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Author Topic: I finally got a Metcal  (Read 9088 times)

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MaximRecoil

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I finally got a Metcal
« on: May 02, 2007, 11:51:14 pm »
Well, I don't have it yet, but I won the auction, and for cheap too (link).

I'm not sure why it went for so cheap, except for maybe the seller's less than stellar 98.8% positive feedback and/or the beat-up/well-used appearance of the unit. Oh well, for less than $40 shipped, I'm willing to take the chance on the seller. The beat-up/well-used appearance doesn't concern me, since the Metcals I used at work for 2 years looked as bad or worse. Commercially used industrial tools are rarely babied.  

Additionally, with the Metcal, due to the way it works, replacing the tip cartridge essentially = new soldering iron, given that the heat control mechanism is all contained in the tip cartridge:

Quote
MX Systems reduce maintenance costs because they use no separate control circuits and minimal parts. When you change a tip cartridge, it's like getting a whole new system.

http://www.okinternational.com/product_soldering/mxRework

So basically, as long as the power supply works (the seller claims it does), then I'm all set.

The tips start to lose their normally lightning-fast recovery time after about 80 continual hours of use, something you'd probably only notice on a production line. I liked to get a new tip cartridge from my supervisor every 2 weeks (80 hours of soldering). Some people went longer, then again, they weren't the fastest solderers in the world either. In any event, a new tip cartridge would last me a long time at home. I doubt I've done 80 hours of soldering in the 7 years since I worked at EST.

This is the RFG-30 power supply, which is an older discontinued model. The closest equivalent being manufactured today is the MX-500. The PS2E-01 model came after the RFG-30, but before the MX-500. We had all three types of units at work and used them interchangeably. They all accept the same handpieces and tip cartridges (which is the important part for me), so the ones currently available new from OKI/Metcal for the MX-500 are compatible with the older RFG-30's and PS2E-01's.

The model differences are as follows:

RFG-30 -- Basic no-frills power supply. Uses the RM3E (STSS or MX) handpiece and associated tip cartridges.

PS2E-01 -- Added a 30-minute no-use shutoff circuit. That is, if the iron is on for 30 minutes without being used, it shuts off automatically to save on tip cartridge life. This feature was a minor annoyance to me on occasion, and is the main reason I'd grab an RFG-30 unit over a PS2E-01 or MX-500 at work when I could (first-shifters liked to move crap around). Cosmetically about the same as the RFG-30. Uses the RM3E (STSS or MX) handpiece and associated tip cartridges.

MX-500 -- In addition to the 30-minute circuit, the MX-500 adds a second port to plug a handpiece into (not useable simultaneously, a switch to select one or the other) and curvy new cosmetic styling. I preferred the boxy, finned heat sink look of the previous models. Uses the RM3E (STSS or MX) handpiece and associated tip cartridges.

So I'm going to keep my fingers crossed. Hopefully the power supply works like he claims. If all goes well, ~$40 shipped is a hell of a deal for a functional Metcal complete with handpiece (the handpieces sell for about $80 to $90 new), a tip cartridge (not my preferred tip geometry but whatever) and a stand.

« Last Edit: October 20, 2009, 02:53:16 pm by MaximRecoil »

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2007, 01:06:35 pm »
Wow that's a bargain !!! For that money, I'd buy one too !!!

MaximRecoil

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2007, 03:05:59 am »
Yeah, I was quite pleased. I've searched eBay every now and then for one over the years and for complete (power supply, handpiece and stand) older models, they usually go for about ~$100, with power supplies alone usually selling for $50 to $75. In fact I was watching another auction for a complete one that was in better cosmetic condition that ended a day before this one and it went for $90. And forget about current MX-500's, you're lucky to find a complete working used one for under $250.

The huge difference in price between older models and MX-500's makes me wonder how many people realize that they are essentially the same thing minus a few minor features, and they accept the same accessories.

