Wave soldering

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Selective soldering machine Ecoselect 2 E E.JPG
Selective soldering machine
Temperature and time graph showing wave soldering solder pot and topside tempertures Wave soldering thermal profile.png
Temperature and time graph showing wave soldering solder pot and topside tempertures

Wave soldering is a bulk soldering process used in the manufacture of printed circuit boards. The circuit board is passed over a pan of molten solder in which a pump produces an upwelling of solder that looks like a standing wave. As the circuit board makes contact with this wave, the components become soldered to the board. Wave soldering is used for both through-hole printed circuit assemblies, and surface mount. In the latter case, the components are glued onto the surface of a printed circuit board (PCB) by placement equipment, before being run through the molten solder wave. Wave soldering is mainly used in soldering of through hole components.

Through-hole technology mounting scheme used for electronic components that involves the use of leads on the components that are inserted into holes drilled in printed circuit boards and soldered to pads on the opposite side manually or by automated insertion mount machines

Through-hole technology, refers to the mounting scheme used for electronic components that involves the use of leads on the components that are inserted into holes drilled in printed circuit boards (PCB) and soldered to pads on the opposite side either by manual assembly or by the use of automated insertion mount machines.

Surface-mount technology method for producing electronic circuits

Surface-mount technology (SMT) is a method for producing electronic circuits in which the components are mounted or placed directly onto the surface of printed circuit boards (PCBs). An electronic device so made is called a surface-mount device (SMD). In industry, it has largely replaced the through-hole technology construction method of fitting components with wire leads into holes in the circuit board. Both technologies can be used on the same board, with the through-hole technology used for components not suitable for surface mounting such as large transformers and heat-sinked power semiconductors.

SMT placement equipment

SMT component placement systems, commonly called pick-and-place machines or P&Ps, are robotic machines which are used to place surface-mount devices (SMDs) onto a printed circuit board (PCB). They are used for high speed, high precision placing of broad range of electronic components, like capacitors, resistors, integrated circuits onto the PCBs which are in turn used in computers, consumer electronics as well as industrial, medical, automotive, military and telecommunications equipment. Similar equipment exists for through hole components. This type of equipment is sometimes also used to package microchips using the flip chip method.

Contents

As through-hole components have been largely replaced by surface mount components, wave soldering has been supplanted by reflow soldering methods in many large-scale electronics applications. However, there is still significant wave soldering where surface-mount technology (SMT) is not suitable (e.g., large power devices and high pin count connectors), or where simple through-hole technology prevails (certain major appliances).

Reflow soldering

Reflow soldering is a process in which a solder paste is used to temporarily attach one or thousands of tiny electrical components to their contact pads, after which the entire assembly is subjected to controlled heat. The solder paste reflows in a molten state, creating permanent solder joints. Heating may be accomplished by passing the assembly through a reflow oven or under an infrared lamp or by soldering individual joints [unconventionally] with a desoldering hot air pencil.

A major appliance, or domestic appliance, is a large machine in home appliance used for routine housekeeping tasks such as cooking, washing laundry, or food preservation. An appliance is different from a plumbing fixture because it uses electricity or fuel.

Wave solder process

A simple wave soldering machine. Wavesolderingmachine.jpg
A simple wave soldering machine.

There are many types of wave solder machines; however, the basic components and principles of these machines are the same. The basic equipment used during the process is a conveyor that moves the PCB through the different zones, a pan of solder used in the soldering process, a pump that produces the actual wave, the sprayer for the flux and the preheating pad. The solder is usually a mixture of metals. A typical leaded solder has the chemical makeup of 50% tin, 49.5% lead, and 0.5% antimony. [1] The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (ROHS) has led to the elimination of leaded solder in modern manufacturing however, and lead-free alternatives are used. Both tin-silver-copper and tin-copper-nickel alloys are commonly used, with one common alloy (SN100C) being 99.25% tin, 0.7% copper, 0.05% nickel and <0.01% germanium. [2]

