Tools: Aoyue 968 3-in-1 soldering and rework station

aoyue968-front

The $10 “fire-starter” is the most common beginner soldering iron. These are simple irons with a hot end, a handle, and little else. There’s no temperature control or indication. Despite their simplicity, they’ll do just about anything. You can solder any legged chip type with this type of iron. We used fire-starters in the lab for years.

Eventually, we wanted a hot air rework tool to salvage SMD parts and solder QFN chips. Aoyue is a relatively unknown Chinese brand that makes soldering stations very similar in appearance and function to Hakko. Aoyue stations are recommended and used by Sparkfun Electronics, something that factored heavily in our decision to buy an Aoyue. Read more about our experiences with this tool after the break.

aoyue968

The Aoyue 968 combines three tools: an adjustable soldering iron, a digitally controlled hot air tool, and a fume extractor. We usually prefer separate units because the parts can be individually upgraded or replaced, but this combined tool is much cheaper and saves valuable bench space in the lab.

iron-and-filter

The soldering iron temperature is adjusted with a knob, with a range of 200 to 480 degrees Celsius. We usually solder between 300C and 350C.

The iron handle is an inexpensive plastic assembly that eventually broke along the threads that hold the iron in place. New irons are available for around $15, but we fixed the old one with some high-temperature epoxy.

The fume extractor is a tube that attaches to the soldering iron. The hot air rework tool air intake is used to suck fumes away from the tip of the iron. The fumes are filtered with a small plastic net before exiting through the hot-air tool. It works really well, and eliminates the breath-hold-solder-breath system we used to avoid getting a nose full of flux fumes. The tiny filter doesn’t look like it does much, but it came with a replacement. We worry somewhat about the long term effects of coating the hot air tool’s heating element with rosin and other crud.

iron-holder667

It’s pretty obvious that the iron holder wasn’t intended for this particular iron because the holding ring doesn’t fit the fume extractor attachment, this is a bit of a pain.

rework-and-nozz

The hot air rework tool has a temperature range of 90 to 480 degrees Celsius. We use 400C hot air to remove passive parts, and 420C to remove chips.

The temperature is adjusted in 2 degree increments using the digital numerical readouts. The air flow rate is adjusted with a knob, volume is indicated by a floating ball gauge. The hot air tool came with a half-dozen nozzles, we’ve only used the medium size.

aoyue-inside1

We’re extremely happy with the Auyoe 968. It’s already paid for itself twice, in terms of not having to replace $10 soldering irons every month. If it breaks, we can buy a new one without regret. The hot air rework tool has opened a world of possibilities for salvaging parts and repairing projects. The adjustable soldering iron provides enough heat to solder something big and dirty, but also adjusts downward so it doesn’t destroy delicate traces.  We haven’t needed to replace the iron tip or either heating element, but we understand they’re compatible with parts from other major manufacturers .

aoyue-inside2

Until recently, Auyoe was only available in Asia and Europe. We bought this one in Germany for about $100. The Aoyue 968 is now available on Amazon in North America, Sparkfun also has several other Aoyue models.

Sure, Aoyue isn’t haute couture for geeks like a Hakko or Weller, but for less than a third of the price you get a respectable rework  station that’s not a lifetime investment. As heavy DIY users, we think this station has performed great. We highly recommend it to anyone buying their first serious soldering iron. If you’re a pro with an industrial budget, buy yourself a Hakko or Weller; we’re doing just fine with our Aoyue!

Learn about soldering with an iron and hot air, and see an Aoyue in action, in the Sparkfun soldering tutorials.

Are there any tool reviews you’d like to see?

Comments

  1. dago says:

    Well my soldering iron heating element is fine, it just totally melted off from the plastic handle which I do not think its supposed to do…

  2. TheBakachan says:

    A couple months back, I bought an Aoyue 968, an 853A preheating station, and a vacuum pickup. (Technically, you can swap the 968’s smoke extractor for a vacuum pickup pen if you buy a replacement pen from an Aoyue dealer for like $15, but the standalone unit is only $30)

    Pretty damn good, and it hardly cost anything. Still haven’t gotten the hang of hot-air soldering though… For some reason the solder paste just never ‘activates’ or reflows…

  3. good review. i see some of criticism of this model in the comments, comparing the quality to brands like weller and hakko, which is a little surprising to me. this model clocks in at just a little over $100 and opens up a whole slew of projects that were previously completely out of reach for an amateur/hobbyist.

    i’m really stoked to see product lines popping up that are marketed and priced for more casual consumers. to compare it to models that are marketed almost exclusively at businesses and professionals is silly, it isn’t even the same ballpark. this kind of equipment was previously something i’d have to rent or head to a local shop to use–i’m way excited to now have one of these bad boys in the garage.