I ordered a new tip cartridge too, the STTC-126 style that I used at work. They look like this:


MaximRecoil

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2007, 04:35:18 am »
I've come across some interesting stuff about Metcals while trying to find out what makes them work so much better than other irons. Apparently they work on a completely different technology (patented in 1986) than other irons. For example, there is no bulky ceramic heating element, which is why they can have such a slim and ergonomic handpiece with a short tip-to-grip distance. Also you can use little fine point tips and still get near instant heat transfer to pads and posts, as well or better than an ordinary iron with a big fat tip. Also, I've always wondered how the tips can heat up so fast (under 10 seconds). Anyway, here is some of the stuff I found out from newsgroup posts:

Quote
The clever thing about the design is the method of heating.  The
"station" consist of high power rf generator enclosed in well shielded
case.  The power is delivered to the tip via a coaxial cable.  The tip
is so constructed that it absorbs the energy at the working end and
heats up until it reaches a curie point temperature at which it
becomes high impedance. This transition is very sharp, meaning that
the tip is always at the correct temperature.  The response is
phenomenal.  It will hit operating temperature in seven seconds and
3/32" tip can solder a penny to a copper clad circuit board without
overheating anything. I had it feed through a SWR meter and could see
the needle jump  moment the tip touched the workpiece. The selection
of tips is large and replacement is easy as they just pull out of the
handle.

Boris Mohar

Quote
> My vote is for Metcal also - I also have their desoldering system and have
> had zero problems.  You only turn them on when you need them - the tips
heat
> up almost instantly.


Yep, that's always a good way to impress people with Hakko's and Wellers.
;-)  "Off" to "On" and soldering in about ~10-12 seconds.  Turn power off,
yank the tip cartridge out and you can hold it from the end opposite the
soldering point in your bare hand-- the heating is local to the tip only
(some patented RF technique that keeps everyone else from doing it
apparently).

-Clay Cowgill

Quote
I couldn't agree more.  Metcal irons are miraculous.  If you haven't
tried one, you haven't been enjoying soldering.  It took me months to talk my
new employer into trying one.  In less time than that, we now have them
all over the company.  :)  One assembler called it a 'dream iron'.  Yes,
they're *that* good.  Those of you who work with your soldering station switched
on most or all of the day really owe it to yourselves to try one.  They're
expensive, but well worth the money if you solder a good deal.  For fine
pitch work, they're not merely a luxury -- once you try one you'll be hooked.

Quote
B. Vermo wrote:
> What makes Metcal tips so expensive, and why are they better to
> work with?


The win with a Metcal tip is that the heating element is
a) tiny
b) situated very close to the soldering surface
c) tightly regulated

so what you get is effectively a constant-temperature source with only a
short path for the heat to flow to the joint, with the power available
to keep the tip at your chosen temperature no matter how much heat
you're pulling out into the workpiece. This avoids the need to run the
tip hotter than you would like to, just so that soldering doesn't slow
down if you're doing many joints in quick succession. Keeping the tip
temperature down makes it a lot harder to wreck thin PCB traces...
Metcal tips are also nicely made, and keep their surfaces more or less
for ever (certainly over 2 years so far, and counting, with use of
probably 20  hours/week.

The Metcal irons are also pleasant to hold, don't get warm except at the
tip, have extremely flexible burn-resistant cable.


enough of the sales pitch, I'm not associated with Metcal, just a happy
customer.

Quote
1)  Metcal makes an iron that's RF driven. It can put a LOT of watts
into a small tip almost instantly to keep the temperature constant.
The tip can be just hot enough to melt the solder, small enough to get
into a tight space and supply enough power to keep the temperature
stable over a wide range of joint sizes (load thermal mass).  Once
you've tried one, you'll never want to go back.  For personal use,
the fatness of your wallet is a factor in obtaining one.

I just thought I'd post some of this stuff in case anyone is looking to get a nice iron. For $100 or less you can get a used Metcal that...well, here is another quote from Clay Cowgill on RGVAC that sums it up my thoughts on the matter pretty well:

Quote
I'd recommend trying to get a used Metcal over anything else (even vs. a
brand new Weller/Pace/Hakko or similar, no matter how expensive you go). In
my experience they are simply so much better than everything else out there
there's not even any contest.

Link

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2007, 04:47:20 am »
How's this one?

Link
« Last Edit: July 11, 2007, 01:46:22 pm by Peale »

MaximRecoil

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2007, 05:02:41 am »
How's this one?