Wave solder optimizer fixture example showing sensors Wave solder optimizer.png
Wave solder optimizer fixture example showing sensors

Fluxing

Flux in the wave soldering process has a primary and a secondary objective. The primary objective is to clean the components that are to be soldered, principally any oxide layers that may have formed. [3] There are two types of flux, corrosive and noncorrosive. Noncorrosive flux requires precleaning and is used when low acidity is required. Corrosive flux is quick and requires little precleaning, but has a higher acidity. [4]

Flux (metallurgy) type of chemicals used in metallurgy

In metallurgy, a flux is a chemical cleaning agent, flowing agent, or purifying agent. Fluxes may have more than one function at a time. They are used in both extractive metallurgy and metal joining.

Preheating

Preheating helps to accelerate the soldering process and to prevent thermal shock. [5]

Thermal shock occurs when a thermal gradient causes different parts of an object to expand by different amounts. This differential expansion can be understood in terms of stress or of strain, equivalently. At some point, this stress can exceed the strength of the material, causing a crack to form. If nothing stops this crack from propagating through the material, it will cause the object's structure to fail.

Cleaning

Some types of flux, called "no-clean" fluxes, do not require cleaning; their residues are benign after the soldering process. [6] Typically no-clean fluxes are especially sensitive to process conditions, which may make them undesirable in some applications. [6] Other kinds of flux, however, require a cleaning stage, in which the PCB is washed with solvents and/or deionized water to remove flux residue.

Solvent substance that dissolves a solute (a chemically different liquid, solid or gas), resulting in a solution

A solvent is a substance that dissolves a solute, resulting in a solution. A solvent is usually a liquid but can also be a solid, a gas, or a supercritical fluid. The quantity of solute that can dissolve in a specific volume of solvent varies with temperature. Common uses for organic solvents are in dry cleaning, as paint thinners, as nail polish removers and glue solvents, in spot removers, in detergents and in perfumes (ethanol). Water is a solvent for polar molecules and the most common solvent used by living things; all the ions and proteins in a cell are dissolved in water within a cell. Solvents find various applications in chemical, pharmaceutical, oil, and gas industries, including in chemical syntheses and purification processes.

Finish and quality

Quality depends on proper temperatures when heating and on properly treated surfaces.

DefectPossible causesEffects
CracksMechanical StressLoss of Conductivity
CavitiesContaminated surface

Lack of flux
Insufficient preheating

Reduction in strength

Poor conductivity

Wrong solder thicknessWrong solder temperature

Wrong conveyor speed

Susceptible to stress

Too thin for current load
Undesired bridging between paths

Poor ConductorContaminated solderProduct Failures

Solder types

Different combinations of tin, lead and other metals are used to create solder. The combinations used depend on the desired properties. The most popular combinations are SAC (Tin(Sn)/Silver(Ag)/Copper(Cu)) alloys and Sn63Pb37 (Sn63A) which is 63% tin, 37% lead. The latter combination is strong, has a low melting range, and melts and sets quickly. Higher tin compositions give the solder higher corrosion resistances, but raise the melting point. Another common composition is 11% tin, 37% lead, 42% bismuth, and 10% cadmium. This combination has a low melting point and is useful for soldering components that are sensitive to heat. Environmental and performance requirements also factor into alloy selection. Common restrictions include restrictions on lead (Pb) when RoHS compliance is required and restrictions on pure tin (Sn) when long term reliability is a concern. [7] [8]

Effects of cooling rate

It is important that the PCBs be allowed to cool at a reasonable rate. If they are cooled too fast, then the PCB can become warped and the solder can be compromised. On the other hand, if the PCB is allowed to cool too slowly, then the PCB can become brittle and some components may be damaged by heat. The PCB should be cooled by either a fine water spray or air cooled to decrease the amount of damage to the board. [9]

