Soldering Tips

Advances in Solder Paste Technology--What You Need to Know Before You Make the SwitchesSwitching solder paste when you’re getting the yields you want may sound like throwing out the solder paste with the circuit board, but listen again. Advances in paste technology necessitate continual evaluation. Whether you need to tackle lead-free, head-and-pillow or another reflow issue, the surge in materials coming to market warrants an intermittent process to evaluate and qualify these new solder pastes.

But, what is an appropriate level of testing considering time and budgetary constraints? World-class suppliers perform rigorous laboratory testing. These tests, performed by reputable organizations, are solid. Is there any merit in replicating them? Generally speaking, no.

Today, it’s more commonly accepted to buy into the test results that are done by the paste manufacturer lab. However, you may want to consider conducting your own performance tests or process tests. These are tests that evaluate how each new paste performs during your specific process. They make look at printability, shelf life, tack and more.

Then, consider doing a design of experiments (DOE) such as the 27-board challenge developed by Cookson Electronics. It’s an economical and practical test that examines several parameters with a small sample size.

Keeping apprised of new developments in technology helps to ensure you are always operating at peak performance, so making any number of switches will always sound like music to your ears.

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What is SmartHeatEver wonder why conventional soldering irons rely on constant power and variable tip temps and not the other way around? As your tip temperature rises to accommodate bigger joints so does your risk of overheating and damage.

Not so with SmartHeat. With a Metcal SmartHeat soldering iron the tip temperature is constant, and the power automatically adjusts for the job at hand. The result? A conduction soldering system that creates reliable connections by sensing the exact thermal requirement for each solder joint. SmartHeat lets you maintain a high degree of control without cranking up the tip idle temperature, which comes in pretty handy with your lead-free alloys.

In addition to power on demand, a SmartHeat soldering iron:

  • Increases tip life
  • Reduces risk of overshoot
  • Does not require calibration
  • Delivers high throughput at lower temperatures
  • Is easy to use

Power mavens, maintain control of all your soldering and rework applications with versatile SmartHeat solutions from Metcal.

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solderingOne BGA rework blunder could cost you. Choose the wrong solder paste, for example, and you could find yourself in a sticky situation. But don’t worry; you don’t have to throw out the circuit board with the bath water. Many problems like excessive voiding, pad damage and joint bridging can all be avoided. Take a look at the six most common rework mistakes, and head the missteps off at the pass.

  1. Not enough training

Don’t skimp on the training! A sufficiently trained technician can size up any rework situation in advance and will immediately know when things go awry.

  1. Lack of proper equipment

Make sure you’ve got the right tools to get the job done right—the first time. Shop All-Spec’s complete line of soldering and rework equipment, so you can help sustain a controlled, predictable and repeatable process.

  1. Poor profile development

A bad thermal profile can result in damage and reflow of adjacent components. Develop good profiles with correct thermocouple placement and data analysis.

  1. Insufficient prep work

Before you apply the first heat cycle, decide on a solder paste, solder paste stencil, chemistries and alloys. Bake out moisture from the BGA device and board assembly to avoid “popcorning” and other problems.

  1. Reflow of adjacent connections

Technicians need to be constantly aware of how the heat is affecting adjacent components. Reflow of these adjacent connections often creates new rework problems, such as oxidation, de-wetting, starved joints and more.

  1. Inadequate post-placement inspection

Consider X-ray inspection machines. Trained technicians can quickly and easily detect excessive voiding and poor placement or alignment with X-ray inspection.

Be on the lookout for the six most common rework mistakes, and remedy your rework without excessive voiding—not to mention headaches.

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Tip Temp Accuracy: How Hot is Your Tip?

by Julie S. on May 29, 2015

Tip Temp AccuracyToo hot or too cold, your soldering tip can cause damage. Hot tips lead to trace lifting, circuit board defects and component damage. Cold tips lead to longer dwell times, poor heat transfer and poor quality solder connections. Maintaining an accurate temperature is the trick to top performance.

So, what’s the best way to measure your tip’s temp? You can use either a thermocouple for absolute temperature or a contact pyrometer for temperature stability. Or, you can test your tip both ways with the Weller WA2000 Soldering Analyzer.

The WA2000 also measures tip-to-ground resistance and millivolt potential. The accuracy of the type “K” thermocouple used in Weller products is a Special Limit of Error (SLE) with a range of (1.1° C / 1.9° F) or 0.4%, whichever is greater. With the WA2000, you can monitor active soldering. You can also measure temperature loading, excursions and heater response—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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Transform Your Circuit Board in 5 Easy Steps

by Julie S. on May 20, 2015

When it comes to unique circuit board modifications, why not turn to the pro and MacGyver it? All kidding aside, sometimes unusual modifications and component additions are necessary. Ever stack components or mount them upside down?

Here’s a modification that is on its way to becoming part of IPC documented guidelines.

Transform Your Circuit Board

Axial lead component soldered to through-hole component leads.


For more modifications, just follow these “tricks” of the trade. You can learn how to bend the rules and do it safely:

  1. Secure added components with adhesive if the component leads or body will undergo mechanical stress.
  2. Consider placing components end-to-end where applicable.
  3. Place added components on the component side of the assembly or circuit board unless otherwise specified.
  4. Consider insulation for added component leads that may come into contact with component body or other conductors.
  5. Remove existing solder in the connection to avoid bridging or excess solder in the final connection.

CircuitMedic understands out-of-the-ordinary applications and meets your needs with a variety of circuit board repair kits, equipment and adhesives, to name a few.

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