Challenges can make the world a better place. Whether it’s putting a man on the moon or breaking the 4-minute mile, challenges lead to innovation. Innovation, in turn, can result in advanced technologies, a better business, and possibly a better bottom line. As technology continues to evolve, The SMT manufacturing industry is faced with new challenges every day. One such challenge stems from the increased use of jet printing solder paste in the SMT manufacturing process. Jet printing is becoming an industry standard due to its ability to meet a new era of production challenges. However, effectively cleaning jet printing solder paste residues post-soldering presents its own set of challenges.
Within the SMT manufacturing process, stencil printing is one of the most critical steps for depositing solder pastes. With that being said, stencil printing is regarded as a source of approx. 70% of soldering error (i.e., bridges, insufficient and opens).
As PCB designs become more complex, limitations and difficulties of the stencil printing process have been realized. This is largely due to the boards being populated with an increasing number of very small components populated around very large components occupying a limited piece of real estate. Additionally, with stencil printing comes the need for stencils and underside wipe materials.
Jet printing is gaining popularity because it provides high throughput with precision, offers a contactless and accurate depositing of the solder for specific components, and can eliminate the need for stencils and underside wiping materials. Moreover, you can continue using the same CAD or Gerber file data that is used by pick-and-place machines. Lately, more companies are starting to use it as an add-on tool complementing the screen-printing process.
Typically, jet printing uses type 5 and type 6 solder pastes which contain finer solder powder. The metal content of these pastes is reduced, and the flux activity levels are increased to minimize the oxidation process. These factors make cleaning jet-printed solder paste more difficult than traditional screen-printed solder paste.
Effectively cleaning jet printing solder paste means choosing the right combination of cleaning agent and machine cleaning process (either inline or batch cleaners) to ensure the reliability of jet printed designs. There is evidence that an optimized cleaning process for a traditional screen-printing paste type may not produce the same results if an equivalent jettable solder paste is used instead.
As manufacturers in today’s production environment continue to overcome challenges of all kinds, the challenge of effectively cleaning jet printing solder paste remains. The good news is that with the right cleaning chemistry and fine-tuned cleaning process, that challenge can be met.
For more information and to take part in an in-depth discussion on this topic, please join ZESTRON Academy on November 15th at 11:00 am EDT for a FREE webinar entitled Jet Printing Solder Paste and Cleaning Challenges.