Thermal profiling

Thermal profiling is the act of measuring several points on a circuit board to determine the thermal excursion it takes through the soldering process. In the electronics manufacturing industry, SPC (Statistical Process Control) helps determine if the process is in control, measured against the reflow parameters defined by the soldering technologies and component requirements. [10] Products like the Solderstar WaveShuttle and the Optiminer have been developed special fixtures which are passed through the process and can measure the temperature profile, along with contact times, wave parallelism and wave heights. These fixture combined with analysis software allows the production engineer to establish and then control the wave solder process. [11]

An example fixture used for capturing process data from the wave soldering machine Wave solder optimizer fixture.png
An example fixture used for capturing process data from the wave soldering machine

Solder Wave Height

The height of the solder wave is a key parameter that needs to be evaluated when setting up the wave solder process. [12] The contact time between the solder wave and assembly being soldered is typically set to between 2 and 4 seconds. This contact time is controlled by two parameters on the machine, conveyor speed and wave height, changes to either of these parameters will result in a change in contact time. The wave height is typically controlled by increasing or decreasing the pump speed on the machine. Changes can be evaluated and checked using a tempered glass plate, if more detailed recording are required fixture are available which digitally record the contact times, height and speed.

Contact times and shape of wave solder on underside of PCB Wave solder contact area display.jpg
Contact times and shape of wave solder on underside of PCB

See also

Related Research Articles

Soldering iron

A soldering iron is a hand tool used in soldering. It supplies heat to melt solder so that it can flow into the joint between two workpieces.

Solder metal alloy used to join together metal pieces with higher melting points

Solder is a fusible metal alloy used to create a permanent bond between metal workpieces. The word solder comes from the Middle English word soudur, via Old French solduree and soulder, from the Latin solidare, meaning "to make solid". In fact, solder must first be melted in order to adhere to and connect the pieces together after cooling, which requires that an alloy suitable for use as solder have a lower melting point than the pieces being joined. The solder should also be resistant to oxidative and corrosive effects that would degrade the joint over time. Solder used in making electrical connections also needs to have favorable electrical characteristics.

Printed circuit board board to support and connect electronic components

A printed circuit board (PCB) mechanically supports and electrically connects electronic components or electrical components using conductive tracks, pads and other features etched from one or more sheet layers of copper laminated onto and/or between sheet layers of a non-conductive substrate. Components are generally soldered onto the PCB to both electrically connect and mechanically fasten them to it.

A reflow oven is a machine used primarily for reflow soldering of surface mount electronic components to printed circuit boards (PCB).

Gold plating

Gold plating is a method of depositing a thin layer of gold onto the surface of another metal, most often copper or silver, by chemical or electrochemical plating. This article covers plating methods used in the modern electronics industry; for more traditional methods, often used for much larger objects, see gilding.

Rework (electronics) term for the refinishing operation or repair of an electronic printed circuit board (PCB) assembly

Rework is the term for the refinishing operation or repair of an electronic printed circuit board (PCB) assembly, usually involving desoldering and re-soldering of surface-mounted electronic components (SMD). Mass processing techniques are not applicable to single device repair or replacement, and specialized manual techniques by expert personnel using appropriate equipment are required to replace defective components; area array packages such as ball grid array (BGA) devices particularly require expertise and appropriate tools. A hot air gun or hot air station is used to heat devices and melt solder, and specialised tools are used to pick up and position often tiny components.

Solder paste is a material used in the manufacture of printed circuit boards to connect surface mount components to pads on the board. It is also possible to solder through hole pin in paste components by printing solder paste in/over the holes. The paste initially adheres components in place by being sticky, it is then heated melting the paste and forming a mechanical bond as well as an electrical connection. The paste is applied to the board by jet printing, stencil printing or syringe and then the components are put in place by a pick-and-place machine or by hand.

Selective soldering

Selective soldering is the process of selectively soldering components to printed circuit boards and molded modules that could be damaged by the heat of a reflow oven or wave soldering in a traditional surface-mount technology (SMT) or Through-hole technology assembly processes.This usually follows an SMT oven reflow process; parts to be selectively soldered are usually surrounded by parts that have been previously soldered in a surface-mount reflow process, and the selective-solder process must be sufficiently precise to avoid damaging them.

