kair.us/ projects/ weller_driver/

Weller WMRP and WMRT compatible soldering station

WMRP and WMRT compatible soldering station

This driver can be used with Weller tips which have integrated heater element and temperature sensor. More precisely, tips from RT series used with WMRP handle (soldering pen) and RTW series used with  WMRT handle (desoldering tweezers) can be used. Hardware is kept as simple and cheap as possible while still trying to give special attention to usability and accuracy. Main inspiration for this project was the usability (or lack of) the original Weller WD1M and WD2M solder stations. Hardware-wise they are true to Weller quality and engineering, but the UI experience could be better. Factory default setting to cut power from tip immediately when placed in stand - and impossible to change the behavior without manual! Well, someone else might think the same from UI in my Weller driver, but at least I'm happy to use it.

You can use this soldering station with genuine Weller WMRP and WMRT handles. But you can also build your own:
For a demonstration video of the station in action and overview of the various functions click here. For some reason the captions have disappeared from the youtube video, so the functions are not so clear anymote.

I have also gathered a gallery of Weller stations that other people have built. See here.

Features

Hardware

The hardware is based on PIC16F1788, fairly cheap PIC with good analog peripherals. The circuit is kept as simple as possible, while trying to provide optimum performance. The schematic is available in PDF below.
weller_driver_v11_circuit_diagram.pdf

Layout

Weller driver version 1.1 eagleUp
      render
The layout is designed with Cadsoft EAGLE 5.12.0. Two-sided board, designed to fit in cheap but nice-looking aluminum enclosure from eBay. Eagle files available below:
weller_driver_hw_v1.zip    (Version 1, Dec 22, 2015)
weller_driver_hw_v11.zip    (Version 1.1, Feb 4, 2018) Added PICkit2/3 pin header to make more DIY-friendly
Assembly drawing including bill of materials:
weller_driver_v1_assy_dwg.pdf
weller_driver_v11_assy_dwg.pdf (Version 1.1. Nov 3, 2018) Includes shared cart links for Mouser, TME and Digi-Key.
IDF exported from Eagle and STEP converted with Solid Works. May be helpful if you are designing an enclosure:
weller_driver_v1_idf_and_step.zip

You can order 10 pcs of these boards from PCBWay using this link. Price for 10 pcs and postage is approx. 14$.
If you haven't yet registered to PCBWay, you can register via this link and get some free initial credit (and also earn me some credit as well). Alternatively you can also grab the Gerber files package from here and order the boards from you favorite board house. 

Firmware

Currently the FW consumes about one third of total available in PIC16F1788. It means that it also fits to a PIC16F1786. Packages below contain source code and compiled .hex file. From version v0.910 onwards, there are also compiled .hex files for PIC16F1786 and common cathode type displays.
 
weller_driver_fw_v05.zip (Version 0.5, Dec 27, 2015. Compiled with CCS compiler v5.048)
weller_driver_fw_v08.zip (Version 0.8, Feb 5, 2017. Compiled with CCS compiler v5.054) This includes mains frequency filtering and reduced WMRT buzz.
weller_driver_fw_v901.zip (Version 0.901, Jul 28, 2017. Compiled with CCS compiler v5.054) This includes fix for parameters being out of range after programming the PIC.
weller_driver_fw_v910.zip (Version 0.91, Nov 1, 2018. Compiled with CCS v5.081) Calibrated temperature lookup table for better accuracy. Adds duty cycle limiting and setback/standby based on duty cycle.

Usage

The youtube video used to have captions to describe the meaning of all the menu settings. However, the captions have disappeared for unknown reason. I've now gathered operating instructions here. You can also refer to the menu state diagram further below to help navigation in the menus.

Basic operation

The basic usage of the soldering station is very simple. When you power it up, it heats up to previously used temperature. You can change the temperature by rotating the knob. The station can be put to standby by pressing the knob.

There is setback mode as in original Weller station. It means that temperature is reduced to a lower value to preserve tip life if the station is not used for a while. There is a reed switch on the handle and a magnet in the stand. When the iron is on the stand for a predefined time, it goes to reduced setback temperature. You can revert back to normal operating temperature by taking the iron from stand or pressing the knob.

If the station is unused for a longer period, it goes into standby mode. In standby mode the heating is completely off. Normal operation can be resumed by taking the iron from the stand or pressing the knob.