Link

That is the SP series. They retail new in the $250 range (link). I have no experience with them but they work on the same RF-driven principle as the MX series (and its direct predecessors -- RFG-30/STSS and PS2E-01) which I have plenty of experience with. I've read good things about them. They are kind of the economy line. For example, the Metcal website suggests the SP series for the floor workers and the MX series for the techs:

Quote
The SP200 is an ideal choice for both large and small companies. You can put an SP200 on the benches of through-hole soldering and surface mount touch-up benches, and a Metcal MX500 Surface Mount Rework System on the benches of your SMT rework operators. -- Link

The only reservations I have with them is that their handpieces and tip cartridges aren't compatible with the MX series (though their design/appearance is similar). It is easier to find cheap sources (like auctions) for tip cartridges for the MX series because they are more commonly used in factories than the SP series is, and they have been in production for a lot longer. Plus, in my case, I can get tip cartridges from my ex-coworkers for the MX series, whereas I wouldn't be able to for the SP series.

Edit: Some tips for anyone searching for Metcals on eBay or whatever:

Metcal often used different numbers for the power supply vs. the system (system includes the handpiece and workstand). For example:

SP-PW1 is the model number of the power supply, while SP200 is the name of the system that is based on the SP-PW1 power supply, which includes the SP-HC1 handpiece and WS2 workstand.

RFG-30 is the name of the power supply. STSS-001 and STSS-002 are the names of the systems based on that power supply. These use the STSS-RM3E handpiece, and the later MX-RM3E handpiece is also compatible -- the same applies to the PS2E-01 power supply, which came with the STSS-001/002 systems, and used the STSS-RM3E handpiece as well as the current MX-RM3E handpiece. WS1 is the current workstand that is compatible with these.

With the MX-500 they seemed to merge the model number of the power supply and the name of the system, so no confusion there. There are just different letters appended to the end of MX-500, i.e., MX-500P = power supply and MX-500S-11 = system. These also use the WS1 workstand.

The STSS and MX systems are compatible with each other, but not compatible with SP systems.

The STSS and MX systems use STTC-XXX tip cartridges. SP systems use SSC-XXXX tip cartridges.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2009, 02:54:09 pm by MaximRecoil »

scotthh

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2008, 10:03:53 pm »
I finally got one too! Since MaximRecoil started this thread, I've been waiting to replace my $7 Radio Shack soldering iron... Does anyone know if there are local dealers (preferably in Westchester County, NY) that sell the tips? I need some instant gratification.

MaximRecoil

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2008, 10:56:05 pm »
I finally got one too! Since MaximRecoil started this thread, I've been waiting to replace my $7 Radio Shack soldering iron... Does anyone know if there are local dealers (preferably in Westchester County, NY) that sell the tips? I need some instant gratification.

Nice. Does it power up? That's the same type that I have (RFG-30). Mine still works perfectly.

I don't know if you'll be able to find anything local or not. Metcal generally sells to factories and such, so you may not find any local retail outlets that carry their stuff. I bought a new tip cartridge from eBay, and it came with a roll of solder wick for less than $20 shipped, and I'm still using it. They last for about 80 hours of continuous use before you notice decreasing performance, which probably translates to the rest of my life for home use.

As I mentioned in previous posts, my preference is the STTC-126 tip cartridge. It is the one I used at work for both small surface-mount stuff and larger through-hole stuff. I found the size and angle of the tip to be perfect for pretty much everything. Most of my co-workers preferred that particular tip too.

Assuming your station is working correctly, wait until you get a new tip and turn it on, and find that it reaches operating temperature in about 7 seconds (compare that to how long your Radio Shack iron takes). I have a feeling you'll appreciate the ergonomics compared to your Radio Shack iron as well.

scotthh

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2008, 11:32:26 pm »
I just won the auction, I'll let you know if it powers up when I get it. I bid on a couple of STTC-126's too, but the auctions are for a few more days. I asked OKI's regional sales manager who recommended Techni-Tool for new tips, so I guess retail is out.  Now it's going to show up and I can only look at it for a few days...

MaximRecoil

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2008, 11:57:05 pm »
You'll need a power cord for it. In case you didn't know already, it uses the same type of power cord that a PC uses (IEC connector). I have a bunch of those kicking around anyway, so that was no problem (mine didn't come with a power cord either).