Automated optical inspection (AOI) is an automated visual inspection of printed circuit board (PCB) manufacture where a camera autonomously scans the device under test for both catastrophic failure and quality defects. It is commonly used in the manufacturing process because it is a non-contact test method. It is implemented at many stages through the manufacturing process including bare board inspection, solder paste inspection (SPI), pre-reflow and post-reflow as well as other stages.

HASL or hot air solder leveling is a type of finish used on printed circuit boards (PCBs).

Dip soldering

Dip soldering is a small-scale soldering process by which electronic components are soldered to a printed circuit board (PCB) to form an electronic assembly. The solder wets to the exposed metallic areas of the board, creating a reliable mechanical and electrical connection.

Bead probe technology

Bead probe technology (BPT) is technique used to provide electrical access to printed circuit board (PCB) circuitry for performing in-circuit testing (ICT). It makes use of small beads of solder placed onto the board's traces to allow measuring and controlling of the signals using a test probe. This permits test access to boards on which standard ICT test pads are not feasible due to space constraints.

Thermal profiling

A thermal profile is a complex set of time-temperature data typically associated with the measurement of thermal temperatures in an oven. The thermal profile is often measured along a variety of dimensions such as slope, soak, time above liquidus (TAL), and peak.

The Occam process is a solder-free, Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS)-compliant method for use in the manufacturing of electronic circuit boards developed by Verdant Electronics. It combines the usual two steps of the construction of printed circuit boards (PCBs) followed by the population process of placing various leaded and non-leaded electronic components into one process.

Soldering process of joining metal pieces with heated filler metal

Soldering is a process in which two or more items are joined together by melting and putting a filler metal (solder) into the joint, the filler metal having a lower melting point than the adjoining metal. Unlike welding, soldering does not involve melting the work pieces. In brazing, the filler metal melts at a higher temperature, but the work piece metal does not melt. In the past, nearly all solders contained lead, but environmental and health concerns have increasingly dictated use of lead-free alloys for electronics and plumbing purposes.

Tin-silver-copper, is a lead-free (Pb-free) alloy commonly used for electronic solder. The tin-silver-copper alloy has been the prevailing alloy system used to replace tin-lead because it is near eutectic, with adequate thermal fatigue properties, strength, and wettability. Lead-free solder is gaining much attention as the environmental effects of lead in industrial products is recognized, and as a result of Europe’s RoHS legislation to remove lead and other hazardous materials from electronics. Japanese electronics companies have also looked at Pb-free solder for its industrial advantages.

Stencil printing is the process of depositing solder paste on the printed wiring boards (PWBs) to establish electrical connections. It is immediately followed by the component placement stage. The equipment and materials used in this stage are stencil, solder paste, and a printer.

References

  1. Robert H. Todd, Dell K. Allen, Leo Alting (1994). Manufacturing Processes Reference Guide. p. 393.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  2. "SN100C Solder" (PDF).
  3. http://www.ipctraining.org/dvd/47c/script.pdf
  4. Todd p. 396
  5. Michael Pecht (1993). Soldering Processes and Equipment. p. 56.
  6. 1 2 Giles Humpston, David M. Jacobson (2004). Principles of Soldering. p. 118.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  7. Todd p. 395
  8. http://www.aimsolder.com/sites/default/files/soldering_handbook_rev_10-13.pdf
  9. Todd, Robert H.; Allen, Dell K.(1994). Manufacturing Processes Reference Guide. New York: Industrial Press Inc.
  10. http://www.ipc.org/TOC/IPC-7530.pdf
  11. https://www.solderstar.com/en/solderstar-solutions/solutions-waveselective/waveshuttle-pro/
  12. https://www.solderstar.com/files/2315/5146/5715/Importance_of_wave_solder_height_in_wave_soldering.pdf

Further reading