Setup parameters

Basic setup parameters can be adjusted in setup menu. These parameters have all similar function as the genuine Weller setup parameters. You can enter the setup menu by a long press of the knob, approximately one second.

'bAcc' or Back exits the setup menu and resumes normal operation
'SEtb' or Setback allows to set the setback temperature. Default value is 250C.
'dELA' or Delay sets the setback time delay in minutes. You can also set the delay to zero, then the iron goes immediately to standby when put to stand. You can also disable the setback feature by turning the delay setting to maximum 'oFF'. Default value is 5 minutes.
'PoFF' or Power off delay sets power off delay in minutes. Also this setting can be set to zero or off. However it is not recommended to set to zero because repeated cooling down and heating up just puts more stress to the heating element. Default value is 30 minutes.
'oFSE' or Offset allows to fine tune the iron temperature. If you have a soldering iron temperature meter or the Weller calibration tip, you can correct the temperature offset here. If you don't have any means to measure actual iron temperature, leave this setting to the default value of 0C.
'Unit' sets temperature display unit, either Celsius or Fahrenheit. Default is Celsius.
'StEP' sets temperature adjustment step size. It can be set to 1C or 5C. When in Fahrenheit, the coarse step is 9C.
'diAG' or Diagnostics enters the diagnostics and advanced settings menu level

Diagnostics and advanced settings

The diagnostics and advanced settings menu contains diagnostics information which can be helpful in debugging your newly built soldering station. It also contains some advanced settings which are not available in genuine Weller stations.

'bAcc' exits the diagnostics menu and returns to setup menu
'coLd' shows the cold point compensation temperature. This is the temperature measured from inside the iron handle, close to the 3.5 mm jack. This temperature should be close to room temperature if you have just the handle connected without the tip (and handle is otherwise cool, that is, not used for some time). This temperature will rise during normal use, maybe up to 50C, depending on handle type, target tip temperature and ambient temperature. If the temperature sensor is not connected (e.g. 'poor' mode is enabled), the cold point temperature defaults to 30C.
'rEF' allows to fine tune the PIC16F1788 internal voltage reference. The internal reference can have initial tolerance of up to 5%, although I haven't ever seen nowhere near that big errors. When you enter this menu setting, the reference voltage is constantly on. You can use a multimeter to measure the reference voltage from the test point on the Weller driver PCB. Then enter the measured voltage to this menu setting. The temperature calculations will then take the reference error into account. Note that the reference voltage is available on the test point only when this menu setting is active.
'tyPE' shows the connected tip type which the Weller driver has identified. Shows 'WMrP' for the soldering pen, 'WMrt' for the soldering tweezers and 'nc' if nothing is connected. The tip type is recognized based on the size of resistor in parallel with the reed switch inside the handle. If the iron is on stand when powering up, the resistance can't be measured because the reed switch is shorting the resistor. In this case, the tip type is recognized by briefly pulsing current to heater 2, and tip type is recognized based on the response.
'tc 1' and 'tc 2' show unfiltered thermocouple temperatures. Thermocouple 1 is the WMRP thermocouple or WMRT right tweezer temperature. Thermocouple 2 is the WMRT left tweezer temperature.
'dc 1' and 'dc 2' show duty cycles of heating elements. Duty cycle 1 means again WMRP or WMRT right tweezer heater duty cycle. Duty cycle 2 is WMRT left tweezer.
'idLE' allows to set a duty cycle value below which is considered as 'idle'. This is an alternative way of detecting that the iron is not used. You can use this e.g. if you don't have the magnet on stand or the reed switch on the handle. If the duty cycle is below the value set here for duration of setback delay, it goes to setback temperature. It also further goes into standby if the duty cycle still stays below this setting for the duration of power off delay. The station will also revert back to normal temperature from the setback temperature if the duty cycle increases higher than this setting. However, if the setback temperature is very low, it might not be possible to get high enough duty cycle for resuming. Also from standby you need to return to normal operation by pressing the knob, since there the duty cycle will always be 0 because heater is off. You can look at typical duty cycles in 'dc 1' menu during soldering and inactivity to help selecting a suitable setting here. If the components you are soldering are very small, this method probably doesn't work since the duty cycle is small all the time. You can set this setting to 0 or 'oFF' to disable this feature, which is the default setting.
'dCLi' sets a maximum duty cycle for the heaters. Setting a higher value gives you faster heat-up time and more heating power, but downside is reduced heating element life. A smaller value might increase the heater element life but heating is slower and soldering of large parts becomes more difficult. The default duty cycle is 58% for 50 Hz mains setting and 50% for 60 Hz mains setting. When the supply voltage to Weller driver is 12.0 V, the 58% duty cycle gives very similar heat-up speed as the genuine Weller WD1M, WD2M and WR3M stations. It is highly recommended to leave this setting to default value. However, if you need more power to solder something big and heavy, you can briefly increase this setting at your own risk.
'Poor' allows to enable or disable 'poor mode'. This mode allows to use a poor mans handle, i.e. just the 3,5 mm stereo jack. When enabled, the station assumes that a WMRP is always connected, reed switch is closed and cold point temperature is 30C. Despite the name of this mode, it actually works really well and is completely adequate for hobby users. See more info from Q&A section on how to connect the 3,5 mm stereo jack in this mode. The default setting is poor mode off.
'FrEq' sets the mains power frequency. Set this to either 50 Hz or 60 Hz, whichever is used in your country. This setting affects the temperature measurement timing and filtering. I have noticed that mains frequency noise coupling to iron cable is the most common cause for unstable temperature readings from the tip. The thermocouple produces a tiny, millivolt level voltage which can be easily ruined by noise coupled to signal. The mains frequency can be very effectively eliminated by sampling the temperature at twice the mains frequency, and averaging two consecutive measurements. It doesn't matter that the sampling is not actually synced to mains frequency, as the two measurements will cancel out the error, assuming that it has sinusoidal or otherwise symmetric shape (which it usually has). Default setting is 50 Hz.
'vErS' shows the firmware version.

