[Marco Reps] was soldering some boards with a lot of thermal mass and found his usual soldering iron was not up to the task. He noticed some professional JBC soldering stations that he liked, but he didn’t like the price. Even an entry-level JBC station is about $500 and they go up from there. He decided to build his own, but it did take awhile to complete. You can see two videos about the project, below.
How can you build your own soldering station and still claim it is a JBC? [Marco] noticed that the real performance of the iron came from the tip — what JBC calls a cartridge. In addition, the handle provides good ergonomics. You can buy the tips and handles from JBC for considerably less than a complete station. You just have to add the electronics to make it all work.
Armed with a handle and a cartridge, he set out to build the power supply. The cartridge has a heater and a sensor, so a simple PID controller ought to do the trick. However, [Marco] found the wiring is a bit different than in other tips and would require some special techniques.
He started with a Maxim thermocouple chip. Unfortunately, the Maxim part wasn’t for the right kind of thermocouple and had trouble dealing with the tip being grounded. He also found the cartridge rated at 250 watts required about 40V to get to that power level.
There’s more to the design and [Marco] goes through all the details. His initial design used a triac, although he didn’t like the performance. By the end of the first video, he had a working prototype built around a very large transformer.
The second video addresses changes he made and packaged the device in something a little more practical than the prototype. His initial attempt to replace the triac with a solid state relay met with a bad end, but he eventually rolled his own solid state relay with high-efficiency FETs.
This reminded us of the same trick using Hakko hardware. For that matter, we’ve seen people use Weller tips, too.