Friday, 12 September 2014

Hakko FX888D 110V to 220V conversion

For a while now, I have fancied a Hakko FX888D soldering station. However, for some reason they are difficult to get in 220V form and - when they can be found - are shockingly more expensive than the 110V.  There seems to be no good reason for this: the only difference between the two appears to be the mains transformer.  Inspired by a YouTube video posted by egressvk, I decided to risk $100 and order a 110V version with a view to doing my own conversion.

I already had a cheap (incredibly cheap, actually) Yihua 936 soldering station which I got from Hobby King for €14.


Dave Jones at EEVBlog reviews it in his usual entertaining style here.  Its actually not bad, especially for the price, but when you put it side-by-side with the Hakko the differences are apparent.



The Hakko is heavier and feels more robust.  The heat-resistant collar is also of much higher quality. Its not apparent from just looking at a picture, but the cable on the Hakko is made from silicone rather than PVC and is much more flexible (and longer).  The stand that comes with the Hakko is also in a completely different league to the Yihua.  But so is the price and the Yihua works perfectly well so I'm not complaining.

Anyway, despite its virtues, I resolved that the Yihua was going to make the ultimate sacrifice and become a transformer donor for the FX888D conversion.  This is where I got a very pleasant surprise: it turns out that the transformer in the Yihua is a perfect fit for the Hakko.  The transformer has the same dimensions and even the mounting holes line up perfectly with the pillars in the FX888D body.  This was shaping up to be the easiest hack of all time !

Here is the Hakko with the transformer from the Yihua already fitted (but with the secondary side not wired in yet).  The original Hakko transformer is just below for comparison




I even took the original switch+fuse+mains-cable assembly from the Yihua, slotted the switch into the switch cutout in the Hakko body and secured the mains cable into the cable clamp. One minor problem with this approach is that the back of that mains switch+fuse assembly was awfully close to the body of the transformer.  To make sure they didn't touch, I slipped a bit of blank (no copper) perfboard in between the two and hot-glued it to the plastic pillars:


This is probably a little bit dodgy, if I'm honest: I may yet go back and use the power switch and fuse assembly from the Hakko transformer.  Assuming that I'm not electrocuted first, that is.

I had a little debate with myself about the best way to connect the secondary from the new transformer to the controller board.  Strip connector?   Solder+heatshrink the wires together? In the end, I desoldered the original wires (the red ones, visible in the top right-hand corner), cleaned out the holes (the most difficult part of the entire conversion !) and soldered the outputs from the new transformer directly to the board.

When I first powered up the unit after the conversion, the temperature on the display quickly shot up to 750F (just under 400C).  It seemed to me that the iron was running hotter than this and - sure enough - when I checked with a thermocouple the tip was closer to 900F.  I could compensate for this by just reducing the setpoint and the controller would hold the temperature steady, but it was a bit of a bummer to have the displayed temperature completely wrong.  I suppose I could have a faulty unit, but it was too late to submit a warranty claim now :-).  Anyway, I came across this YouTube describing how to reset the controller to its factory defaults. Without much optimism, I followed these instructions and it worked !!  The tip temperature measured with a thermocouple now (broadly) matches the temperature shown on the controller's LED display.

I'm used to thinking in degrees Celsius/Centigrade rather than in Fahrenheit which is the out-of-the-box default on the FX888D.  Thankfully, changing the display units is easy.



(these were real "wish I had a third hand" photos to take !)

This is a fantastic result: the conversion couldn't be any neater and I couldn't buy a transformer any cheaper than I got the Yihua 936 for.  As a bonus, I will reuse the (rather nice) enclosure that the Yihua controller came in for something else.

UPDATE January 2015:  I have been using this soldering iron regularly now for a few months and I couldn't be happier with it.  It is quick to heat up, holds its temperature rock-steady and it is comfortable to use.

5 comments:

  1. just did it. Easy to follow instructions. Works like a charm. The last photo is exactly the same, down to the multimeter. haha

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  2. Sadly, I just pluged my new 888D in only to see the smoke come out as it just arrived this morning from US and I forgot to check is 220 or 110 so I need this solution, to fix it, are you able to share some better photos of the cables layout ?

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    Replies
    1. I'm sorry to hear that - its never nice when the "magic smoke" is released. I still have it and use it all the time, so I'd he happy to crack it open and take some more pictures for your if it would help. What do you need ?

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    2. No you do not need this solution to fix it. This only gives you the right voltage, does not undo the damage you've done by running the circuit board at double the expected voltage.

      There is no need to see pics of the cable layout. You merely have one pair of primary wires for mains AC input, and two secondaries for output, one being the ~ 24V powering the iron which goes to the same spot on the PCB that it did with the old transformer, and the other being the logic subcircuit power at closer to 10V.

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  3. While I am glad you are happy with your result, you've done a bit of a downgrade. The FX-888D is a 70W iron and you've put a mere EI6628 (25VA) transformer in it. That's one of the dirty secrets about the 936 clones, that the cheaper versions are nowhere near their claimed wattage.

    If you pick a higher numbered generic donor station like a 939D then you're getting a 50W transformer instead.

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