Using the right tool for the job is important, or as the saying goes, “if you've got a screw, don't hit it with a hammer". The right tools lead to a more efficient process, a safer experience and will ultimately produce a superior result. This has never been truer than in the world of SMT electronics cleaning. Using the right engineered IPA alternatives in your manufacturing process can be pivotal in reaching the outcomes you desire.
For many years, Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) has been used in various cleaning applications throughout the SMT production process. Be it table-top defluxing of printed circuit boards, underside wipe and stencil, or maintenance cleaning, IPA has had its place.
Perhaps we should be asking ourselves if we are getting the best results possible? IPA was not specifically designed for cleaning applications within the PCB assembly process. IPA, by its very nature, poses challenges and risks with its use. Those challenges include high product loss due to evaporation (IPA is 100% Volatile Organic Compounds) and incomplete and ineffective cleaning. For example, when used in print underside wipe applications, IPA impacts solder paste thixotropy causing it to slump, bridge and ball. The extremely low flash point actually makes it a hazardous material that can be ignited under almost any ambient temperature condition.
The best cleaning results can be achieved with engineered water or solvent-based IPA alternatives. Depending on your application, an engineered IPA alternative can increase cleaning effectiveness and line efficiency, while decreasing evaporative losses and process downtime.
From a usability standpoint, using engineered chemistry can oftentimes provide a safer work environment.
Handling and storage of chemicals engineered as IPA alternatives are safer than IPA and their use minimizes the environmental impact because of lower VOC content. If you’re trying to reach your ISO 14001 goals, your environmental footprint is certainly on your mind.
Always make sure you’re working with the right tools. Utilizing engineered cleaning chemistry as an alternative to IPA in your manufacturing process will result in your production line being more efficient, decreases in risk and will allow your company to be more successful.
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