  4. BANKIM DESAI says:

    please sand rates for above product

  5. Jx says:

    The soldering iron handle and the air gun were damaged due to prolonged (mis)use. The temperature sensor inside the smd rework was damaged but i found that only when i decided to open it up.
    Anyway it was stored in a place that got flooded with sewer water and it got unusable. Until i saw the pictures on this site I didn’t see a reason to reuse it but now I’m tinkering with the air pump which is pretty good as a water pump also. For now.
    The air pump is working on 220v AC so it’s dangerous using it as a water pump but I’m using power from an UPS to minimize the risks.
    Thanks for the info that gave me the crazy idea :)

  6. David says:

    Im a student at ITT tech geting started i looking to get a good Soilding station for hobbes and school. i looking in to this Aoyue 968. for all what it can do but befor i pay. i would like to know if its what i need.. anyone input.?

  7. ZACK says:

    I have this exact unit. The first day I plug it in the hot air worked good. I was working on my computer and smelled something burning–the heating element in the hot air gun heated up orange hot. THE UNIT WAS PLUGGED IN BUT SWITCHED OFF when this happened! Sent it back and had it fixed.

    Soldering iron is a poor performer. You can have the temp knob cranked all the way and still have trouble soldering a via on a large trace. Anything less than half way on the knob and its pretty useless.

    Bottom Line: Hot air gun works good. It gets so hot it will de-solder anything you want. But i still fear it’ll burn my house down. Soldering iron is useless to me–i use my plug-in 35W Weller iron.

    I either have a lemon unit or the Aoyue is just plain unreliable. I would not buy this unit again. Spend the extra money and find a higher end one like Pace or Weller.

    Zack

  8. Nick says:

    I have this exact unit. It is very good with desoldering thru hole components and salvaging pretty much everything. The only thing i have not figured out yet is the correct settings for pulling plastic components without melting them.

    Here are the settings I use for desoldering:
    390C temp
    ~4 airflow

    I have no had the chance to test the soldering iron yet but the fume extractor is nice and silent. This review made me purchase my unit from SRA soldering in mass. It was an amazing purchase and was about $175 shipped. I also an Aoyue 328 working platform made for clamping circuit boards.

    Also you MUST remove the red screw on the bottom or it will be very noisy and vibrate a lot. the screw is only there to secure the pump during shipping because it normally only has rubber mounts.

  9. Morganism says:

    Got the 2702+, on that SRA introductory sale.

    Excellent fit and finish, worth the extra 50 bucks.
    Came with vac pen, lots of air horns, and the desolder handle. Still can’t use the solder/desolder at the same time, but it has lots of power, and the element holder has much better fit than the above model. Think it takes Hakko tips too, but havn’t cooked any yet, and have had for two years now. Order the smallest chisel point you can too.

    Just a happy user.

  10. I have Aoyue 2702 soldering station. It works great.

  11. Voxmagna says:

    I have one of these which I have now modified. I was miffed there was decent suction and a fancy display which they only used for fume extraction. I’m a hobbyist and spend little time soldering. I’m over 60 so not worried about solder resin fumes I’ve been around all my working life – and I don’t smoke.

    First I bought the B1002A desolder gun. 24 volts same as the iron , but a few more watts compared to the iron (but the 968 has a decent size transformer). Same K type thermocouple sensor.
    The desolder gun comes with an 8 pole connector, irons are 5 pole. Both stock range at Maplin. Transformer probably won’t run the iron and desolder gun together so I decided to replace their front panel connector with a Maplin 8 pole and change plug on the iron. 2 extra poles on the connector are needed for the vac. pump on/off switch.

    Pin connections for oem 5 way are: Pin 1 Blue and PIn 2 Green = element. Pin 3 Yell= case ground, Pin 4 Red and Pin 5 black are the ‘K’ thermocouple.

