Kada 852D SMT Solder Station Review

The Kada 852 SMT Solderstation


dscn0550I recently was gifted a Kada 852D solder station.  I have wanted one for a while, but these are normally expensive items.  However the wonder of the far east, EBay and reliable intercontinental postage has opened up a new market for cheap, apparently high value tools that are within the price range of the hobbyist.

Do you get just what you pay for, or are these Far Eastern imports true bargains?   I received the Kada 852D smt solder station on Saturday.

 

Supplied in a plain white carton, with the model details printed on the side, it was perhaps a relief to see that very little of the paltry £70 that the item costs had been squandered on fancy packaging.  Opening the box, everything was well packed.

I unpacked the solder station carefully and laid out the contents.

Initial impressions of the package were favourable.  included in the box were:

  • The Kada 852 Station
  • A soldering iron
  • A single very fine point solder tip
  • A soldering iron stand
  • A tip cleaning sponge
  • A hot air soldering head
  • Three nozzles in different sizes for the air soldering head
  • A chromed metal holder for the hot air soldering head with fixing screws.
  • A manual in both Chinese and Engrish

For around £70 including international shipping, you get a fair bit then.

{include_content_item 45}I read the manual, which to be fair does not take very long.  Installation of this machine is simple.  Although it is fair to say that me manual could do with a little revision.  The safety instructions in particular we translated badly and gave worrying advice such as:

  1. Remove the pump securing screw (MS*10, red), Otherwise it will case big problem. There was not a single securing screw but two, neither marked with this code.  Later in the manual a sticker had been placed to amend this info.
  2. Read this manual carefully before you use this machine.  no problems there, these things are hot, I'm not taking risks.
  3. Ground must be connected for prevention of static release before use. I assume that this meant plug it in.  There is no  other obvious ground to be connected.
  4. Don't damage the piece against removal. Otherwise guaranteed service will be invalid. Got it, but an unusual turn of phrase.
  5. Don't put any other metal article near the soldering tip net.  Otherwise damage or electric shock will be caused.  Oh no, I'm worried now.  What the .... is a solder tip net?
  6. ....

Yep, I scoured the manual for mention of this solder tip net, in 10 pages of so so English, there was no other mention of it.  Eventually i thought i would just be very careful with metal articles until I got to the bottom of that one!

 

Initial Inspection

 

Onwards then, i inspected briefly the individual items.  First the Kada 852D station itself.

Frontview of Kada 825D Solder Station

As you can see the front layout is pretty simple, and easy to follow two knobs control the hot air for flow and temperature, one more controls the soldering iron.  

There are two digital displays on the unit indicating the temperature selections for the hot air and solder tip temperatures.

Two unmarked switches control the on/off for either the solder iron or hot air.

Three leds indicate that air is flowing, or that heating elements are warming up.

A 5 pin locking connector is for connection of the soldering iron.  (No sign yet of a soldering tip net!)

Turning the machine over reveals two shipping screws...

Kada 825D underside

The reason for the shipping screws is that the air pump has been mounted by soft rubber grommets to the base of the case.  This is clearly to reduce the operating noise of the pump.  I thought this might have been a noisy device, again because of the relatively low sale price.  The manufacturer has though about the product design.

I found the shipping screws easily, and it was easy to remove them.  

 

Turning the unit back over I examined the back.

The back of a Kada 825D Smt solder Station

Pretty band here, a couple of cheap basic stickers, a warranty protection sticker and a voltage marker.  Not the very best production values being displayed here.  Nothing is in line, the paint finish is basic to say the least.  Worse still is a captive mains lead.  I would have preferred a kettle lead style connector as it easier to store the unit this way.  However I have to remind myself this is budget equipment.  

The mains lead is pretty short, though not horribly so.  However one problem presents itself to me.

