If you are a soldering hobbyist or a professional, one piece of equipment you might want to consider investing in is a desoldering station. There are quite a few options to choose from that provide flexibility for the user. However, one thing you will need to decide on is the method that you want to use to desolder or rework your PCBs. There are desoldering stations and hot air rework stations. Both accomplish relatively the same thing, but work in slightly different ways.
Hot air rework stations work better for small jobs when you are working with older PCBs. It is not exactly precise, but gets the job done by melting old solder so you can remove components. In addition, hot air rework stations are much faster to use as you can usually melt a part off and reapply a new component within a short span of time. Hot air guns are also non-contact options, which can prevent damage to your PCB. Another benefit of hot air rework stations is that many times they also double as solder stations.
With desoldering stations, you get a more precise execution. Most include vacuum pumps for removing old solder and maintaining precise control. Desoldering stations are much easier to manage and clean up from since they limit the area of rework compared to hot air gun stations. Unfortunately, one downside of desoldering stations is that there is a risk of voltage damage when using due to the contact options. However, these stations tend to be much more cost effective compared to hot air rework stations.
Anesty Pro Digital Desoldering Station ZD-915
The ZD-915 is designed to handle lead-free solder work. It has an input voltage range of 100 to 300 volts and consumes about 140 watts of power. It also has a temperature range of 160 to 480 degrees Celsius. The desoldering gun has an internal ceramic core that heats up quickly. In addition, the unit comes with a 0.8, 1.0, and 1.2 mm tip for the desoldering gun. It also comes equipped with three cleaning needles.
The Anesty unit comes with a built-in vacuum pump for easy solder clean up, which not all models have. It has a variable temperature range and the display is easy to use and understand. The readout shows not only set temperature, but also actual temperature of the unit when in use. It includes several different tips for various desoldering jobs. The desoldering gun is controlled by a PTC heating element that senses and adjusts the temperature accordingly to the set temperature as needed.
This unit was quite popular amongst soldering hobbyists, but did have a few notable flaws. Several consumer complaints referred to poor quality control as their units arrived broken. In addition, some users found that the desoldering gun did not get hot enough to continuously melt solder without it solidifying again during rework.
NEWACALOX Soldering Hot Air Rework Station
The NEWACALOX unit is a hot air gun desoldering station. It has a heat gun that is capable of reaching 450 degree Celsius. The gun heats quickly within three to five seconds, depending on the set temperature. The unit has a digital LED display that indicates the set temperature while in use. The NEWACALOX also has an easy to use control dial to set the temperature as you go.
The largest pro of this model is the built-in cooling safety feature. It has an automatic function that cools the unit down when it is not actively in use. This not only prevents damage, but also reduces wear and tear on the unit. The NEWACALOX also works for both lead-free and lead-based solder because it has such a wide temperature range.
This unit is a hot air rework station so it does not have the same pinpoint accuracy of a desoldering gun. However, it is perfect for all types of solder rework compared to some desoldering station models. Consumer reviews on this model were mostly positive. However, some users did complain that it did seem to have trouble reaching its max temperature of 450 degrees Celsius consistently.
Zhongdi Vacuum Desoldering Rework Station
The Zhongdi Vacuum Desoldering Rework Station is temperature controlled, which makes using it quite easy. The desoldering gun can heat anywhere from 160 to 480 degrees Celsius. Once it has melted the solder, the vacuum pump can be activated to remove the liquid solder before it hardens. This unit works on both single and double-sided PCBs. In addition, it has an easy to read and use digital display.
Similar to the Anesty unit, this model comes with three different sized desoldering tips with different vacuum pump holes. It also includes three cleaning rods and spare filters for the gun and main unit. The LCD display shows both actual and set temperature, which are controlled via push buttons. There is also an on/off switch on this unit.
The Zhongdi was another popular desoldering station that consumers found worked well for the cost. A common complaint for this unit related to the quality of the product. However, one notable large concern related to a defective power cord with some units that caused the unit to come on and off every ten minutes or so regardless of whether the unit was switched off. Zhongdi will replace the cord if this problem occurs.
Aoyue 474A++ Digital Desoldering Station
The Aoyue 474A++ desoldering station comes from a company known for soldering products. The unit comes with a built-in vacuum pump and has a 70-watt heating element as well. It comes with a sleep mode timer that allows the user to set a one to sixty minute idle timer to prevent safety hazards. The desoldering gun is capable of temperature ranges of 200 to 480 degrees Celsius. The unit also includes cleaning rods, a vacuum cover, and various desoldering tips.
