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Tip life of soldering irons with lead-free (SAC305)

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Sheldon Stewart (Process Engineer)

#41300

Tip life of soldering irons with lead-free (SAC305) | 2 May, 2006

I am curious if everyone else is seeing the same dramatically reduced tip life with lead-free that I am? We have purchased new irones with controlled temperatures up to 800F. We are doing more hand soldering on our lead-free at the present while waiting for our volumes to shift to RoHS and for the arrival of our lead-free wave solder machine. In any case our solder tips develop cavities (just like rotten teeth) after, I would estimate, 100-120 hours of use. I am assuming that this is a bi-product of the elevated temperatures and the metal robbing nature of the high tin alloy that we are using. I don't want to believe that the issue is with the solder tips. I am in the process of getting some hours on the other iron/tip types that we have.

Would love to hear some feedback from other users.

Sheldon

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RDR

#41302

Tip life of soldering irons with lead-free (SAC305) | 2 May, 2006

You are exactly right, tip life is greatly reduced with the pbfree alloys. Some mafgrs are using an extra thick plating to reduce this.

Next directive will be to determine what to do with all the tips now.

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#41303

Tip life of soldering irons with lead-free (SAC305) | 2 May, 2006

I also heard that fluxes are more agressive in lead free alloys. Try maybe to clean your tip more often ?!?!?

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George

#41336

Tip life of soldering irons with lead-free (SAC305) | 3 May, 2006

Sheldon, Try using SN100C wire solder. It seems to extend the life of the tips plus solder joints look much better. We use both, clean and No-clean. We had the same problem while using SAC305...

Thanks, George

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egrice1

#41502

Tip life of soldering irons with lead-free (SAC305) | 12 May, 2006

Sheldon,

Tip life is directly related to temperature, IRON plating thickness on the tip, Alloy composition used and operator technique.

High tin contents in lead free alloys attach the tips. Poor wetting and higher melting temperatures cause us to use higher temperatures. While these are the problems, there is a solution!

Typical solder tips go through a plating process and have various platings to protect the tip. One important plating is IRON! The amount of IRON plating on the tip is directly related to the tip life. There is a catch... while having more iron will make your tip last longer, IRON is also a thermal barrier and will inhibit thermal transfer. In order to have more IRON, you need to have more power. MOST soldering stations are 60 watts (or less ) and have trouble transfering heat energy with IRON plating thicknesses over 150 microns.

ERSA has a new 150 watt solder station called the ICON. The extra power allows for extra IRON plating (600 Microns of IRON) and extra long tip life ~120,000 joints.

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Rob

#41503

Tip life of soldering irons with lead-free (SAC305) | 12 May, 2006

Just come back from Nepcon (electronics show on an obscure little island on the other side of the pond) and had a good chance to look & play with a whole bunch of solder wire.

Koki do one that is aprox. 99/0.7/0.3 with 0.03 Cobolt in. They claim that this makes it flow batter & inhibits tip corrosion.

I had a play with it and it definitely flowed very well (for a leadfree solder that is) but regarding the claims for extended tip life, that's not a quick evaluation. I'll get some in and trial it against the others on some Metcals when I get a chance.

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#41509

Tip life of soldering irons with lead-free (SAC305) | 12 May, 2006

If you can change to SN100C do it. The nickel prevents the high tin content from eating away at the metals on the tips. Similar to what the Lead did in 63/37 alloys. This Koki crap is just that, crap. 99% tin??? Thats what is causing the problem people. Hakko and Ersa are the only two manufacturers that I have documented that are putting more plating on their tips. Allows longer life expectancy. Have your employees shut their systems off when they go to lunch or on break. Use de-ionized water in the sponges. Tin the tip with lead free tip tinner when done soldering. Not with an organic acid flux based solder. Best wishes.

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Rob

#41528

Tip life of soldering irons with lead-free (SAC305) | 15 May, 2006

Hi Steve,

Although your opinion is valid, calling something from a respected Japanese manufacturer crap is a little harsh. I have seen many people solder very well with all sorts of leadfree alloys - not producing crap.

I've already had a play with SN100C, and it didn't appear to flow as well as the Koki solder wire - however I'm not going to say it's crap - I'm going to run a 3 month trial side by side with both (and 99/1 & 95.2/3.8/1) then decide on what is best for us.

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#41539

Tip life of soldering irons with lead-free (SAC305) | 15 May, 2006

Since when is Hakko putting more plating on their tips? I was told that there was no change to their tips, it was the same tip for Pb or Pbfree. Prior to first use, all Hakko tips are Pbfree. We have been seeing those tips degrade quicker with Pbfree than with SnPb processes. Pace has a tip with thicker plating as well. They seem to be holding up a bit better than the Hakko.

We are also starting to use the "waterless sponges", the tip cleaners that look like a pot scrubber. I think they help a little.

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