    Pin connections for the desolder gun 8 pole are Pin 1 red and pin 2 Grey+yell = element. Pin 3 blue and pin 5 black = normally open vac switch. Pin 4 brown= case ground. Pin 6 green and pin 7 white = ‘K’ thermocouple. Wire colors may vary, but this is the info to transpose their 5 pole to 8 pole connectors.

    Remove the pot nut and desolder the front panel connector to pull the board away. Solder short 25mm colored wires to each used pin of the new 8 pole connector. Match the element, thermocouple and ground to their pcb. The board copper is very poor so clean and tin to the track if the hole pads break. Trace where the 2 brown wires connected to the smoke absorber switch solder to the display board and tack on wires connected to pins 3 and 5 (vac trigger switch). Note you will lose the led ‘on’ function, but you can hear the pump! Replace the front panel board with a couple of M10 washers to increase spacing between the board and 8 pole connector wires.

    I cut some thin stainless sheet to make a rest for the desolder gun on the right of the case. I cut 20mm of their fume extractor hose, to make an ‘adapter’ for the thinner B1002A hose so it fits the front vac connector.

    In use you have to choose to plug in the iron or desolder gun. No sweat as these both are very fast warm up. Changeover switches or relays could get problematic as the thermocouple resistances are about one ohm. The airflow through the hot air gun drops back some (but still useable) if the desolder gun hose is left connected. Just pull off the hose if you want more air through the heat gun.

    This is what they should have produced for the original design – Hot air, soldering iron and desolder gun in one work station. But I’m happy I’ve now got even better value for money!

  12. Robert Ablacon says:

    Does anyone have this equipment schematics? Mine is overheating and burning the heating element.

    • loki says:

      @Robert Ablacon
      “Mine is overheating and burning the heating element.”

      What element is overheating. If its the hotair gun, did you remove the pump lock screw located on the bottom of the unit (it should be labled with a sticker, or painted red)?

      If not this screw needs to be removed befor use. It is there to protect the pump during shipping.

  13. Dave says:

    Hi does the 968A work on 220v ?

    • Voxmagna says:

      Its manufacturers spec. says it is 220V, my rating plate (bought in EU) says it is 210V to 240V and we are on 230V.

      From that spec and its weight, I don’t think their power supply is a wide range switch mode, which I might change sometime.

  14. Voxmagna says:

    I’ve had mine nearly 3 years now. All I can suggest for the overheating problem is the sensor may be a K-type thermocouple just like those in the irons and I’ve already had a couple apart.

    If you go inside the case looking for the wires going down the black hose, I bet they are using a similar configuration to the irons. There will be at least 5 wires. i wire will (should!) be a ground. 2 wires will be the heater resistance. And two wires will have a very low resistance like < 1 ohm if they are using a thermocouple sensor. If that pair of wires is open circuit you have your answer. If this is the case, then it's rather sad the element heater circuit defaults to full on if the sensor wires get broken. If you find this kind of very low rsistance sensor, you can buy them with wires for thermo couple type electronic thermometers. But it would be a good idea to use said thermometer to re-check the calibration.

    Good Luck

  15. Voxmagna says:

    Something else I’ve done with mine:

    Mine has the fume sucker which I’m not that bothered about for occasional hobby work. But what I do appreciate is a decent vacuum sucker. I bought the B1002A suction iron (nicely made) and replaced the iron connectors on my station front panel and on the irons I use for 8 way versions. The suction iron needs the on/ off switch wired to the vac pump.

    http://www.pcb-soldering.co.uk/aoyue-b1002a-desoldering-gun-and-cable-clone-2.html

    Even though this iron is over 20 watts, it works fine and the temperature control is ok. At the moment I just unplug the soldering iron from its single socket to use the suction iron, but I may add a second socket on the front panel with a changeover power relay. I modified one of the vacuum bits to take a very fine 0.5mm bore brass tube. That pushes the vac. pump near to its limit, but it works fine for sucking around smd’s. I attached a 40mm dia. ‘Holster’ made from perforated stainless sheet to the right side of the 968.

    If I wanted another workstation, I would definitely look at something with two separate iron sockets and temperature controllers, to use the second for an ‘always on’ desoldering iron. But for the money, what I now have comes pretty close and the warm up time is only about 45 seconds after switching over irons.

  16. Alan Hansbarger says:

    Thanks for your candid information. Great website!

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