Mine came with a used tip cartridge so I could see if it worked right away, while I waited for the new tip cartridge in the mail. Mine also came with the correct Metcal stand for the handpiece; something you'll probably want to look into getting eventually—they makes things a lot more convenient when soldering.

RandyT

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2008, 12:21:28 am »

I picked up a Metcal tower and about a dozen tips (STTC type) for $35 at a flea market several years ago.  They are great and the difference between it and other systems is pretty amazing.  I still use it today for the SMD stuff.

My only complaint is that the tips seem to wear quicker than a Weller, or other more conventional soldering system.  I've seen those used and abused tips still being usable after a little TLC is applied to clean them up, while the thinner metal of the Metcal tip will wear through and then it's pretty much toast.   This won't be a huge issue for someone giving it occasional use, and others who are really wearing them out can justify the $25 retail cost of the replacements (cheaper if you look around some.)

It really does have the best feeling handpiece of any I have used, and as was already stated, ready to go in just seconds.

RandyT

MaximRecoil

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2008, 12:48:29 am »
My only complaint is that the tips seem to wear quicker than a Weller, or other more conventional soldering system.  I've seen those used and abused tips still being usable after a little TLC is applied to clean them up, while the thinner metal of the Metcal tip will wear through and then it's pretty much toast.   This won't be a huge issue for someone giving it occasional use, and others who are really wearing them out can justify the $25 retail cost of the replacements (cheaper if you look around some.)

I've never actually worn through a tip, but when I used them at work I was very picky about how well the tip worked, so I'd throw it out as soon as I noticed the slightest decrease in performance (about 2 weeks/80 hours). So I was probably throwing them out long before the tip itself had a chance to wear through.

I did production + inspection on PCBs. The boards were big, maybe a foot and a half square, and they were essentially complete (all surface-mount stuff soldered in the Panasonic SMT machine), except they needed about 100 terminal blocks through-hole soldered to them (why they didn't do that in the Wave, I'll never know). 100 terminal blocks may sound odd for a single board, but it was actually like 50 small boards all together as a single board with perforations for breaking them apart later; each one needing two 4-position terminal blocks soldered in. 

So you had to set all the terminal blocks in position on the board which was mounted in a big orange foam-backed board holder, and then you flipped it over and the foam kept the blocks in place so you could just solder all of them non-stop. So when you are soldering that fast (less than a second on each fillet) you need an iron that can keep up; and Metcals with a new tip (less than 80 hours of use) are the only irons I know of that could do it (because of their near-instant recovery times). But also, when you are soldering that fast, you'll notice the slightest drop in performance immediately, whereas for home use, you are probably not soldering 100 joints in 90 seconds, so you probably wouldn't notice an increase in recovery time as the tip starts wearing out. So if you were to continue to use it, I can see the tip actually wearing through I suppose.

Quote
It really does have the best feeling handpiece of any I have used, and as was already stated, ready to go in just seconds.

Agreed.

RandyT

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2008, 01:08:36 am »
I did production + inspection on PCBs. The boards were big, maybe a foot and a half square, and they were essentially complete (all surface-mount stuff soldered in the Panasonic SMT machine), except they needed about 100 terminal blocks through-hole soldered to them (why they didn't do that in the Wave, I'll never know).

Don't they use a solder paste screening and conveyor oven process for the SMD components?  I don't think I've ever heard of a wave machine for SMD.  But even so, terminal blocks require a lot of heat to avoid cold solder joints, more than what is necessary or even safe for some smaller components.

The other thing to keep in mind is that there are no heat controls on the Metcals.  The heat is a function of the cartridge, so the one you used for fast soldering of the terminal blocks was likely a pretty beefy one designed to handle the high heat output required by the work you were doing.  We used to use a 1/16" rounded tip (IIRC) and it performed at a pretty steady level throughout it's life span.  It was usually only a few hours between the time when a performance dropoff was noticed and pinhole formed on the tip. 

The tip I use for the SMD's is showing some wear as well, but it is much beefier.

RandyT

MaximRecoil

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2008, 01:40:58 am »
I did production + inspection on PCBs. The boards were big, maybe a foot and a half square, and they were essentially complete (all surface-mount stuff soldered in the Panasonic SMT machine), except they needed about 100 terminal blocks through-hole soldered to them (why they didn't do that in the Wave, I'll never know).