A non uk 3 pin plug

This of course is not a standard UK 13amp plug.  Not a huge problem you would think, but in Europe that law is that all electrical items must include a moulded 3 pin plug.  For a business premises this could be a problem.  to comply with electrical regulations devices must be PAT tested.  I'm not sure of the legalities if chopping the plug and using an older fashioned manually fitted plug.

For the hobbyist it is less of a problem.  Though finding a replacement plug is not as easy as it used to be.  Since devices have been supplied with plugs, most shops here have stopped selling them.  Problem two is that in order to test the device you are going to need an adaptor or else if there is a guarantee return, you will have altered the product!  

Fortunately I happen to have the correct adaptor (with the correct rating, look out for the cheap ones!.  After 15 minutes of frantic searching I discovered it was in use by my Roomba charging station.  Looks like the vacuuming will be done less frequently than before!

I will however change the plug over to something more permanent once I am satisfied with the machine.

 

Next I looked at the holder for the hot air gun.  This is reasonably well made. Holder for Kada852D solder station hot air gun

 The holder has mounting points on two sides which correspond with screw holes on either side of the Kada 852D Smt Solder Station.  Thus you can decide for yourself which side of the station you wish to mount the bracket to.  The instructions gave no indication of what way up the bracket was to go.  I spent a good couple of minutes trying it out to see what was most secure.  Not a very challenging task, but it could have been more clearly documented.

Kada 852D Smt Solder station hot air nozzle bracket fitted.

 

Next thing to do was to plug in the soldering iron.  Helpfully, its tip was already fitted.  though installing one is not hard, the shaft has a screw collar at the bottom which disassemble it.  Looking at the soldering iron tool itself i noticed that it was very light.  There was a small build issue present.

kada 852d solder iron lead issue

As you can see the cable strain for the soldering iron lead was not attached to the unit properly.  It took me several attempts to push fit it into place.  I don't have great confidence that it will remain attached.  i may have to invest in some contact adhesive to cure this issue once and for all.  I don't think it is a major problem.  But disappointing slightly that the manufacturer has allowed it to leave in this condition.

kada 852D solderi tip

The solder tip seems of reasonable quality, and is certainly fine enough for smt soldering.  I will invest in some other tips I think to make the machine more adaptable to other jobs.  A good tip (pardon the pun) would be to order a selection of tips from the supplier of the machines.  I recall the prices were good if you ordered with it. 

The soldering iron is very light compared to the 240v all in one house burners that I am used to.  I think that this is going to help with the precision of the soldering that I do.  The handle is reasonable narrow allowing me to hold it pencil style with little strain on my wrists.

Kada 852D Soldering Iron

The manufacturer has also included a soft rubber collar on the iron which feels comfortable and aids grip.  The locking connector to the Kada 852D solder station fits well and is easy to lock in place with a screw in collar.  There is a reasonable reach on the lead as well.

 

I looked at the stand for the soldering iron.  This is a moulded plastic affair, and is very light.  I would have preferred to have had a heavier base.

Kada 852D smt Solder Station Soldering Iron holder

The iron push fits into the base, the friction fit holding the hot tip away from the plastic. The rubber grip of the iron is soft enough that it peels back revealing a grooved collar on the iron that gives the friction fit.  I am somewhat untrusting of the fit.  I'll try it out certainly, but i am not sure that i wont go bak to my heavier metal holder.  

Another quality issue presents itself here.  Turning the holder over two things were evident.

Kada 852D soldering iron holder underside

OK a loose screw is not a major issue, but it is another indication of the cheaper build quality of the unit.  Took me all of a few seconds to rectify this.

More annoyingly, the underside has rectangles moulded there clearly for push in rubber feet.  However these were not included with the holder.  This combined with the lightness of the holder mean that it does not stay still on a smooth surface such as a work bench.  I consider this to be slightly dangerous.  I certainly will be looking to adapt this to something more secure.  probably I will make a board for soldering, with the base (if I choose to keep it) screwed to it.  In the meanwhile I will revert to my cast metal solder stand.