Menu state diagram

Weller soldering station menu
      state diagram


The build

I've built the soldering station in a full aluminum enclosure from eBay (search for '0905 aluminum enclosure' or click here, should cost around 14 including shipping).
The photo below shows inside of the station. I am using a 10 amp power supply, since I originally planned to put two controllers in one station. 120 W would be enough to operate one WMRP and one WMRT simultaneously. I recommend to get a smaller PSU since this 10 A supply is very tight fit in the enclosure. 7 amps should be enough, or 4 amps if you are only going to use WMRP. You can (and should!) of course use an external power supply to avoid mains connections in the enclosure. It will reduce the risk of an electric shock significantly.

The photo below still has connector piece from a Weller WDH10T stand connected to the driver PCB (the black plastic thing behind the case).

WMRP WMRT soldering station inside

The front panel of the enclosure is 6 mm thick aluminum, so some machining was required to accommodate the rotary encoder and display. If you use smaller PSU and encoder with longer shaft, the build is a tad easier. For the encoder, I really recommend using an Alps brand encoder! Models from Bourns and TT Electronics are also available which are directly compatible, but the quality of Alps is superior. You can use e.g. Alps EC12E2424407 part number 1520813 from Farnell or part number STEC12E08 from Reichelt. The photo below also shows the display lens I used, a piece of smoke tinted Lexan. The BOM specifies a Lite-On LTC-4627JR display, but you can also use Youngsun ATA3492BR-1 display which you can get from Sparkfun and also from Hobbytronics. A third alternative is Vishay TDCR1050M, available from TME.

WMRP WMRT soldering station front panel machined

Below is rear view photo of the station. The mains connector comes with the enclosure, but hole for iron connector must of course be made. The connector is a modified Amphenol T 3437 000 connector, see this link for instructions in German (thanks for this tip from FlyGlas Solder Station build page!). It is available e.g. from Farnell, part number 1123523.

WMRP WMRT soldering station rear

Temperature accuracy and stability

The thermocouple inside the WMRT and WMRP tips seems to be quite close to D-type thermocouple. On firmware versions up to 0.901 I was using lookup table based on D-type thermocouple. On newer firmwares the lookup table is calibrated using Weller K1101 calibration tip. Calibrated TC voltage vs. temperature is shown in graph below. You can download the data in excel format from here.