Don't they use a solder paste screening and conveyor oven process for the SMD components?  I don't think I've ever heard of a wave machine for SMD.  But even so, terminal blocks require a lot of heat to avoid cold solder joints, more than what is necessary or even safe for some smaller components.

We had a huge multi-million dollar Panasonic SMT machine for the SMD components (about the length of a football field), which plucks the parts from a reel and places them onto the solder-paste covered pads automatically, and then heat would do the actual soldering.

However, the terminal blocks were through-hole, and that's where I (and the others on my line) came in. The Wave was for through-hole components and would have worked fine on the terminal blocks. I never really got a straight answer from anyone why they didn't do the terminal blocks in the Wave. I guess it was something like; they had to be manually placed in the boards, and the boards were also given a final inspection at that point (final human inspection that is; they still needed to go through the Hewlett-Packard HP 3070 PCB tester); so I guess they figured we might as well solder them ourselves while we were at it.

Quote
The other thing to keep in mind is that there are no heat controls on the Metcals.  The heat is a function of the cartridge, so the one you used for fast soldering of the terminal blocks was likely a pretty beefy one designed to handle the high heat output required by the work you were doing.  We used to use a 1/16" rounded tip (IIRC) and it performed at a pretty steady level throughout it's life span.  It was usually only a few hours between the time when a performance dropoff was noticed and pinhole formed on the tip.

Yeah, the STTC-1XX tips are 700 degrees, and the STTC-0XX tips are 600 degrees. We used the 1XX tips on everything. Since we also inspected, we often had to fix/replace SMD componets (up to and including square surface-mount IC's with dozens of tiny legs). We didn't change tips, and neither did the techs, whose full-time job was rework. We built PCB's for commercial fire alarm systems like would be found in schools, hospitals, etc. In fact, Disney World in Florida used/uses fire alarm systems built there. The boards were categorized as "life saving equipment", and were subject to more red-tape than if we were building say, alarm clocks. They've been in the business a long time, so they knew what was and what was not acceptable when it came to building PCB's.

And I'm not sure what you mean by "beefy", but the STTC-126 tips we used for most everything are quite small (you can see a picture of it in one of my earlier posts). Metcal irons can do relatively big jobs with relatively small tips, due to their fast recovery time. With a conventional iron, the bigger joints pull the heat out of a small tip faster than the iron can recover.

The reason the Metcal irons are so good for fast soldering is their near instant recovery time; meaning you don't have to have big tips and excessive temperatures (risking trace/pad damage) just so the iron can keep up. They are essentially a constant heat source, and remarkably well-regulated at their specified temperature. 
« Last Edit: March 13, 2008, 02:01:21 am by MaximRecoil »

RandyT

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2008, 02:56:45 am »
And I'm not sure what you mean by "beefy", but the STTC-126 tips we used for most everything are quite small (you can see a picture of it in one of my earlier posts). Metcal irons can do relatively big jobs with relatively small tips, due to their fast recovery time. With a conventional iron, the bigger joints pull the heat out of a small tip faster than the iron can recover.

Take a look at the attached image.  Your tip on the top and mine below.  The tip on the 002 is much larger and farther from the heater, so the metal is probably thinner and the shaft hollow to keep response times high.  The tip you are using is shorter and narrower, so it's probably a solid tip.  And because it's so close to the large conical base, it looks like you could use it directly to heat larger pins, whereas one couldn't really do that on the 002.

But I''m just guessing at this point :)

RandyT

MaximRecoil

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2008, 03:19:57 am »
And I'm not sure what you mean by "beefy", but the STTC-126 tips we used for most everything are quite small (you can see a picture of it in one of my earlier posts). Metcal irons can do relatively big jobs with relatively small tips, due to their fast recovery time. With a conventional iron, the bigger joints pull the heat out of a small tip faster than the iron can recover.

Take a look at the attached image.  Your tip on the top and mine below.  The tip on the 002 is much larger and farther from the heater, so the metal is probably thinner and the shaft hollow to keep response times high.  The tip you are using is shorter and narrower, so it's probably a solid tip.  And because it's so close to the large conical base, it looks like you could use it directly to heat larger pins, whereas one couldn't really do that on the 002.

