Electronics Manufacturing Training

Technical Articles From FCT ASSEMBLY, INC.

Read technical articles about electronics manufacturing added by FCT ASSEMBLY, INC.

13 technical articles added by FCT ASSEMBLY, INC.

Company Information:

With numerous facilities in the United States, we are one of the electronics industry's leading manufacturers of lead-free solder products, superior quality stencils, and precision cut parts.

Greeley, Colorado, USA


  • Phone 970-346-8002
  • Fax 970-346-8331

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(14) products in the catalog

(13) technical library articles

(176) news releases

How Does Surface Finish Affect Solder Paste Performance?

Jul 06, 2021 | Tony Lentz

The surface finishes commonly used on printed circuit boards (PCBs) have an effect on solder paste performance in the surface mount process. Some surface finishes are non-planar like hot air solder level (HASL) which can lead to inconsistencies in solder paste printing. Other surface finishes are difficult to wet during reflow like organic solderability preservative (OSP). What is the overall effect of surface finish on solder paste performance? Which solder paste is best for each surface finish? It is the goal of this paper to answer these questions....

Fill the Void V - Mitigation of Voiding for Bottom Terminated Components

Dec 29, 2020 | Tony Lentz, FCT Assembly & Greg Smith, BlueRing Stencils

Voiding in solder joints has been studied extensively, and the effects of many variables compared and contrasted with respect to voiding performance. Solder paste flux, solder powder size, stencil design, circuit board design, via-in-pad design, surface finish, component size, reflow profile, vacuum reflow, nitrogen reflow and other parameters have been varied and voiding quantified for each. The results show some differences in voiding performance with respect to most of these variables but these variables are not independent of each other. Voiding in solder joints is a complex issue that often requires multiple approaches to reduce voiding below required limits. This paper focuses on solutions to voiding for commonly used bottom terminated components (BTCs)....

Size Matters - The Effects of Solder Powder Size on Solder Paste Performance

Oct 27, 2020 | Tony Lentz

Solder powder size is a popular topic in the electronics industry due to the continuing trend of miniaturization of electronics. The question commonly asked is "when should we switch from Type 3 to a smaller solder powder?" Solder powder size is usually chosen based on the printing requirements for the solder paste. It is common practice to use IPC Type 4 or 5 solder powders for stencil designs that include area ratios below the recommended IPC limit of 0.66. The effects of solder powder size on printability of solder paste have been well documented. The size of the solder powder affects the performance of the solder paste in other ways. Shelf life, stencil life, reflow performance, voiding behavior, and reactivity / stability are all affected by solder powder size. Testing was conducted to measure each of these solder paste performance attributes for IPC Type 3, Type 4, Type 5 and Type 6 SAC305 solder powders in both water soluble and no clean solder pastes. The performance data for each size of solder powder in each solder paste flux was quantified and summarized. Guidance for choosing the optimal size of solder powder is given based on the results of this study....

Fill the Void IV: Elimination of Inter-Via Voiding

Oct 10, 2019 | Tony Lentz - FCT Assembly, Greg Smith - BlueRing Stencils

Voids are a plague to our electronics and must be eliminated! Over the last few years we have studied voiding in solder joints and published three technical papers on methods to "Fill the Void." This paper is part four of this series. The focus of this work is to mitigate voids for via in pad circuit board designs.</p><p> Via holes in Quad Flat No-Lead (QFN) thermal pads create voiding issues. Gasses can come out of via holes and rise into the solder joint creating voids. Solder can also flow down into the via holes creating gaps in the solder joint. One method of preventing this is via plugging. Via holes can be plugged, capped, or left open. These via plugging options were compared and contrasted to each other with respect to voiding. Another method of minimizing voiding is through solder paste stencil design. Solder paste can be printed around the via holes with gas escape routes. This prevents gasses from via holes from being trapped in the solder joint. Several stencil designs were tested and voiding performance compared and contrasted.</p><p> In many cases voiding will be reduced only if a combination of mitigation strategies are used. Recommendations for combinations of via hole plugging and stencil design are given. The aim of this paper is to help the reader to "Fill the Void."...

An Investigation Into The Durability Of Stencil Coating Technologies

Mar 13, 2019 | Greg Smith, Tony Lentz

It is well documented that Nano coatings on SMT stencils offer many benefits to those assembling PWBs. With reduced standard deviation and improved transfer efficiency nano coatings can provide, there is also a cost. As PWB assemblers work to justify the return on investment, one key question continues to arise. What is the durability or life of these coatings and what can be done in the print process to maximize the life of the coatings?

This paper addresses durability of the coatings in relation to the number of print cycles and underside wipe cycles applied as well as materials used on the underside wipe process. Different parameters will be applied and data will be collected. The results of this study will be summarized to help those using or considering the use of these nano coatings to improve their print process and suggestions will be given to maximize the life of the coatings....