Weller WMRP and WMRT tip thermocouple
      voltage vs temperature graph
I have also made temperature stability measurements to see how well the cold point compensation works. In graph below there are three measurements. The blue curve is measured with genuine Weller WMRP handle. Red one is with DIY handle v1 by Rens. Based on this measurement, Rens made a change to the handle PCB to move the PTC as close as the 3.5 mm connector as possible. The result is shown in yellow curve which is measured with DIY handle v2. The stability is now excellent, and identical with genuine Weller handle. The temperature values are again measured with Weller K1101 calibration tip. First data point is taken immediately when the tip has heated up. Then data is taken once a minute.

DIY Weller WMRP soldering station temperature
      stability graph

You might be wondering why the DIY handle v1 has so much offset from the beginning compared to the other two. The answer can be seen from the cold point temperature data, which was also recorded, see graph below. Before each measurement, the setup was switched off for one hour to cool down. The cold point temperature was thus at room temperature before the heater was turned on. We can see that the cold point temperature rise 15 degrees in just 10 seconds with DIY handle v2. The genuine Weller handle is made of aluminum and has good thermal contact between tip and handle, which probably causes the different behavior. Despite the different behavior, the cold point compensation seems to work perfectly as the actual tip temperature is correct and stable. On DIY handle v1 the PTC is too far from the connector and doesn't follow the connector temperature properly, therefore the tip temperature in above graph has the offset.

DIY Weller WMRP soldering station
      cold point temperature with various handle types

Other similar projects

Here are some other similar projects or products

Frequently asked questions

Q: How to connect WMRP / RT tip with 3,5 mm stereo jack?
A: See WMRP pinout from here. Connect sleeve to 'GND'. Connect ring to 'TC1'. Connect tip to 'HT1'. Use FW v0.6 or newer, enable 'poor' mode from diag menu.

Q: The WMRT tip makes noise! Is this normal?
A: It seems that the heating elements of WMRT make noise when power is switched on or off rapidly. Earlier firmware versions used to periodically pulse current to heating element 2 to recognize tip type. This caused constant buzz with WMRT even when in standby. FW 0.6 and newer recognizes tip type from resistor in parallel with reed switch so the noise is reduced. Original Weller stations drive heating elements using AC and zero point switching. So the current to tip rises and falls slowly, that's why they don't make noise.

Q: The temperature reading is not stable like in the Youtube video, it flickers like there's noise in temperature readout. Why's that?
A: Most likely some external disturbance is coupled to the iron cable. The output of the thermocouple is only some millivolts so it is quite sensitive. WMRT is more sensitive because it has 2k resistor in series with thermocouple while WMRP has 1k. Especially mains frequency seems to couple to the thermocouple line. Starting from firmware v0.6 there is special filtering against mains frequency noise. Temperature measurements are done at double the mains frequency interval, and two consecutive measurements are averaged. This effectively cancels any mains frequency noise. The diagnostics menu has a setting to select between 50 Hz and 60 Hz mains frequency, be sure to set it correctly. Another thing which may help is to connect the ground of the soldering station to mains ground. The noise might also originate from your power supply, so you can try to add capacitors at Weller driver supply voltage input or try different type of power supply.

Q: How can I program the PIC? There is nothing on the PCB to connect the programmer!
A: See this page for more information on how to program the PIC in my projects.

Q: I have read and understood the PIC programming instructions but I still can't program it. The programmer doesn't find the PIC!
A: The ICSP lines on this board are shared with the rotary encoder. On some encoders, the encoder can keep the one of the programming lines pulled down even when it is at detent position, where both switches should be open. Try to rotate the encoder to such position that neither PGD nor PGC are pulled to GND.

Q: I can only adjust the reference to one direction! Some of the parameters show '-1' or other erroneous or garbage values!
A: These kind of issues seem to happen if the PIC is programmed with MPLAB IPE. By default, the MPLAB IPE doesn't seem to erase or program the data EEPROM. These kind of problems are fixed in firmware v0.9 and newer. All the parameters are checked at startup and if any of those are outside of valid range, all parameters are set to default values.

Q: Can I use the (rare) 24V version of the WMRP tip or WMRT tweezers with this station?
A: Yes, it is possible. The voltage regulator IC3 needs to withstand 24V. You should use e.g. UA78M05CDCYR type given in BOM as alternative type. This has been tested to work.

kair.us/ projects/ weller_driver/

page created 23.12.2015
last updated 8.9.2020 webmaster@kair.us