But I''m just guessing at this point :)

RandyT

I would say you're right about everything you typed there.

BTW, I wouldn't like the tip you are using at all, I can see that from here.

With the tip I use, you have the fine point at an angle attached to the thicker straight area and it is very versatile. For small surface-mount soldering you can just use the small .016" part on the end and because of its angle it can easily lay right across a whole pad and butt up against the whole solderable edge of the SMD component at the same time; something not so easy to do with straight pointed tips. For larger through-hole work, the larger area of the tip presses against the post of the component while the smaller angled part lies flat across one side of the pad.

It is really a great tip; you should give one a try (or the 026 if you prefer a 600 degree tip). Even though there were other styles available at work, I would say about 95% of us swore by the 126 for everything (aside from when a specialty IC removal tip cartridge was called for).
« Last Edit: March 13, 2008, 03:43:14 am by MaximRecoil »

RandyT

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2008, 03:15:59 pm »
With the tip I use, you have the fine point at an angle attached to the thicker straight area and it is very versatile. For small surface-mount soldering you can just use the small .016" part on the end and because of its angle it can easily lay right across a whole pad and butt up against the whole solderable edge of the SMD component at the same time; something not so easy to do with straight pointed tips. For larger through-hole work, the larger area of the tip presses against the post of the component while the smaller angled part lies flat across one side of the pad.

It is really a great tip; you should give one a try (or the 026 if you prefer a 600 degree tip). Even though there were other styles available at work, I would say about 95% of us swore by the 126 for everything (aside from when a specialty IC removal tip cartridge was called for).

I got an assortment as part of the deal, and I gravitated to "what I knew".  A lot of the time, it boils down to using what you learn to be expedient with.  But I tried all of the ones I had on the 48-pin SSOP's (pins are .020" on center) and ended up at the "hoof" tip, which is way bigger.  It turns out that the large surface area allows one to lay down the proper amount of solder, while the surface tension of the "blob" on the tip tends to retain the reserve.  It took a little practice, but I can now say that soldering these is much more expedient than the larger through hole packages.

But I'll check out the tip you use.  Knowing how something is used by others in actual practice is more useful info than theory when selecting these things.

RandyT

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #17 on: March 13, 2008, 04:31:25 pm »
MaximRecoil,

I just tried the link and it says that the listing was removed?  Is that right?

~ DeLuSioNaL
My latest project:  Green Invader Reboot!

Level42

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #18 on: March 13, 2008, 06:13:09 pm »
He bought it in may 2007, so E-bay has removed it by now I guess :D

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #19 on: March 13, 2008, 10:03:00 pm »
MaximRecoil,

I just tried the link and it says that the listing was removed?  Is that right?

~ DeLuSioNaL

Like Level42 mentioned, I started this thread nearly a year ago, so the eBay link is dead by now.

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #20 on: March 24, 2008, 02:27:06 pm »
My tips came today. I got a 125 and a 126. Together they cost me $20.50 delivered from a guy on ebay--his listing said to email him for a quote on 2 or more tips--so I did. I did a quick test, and it fires up in a couple of seconds, it's way hotter than my Radio Shack iron. I'm looking forward to using it, the handpiece is amazingly light and very small relative to the Radio Shack unit. Maybe I can become a half-decent solderer now... Do I need any particular type of solder?

Thanks

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #21 on: March 24, 2008, 03:54:56 pm »
My tips came today. I got a 125 and a 126. Together they cost me $20.50 delivered from a guy on ebay--his listing said to email him for a quote on 2 or more tips--so I did. I did a quick test, and it fires up in a couple of seconds, it's way hotter than my Radio Shack iron. I'm looking forward to using it, the handpiece is amazingly light and very small relative to the Radio Shack unit. Maybe I can become a half-decent solderer now... Do I need any particular type of solder?

Thanks

That's great that your machine works. As far as solder goes, I use 63/37 (60/40 is okay too) "no clean" core solder. Something like Kester 245 is good, or even Kester 44 (technically not "no clean" but the flux residue is said to be non-corrosive should you decide to not clean it).