Fill the Void II: An Investigation into Methods of Reducing Voiding

Oct 03, 2018 | Tony Lentz - FCT Assembly, Patty Chonis, JB Byers - A-Tek Systems

Voids in solder joints plague many electronics manufacturers. Do you have voids in your life? We have good news for you, there are many excellent ways to "Fill the Void." This paper is a continuation of previous work on voiding in which the following variables were studied: water soluble lead-free solder pastes, a variety of stencil designs, and reflow profiles. Quad Flat No-Lead (QFN) component thermal pads were used as the test vehicle. The voiding results were summarized and recommendations were made for reduction of voiding....

Improve SMT Assembly Yields Using Root Cause Analysis in Stencil Design

Jul 18, 2018 | Greg Smith

Reduction of first pass defects in the SMT assembly process minimizes cost, assembly time and improves reliability. These three areas, cost, delivery and reliability determine manufacturing yields and are key in maintaining a successful and profitable assembly process. It is commonly accepted that the solder paste printing process causes the highest percentage of yield challenges in the SMT assembly process. As form factor continues to get smaller, the challenge to obtain 100% yield becomes more difficult.

This paper will identify defects affecting SMT yields in the printing process and discuss their Root Cause. Outer layer copper weight and surface treatment will also be addressed as to their effect on printability. Experiments using leadless and emerging components will be studied and root cause analysis will be presented...

Can Nano-Coatings Really Improve Stencil Performance?

Oct 26, 2017 | Tony Lentz

Nano-coatings have been introduced by various manufacturers, with the promise of addressing some of the challenges relative to solder paste printing. Stated benefits include: Reduced underside cleaning, reduced bridging, improved solder paste release and improvements in yield. With several nano technologies already on the market and more likely to be introduced, how can the performance be quantified? How robust are these coatings? How can an assembler approach the ROI of these coatings? What hidden benefits or negative impacts should be considered?

This paper will present a rigorous method for evaluating the performance and economic benefits of solder paste stencil nano-coatings....

An Investigation into the Use of Nano-Coated Stencils to Improve Solder Paste Printing with Small Stencil Aperture Area Ratios

Sep 28, 2017 | Jasbir Bath, Tony Lentz, Greg Smith

These nano-coatings also refine the solder paste brick shape giving improved print definition. These two benefits combine to help the solder paste printing process produce an adequate amount of solder paste in the correct position on the circuit board pads. Today, stencil aperture area ratios from 0.66 down to 0.40 are commonly used and make paste printing a challenge.

This paper presents data on small area ratio printing for component designs including 01005 Imperial (0402 metric) and smaller 03015 metric and 0201 metric chip components and 0.3 mm and 0.4 mm pitch micro BGAs....

Water Soluble Solder Paste, Wet Behind the Ears or Wave of the Future

Mar 22, 2017 | Tony Lentz

Water soluble lead-free solder paste is widely used in today’s SMT processes, but the industry is slowly moving away from water soluble solder pastes in favor of no-clean solder pastes. This shift in usage of solder paste is driven by an effort to eliminate the water wash process. Some components cannot tolerate water wash and elimination of water washing streamlines the SMT process. Despite this shift, certain applications lend themselves to the use of water soluble solder paste.

This paper details the research and development of a new water soluble lead-free solder paste which improves on the performance characteristics of existing technologies....

Dispelling the Black Magic of Solder Paste

Jan 21, 2016 | Tony Lentz

Solder paste has long been viewed as "black magic". This "black magic" can easily be dispelled through a solder paste evaluation. Unfortunately, solder paste evaluation can be a challenge for electronic assemblers. Interrupting the production schedule to perform an evaluation is usually the first hurdle. Choosing the solder paste properties to test is simple, but testing for these properties can be difficult. Special equipment or materials may be required depending upon the tests that are chosen. Once the testing is complete, how does one make the decision to choose a solder paste? Is the decision based on gut feel or hard data?

This paper presents a process for evaluating solder pastes using a variety of methods. These methods are quick to run and are challenging, revealing the strengths and weaknesses of solder pastes. Methods detailed in this paper include: print volume, stencil life, response to pause, open time, tack force over time, wetting, solder balling, graping, voiding, accelerated aging, and others....

Bridging at Reflow, What is the Cause and Can it be Eliminated?

Apr 12, 2012 | Robert Dervaes, V.P. Technology

Surface mount technology (SMT) started in the 1960s and became more common in the 1980s. It is the dominant technology in use today. Through-hole technology is still in use, and will be for the foreseeable future, but the drive towards miniaturization of ...

FCT Assembly Solves Bridging Issues at Reflow

Apr 09, 2012 | FCT Assembly

As the electronics assembly industry evolves, printed circuit board (PCB) features and surface mount technology (SMT) components continue to get smaller and smaller. This miniaturization shrinks the process window at print, placement, and reflow, increasi...

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