The added sleep mode safety feature on this unit is a large bonus. Not only does it turn the unit off to prevent excess wear and tear, but also users do not have to stress over the unit doing damage. The easy to use temperature controls and digital display provide good feedback for users on the actual temperature of the unit while in use. In addition, this unit comes with a one-year warranty period. However, heating elements and the tips are not covered under the warranty.
This was one of the highest rated units of all the models we looked at. However, users did complain that the tip did seem to get clogged quite easily, despite the built-in vacuum pump. Several consumers noted that the smallest provided tip was practically useless due to the clogging.
Aoyue 701A++ Duel Function Digital Soldering and Desoldering Station
The Aoyue 701A++ can not only be used for desoldering, but soldering as well. It is a dual station. Each gun is hooked up to separate ports and have their own holding pads. The unit has a 24-volt output to prevent power damage. In addition, the soldering iron comes with a smoke absorber.
As with other models, this unit also comes with three different sized desoldering tips along with cleaning pads. It is capable of heating from 200 to 480 degrees Celsius for both the desoldering gun and soldering iron. It also includes the standard Aoyue one year warranty. One additional bonus of this model is that it includes the smoke absorber along with the vacuum pump. Both features are great to have for PCB work.
This is another highly popular Aoyue model that is a 2-in-1 station ideal for soldering hobbyists. While most reviews were positive on this model, some consumers complained of the quality and suction power. Several users noted their units broke shortly after the one-year warranty expired. In addition, users noted they had to clean the vacuum pump tubing quite regularly to maintain powerful suction.
Aoyue 2703+ SMD Professional Repair and Rework Station
The Aoyue 2703+ is an all-in-one station that includes a soldering iron, a hot air rework gun, and a desoldering gun. The unit has separate docking ports for all three components and is extremely user friendly. It has a digital display with easy to use push buttons to control the temperature of all three units. It is even programmable for different hot air profiles related to what type of desoldering work you are performing.
This unit works best for lead-free solder, but is also capable of handling lead-based materials. As with the other Aoyue units, this model is also capable of temperature ranges from 200 to 480 degrees Celsius for both the soldering iron and the desoldering gun. In addition, the soldering iron outputs up to 70 watts. The hot air gun is capable of temperature ranges of 100 to 480 degrees Celsius. The unit also includes a smoke extractor and a built-in programmable sleep timer. Both are handy additional features to have especially for safety. The digital display unit is easy to use and produces both actual and set temperature readouts. The 2703+ does include the standard Aoyue one-year replacement warranty.
This unit was another popular Aoyue model that consumers gave high marks to. Common complaints for this unit focused mostly around the hot air gun performance and the desoldering gun. Both did not heat up as much as users expected.
F2C 2-in-1 862d+ SMD Soldering Iron Hot Air Rework Station
The F2C 2-in-1 862d+ unit is both a soldering and hot air rework station. The hot air gun and the soldering iron are capable of temperatures from 100 to 500 degrees Celsius. The unit comes with a digital display that outputs the set temperature of either unit when in use. Each component is temperature controlled through a turn dial rather than push buttons. In addition, this unit has an airflow control knob.
This 2-in-1 unit has a nice temperature range that allows it to work with both lead-based and lead-free solder. It includes four different air gun nozzles as well as five different soldering tips. In addition, the unit has a separate stand for both the heat gun and the soldering iron. The 862d+ comes with a one-year replacement warranty.
The F2C 862d+ was one of the highest rated units we looked at. However, it is a hot air rework station and does not include a desoldering gun. If you are looking for more precise desoldering, then this is not the product for you. Common complaints for this unit related entirely to the quality control of the unit. Some parts were made of plastic and they melted when the unit was turned up to high heat or broke due to the strain on the unit. In addition, some users noted the unit did not always seem to get hot enough for lead-based solder.
We have provided a complete list of various hot air rework and desoldering stations. This was to provide a comparison between the two as both work well for desoldering projects. However, hot air guns are more broad based solder removal units, while desoldering guns provide more precise melting. It really all depends on what type of work you will be doing. Desoldering guns are definitely more precise, but can do pinpoint damage to the PCB if not used correctly. However, hot air guns do not include vacuum pumps for solder removal so they do not always remove all the solder in the first go around. The different models we have discussed here come with a variety of extra options, but most include digital displays along with built-in safety features. These safety features include things like sleep mode or automatic shut-off during idle periods. Most of the units also include docking stations for placing the units during cool down or when not in use. Of all the products, the Aoyue 2703+ had the most features and includes a soldering iron, a desoldering gun, and a hot air gun, which provides a lot of flexibility to the user. As always, we recommend reading over the individual reviews on these models and any other units you might be interested in to get good user feedback before purchasing.