      Even though it doesn't get used much it's soooo nice to just turn it on when I need an iron. Before I had three low-cost, non-controlled irons for different tasks, now it's just one and a handful of tips and it does a *much* better job. I appreciate good tools and this is a bargain for anyone looking for a really good soldering solution...

      Not that it's all that big a deal but I just wish they'd sell them in a different color scheme... they look like toys and it betrays their true value...

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        #4
        I have a 40 and a 60w regular iron but I'm thinking of getting one of those 100/150w gun style that heat up in 6 seconds. They get great reviews.

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          #5
          I haven't used my gun since I bought this and I'm just going to throw it away at this point.

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            #6
            Given the amount of soldering I do at work you would think I would spend an hour or two learning about how to do it properly.

            I've literally never used flux beyond what's in the core.

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              #7
              Originally posted by AZguy View Post
              They even sell other irons that can plug into this for rework - like tweezers that are basically two irons that make pulling tiny little SMT parts off the board for example.
              We need this at work. NEED.

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                #8
                Part leads these days are tinned with lead-free instead of lead based solder. When parts were tinned with lead based solder you could get away without flux but it still made life easier. With the lead-free it's nearly essential to get quick flow or the solder sometimes acts like putty instead of flowing nicely...

                I hear you on the tweezers - I use them frequently at customers but I haven't found the need to get some at the home office. The hakko tweezers are twice the cost of the station but when you need them you NEED them =] I haven't used these ones, just the higher end stuff that cost $500-1000. In the pictures they don't look as nice as the expensive ones but I'd have to see them in person and if I had the need I'd give them a whirl.

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                  #9
                  I use only flux-cored lead solder at work in the lab. We all do.

                  Obviously in production we use lead free.

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