We used Alpha Metals SMT Core Plus (63/37, .015" for surface-mount soldering and .025" for through-hole soldering) at work, which is also "no clean". I still have about a half a pound of that here (good stuff).

Don't get something with a corrosive flux unless you are planning to be diligent about cleaning the residue after soldering. I wouldn't recommend solid core (no flux core) solder wire either, unless using separate flux is your thing.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2008, 04:03:19 pm by MaximRecoil »

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #22 on: September 26, 2008, 06:48:05 am »
Does any of the Metcal owners here know if they're switchable on mains voltage (110/230 V) or maybe even auto-ranging ?



MaximRecoil

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #23 on: September 27, 2008, 02:17:58 pm »
Does any of the Metcal owners here know if they're switchable on mains voltage (110/230 V) or maybe even auto-ranging ?

My Metcal (Soldering System model number STSS-002, Power Unit model number RFG-30) is stated to only be for 115 VAC / 60 Hz.  I don't know if switchable or dedicated 230 VAC versions exist or not. 
« Last Edit: September 27, 2008, 02:21:50 pm by MaximRecoil »

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #24 on: September 28, 2008, 10:33:13 am »
I also see units for 99 bucks buy it now but shipping is almost 60 bucks to here. Is that main unit heavy ?

Good tip about the stand, I wouldn't have thought about that.

Do you happen to know if they are switchable between 115 VAC/230VAC ?

Thanks !

Mine is not switchable. It is for 115 VAC only. I don't know if they made switchable or 230 VAC versions or not.

The power unit is heavier than it looks, due to the fact that the case is made from fairly thick aluminum and it has a finned heat sink on the back; plus it is heavily shielded internally (the power unit is essentially an RF generator, which requires shielding). I don't have a scale here to weigh it, but I'd estimate it to be about 10 pounds.

And yeah, you want to make sure that at the very least, you get a handpiece and a handpiece stand included, because those items tend to be expensive when bought separately. And get a "true" Metcal. I don't consider the recent economy line (SP200 series) to be true Metcals. They use a different handpiece and different tip cartridges, and more conventional heating technology. Up until fairly recently there was only 1 type of Metcal; what I consider to be "true" Metcals. Then they introduced the economy versions which confused matters. So what you are looking for is either the older STSS line or the newer MX-500 line.

For the STSS series, they used the STSS designation for the model number of the complete system (power unit, handpiece, and stand). Within the system, each component had its own model number. For example, the older STSS systems had an RFG-30 power unit, and the newer ones had a PS2E-01 power unit. Those two power units looked the same, the main difference being that the PS2E-01 had an auto shutoff after 30 minutes of non-use feature, to save the tip cartridge in case you forget to shut it off.

With the MX-500 series (which tends to sell for a lot more on eBay even though the only difference is a curvier case and an extra output port), they use the MX-500 designation for both the system and the power unit (they append some extra numbers after "MX-500" to differentiate between the two).

Both the STSS and the MX-500 use the same handpiece (RM3E) and tip cartridges (STTC-XXX). With the tip cartridges, the STTC-0XX tips are 600 degrees and the STTC-1XX tips are 700 degrees. My preferred tip cartridge is the STTC-126; that is what I used for pretty much everything at the PCB factory, from tiny surface-mount components to larger through-hole components (with Metcals, small tips can do disproportionally large jobs with ease due to their phenomenal recovery time—consider that they go from dead-cold to operating temperature in under 10 seconds and you will get an idea of their recovery time); and it is what I use at home for everything. There are also STTC-8XX tips which are 800 degrees.  The last two numbers always designate the style of tip; so for example, the STTC-026, STTC-126, and STTC-826 are all the same style, the only difference being the temperature.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2008, 10:39:37 am by MaximRecoil »

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Re: I finally got a Metcal
« Reply #25 on: September 29, 2008, 03:31:07 pm »
Thanks for all that great info !

I saw a SP200 on offer localy but since I read this steered away from it. They do have a sales agency in the UK so I guess 230V models must exist.

The thing is, I could use a transformer but that would make it pretty clumsy. With this hobby we need to be able to carry around the station sometimes.

I guess, for the moment I will stick to my old trusty Weller, but I'll keep a search open on the bay....thanks !

  
 

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