A question often asked through our PCB technology hotline is, "What is the IPC standard for cleanliness?". This is a SIMple and straightforward question often asked by novICes in PCB industry, so the simple and straightforward answer is generally what they want. However, in most cases, this is not professional enough for their personal needs.
In order to answer this question, we should first understand the simple standards: IPC standards being used, types of residues, scope of application and cleanliness standards. Table 1 answers these questions in an ancient way - fast and simple.
Table I. Summary of IPC Cleanliness Requirements
Standard residue type Applicable scope Cleanliness standard
IPC-6012 The light plate before the solder mask coating of all kinds of ions<1.56 μ G/cm2 NaCl equivalent
IPC-6012 Organic * No pollutants are EMItted from the smooth plate before the solder mask coating of all types of electronics
J-STD-001 The light plate before the solder mask coating of all types and types of electronics is sufficient to ensure the solderability
J-STD-001 No looseness, no volatilization and minimum electrical interval for all electronic types of particles after welding
J-STD-001 Post weld assembly of rosin * Class 1 electronics<200 μ g/cm2
Post weld assembly of Class 2 electronics<100 μ g/cm2
Post weld assembly of Class 3 electronics<40 μ g/cm2
J-STD-001 Ion * Post weld assembly of all electronic categories<1.56 μ G/cm2 NaCl equivalent
IPC-A-160 Visual acceptability of post weld assemblies for all electronic categories of visible residues
*When testing is required
But do these answers provide the necessary facts? Unfortunately, people who call are rarely satisfied. In fact, these answers often lead to more questions, such as: "Is that it?"; "What if the pollutant has more chlorides?"; "What about flux residues in the no cleaning process?"; "What if conformal coat is used to protect the assembly?"; Or, "What about other non-ionic pollutants?"
Unlike the "good times" when rosin flux dominated PCB industry in the past, new PCB surface coatings, fluxes, welding and cleaning systems are emerging. Obviously, there is no "one size fits all" answer. For this reason, the standards and specifications emphasize the test procedures used to prove reliability rather than a simple pass/fail number.
A closer look at the IPC standard - especially IPC-6012, the technical indicators and performance of rigid PCB printed boards - reveals that the requirements for the cleanliness of the smooth board after the solder mask, solder or alternative surface coating should be specified in the document. This means that pcb assembly manufacturers must tell circuit board manufacturers how clean they want the light plates to be. It also leaves room for PCB assembly manufacturers using the wash free process to set a stricter cleanliness requirement for incoming circuit boards.
PCB assembly manufacturers need to not only specify the cleanliness of incoming boards, but also reach an agreement with users on the cleanliness of assembLED products. According to J-STD-001, unless specified by the user, the manufacturer shall specify cleaning requirements (or no cleaning or one or two assembly surfaces to be cleaned) and test cleanliness (or no test, surface insulation resistance test, or test ion, rosin or other organic surface contaminants). Then the cleaning system is selected based on the compatibility of PCB welding process and PCB products. The cleanliness test will depend on the flux and cleaning chemicals used. If rosin flux is used, J-STD-001 provides a digital standard for Class 1, 2 and 3 products. Otherwise, the ion contamination test is the simplest and least costly. J-STD-001 also has general digital requirements.
If chloride content is a concern, industrial research results involving ion chromatography analysis have shown that the following guidelines are reasonable breakpoints for chloride content. When the chloride content exceeds the following levels, the risk of electrolytic failure is increased:
Less than 0.39 for low solid flux μ g/cm2
For high solid rosin flux, less than 0.70 μ g/cm2
Less than 0.75 - 0.78 for water-soluble flux μ g/cm2
Less than 0.31 for tin/lead metallized smooth plate μ g/cm2
The discussion on cleaning often leads to the final answer that the real cleanliness depends on PCB products and the desired final use environment. But how do you decide what cleaning is sufficient for a particular end use environment? Through thorough and strict analysis, study each potential pollutant and final use situation, and conduct long-term reliability test.
But is there an easier way? Shorten the detour of increasing learning by introducing the experience of others. Such as IPC, EMPF and Naval Avionics Center have conducted a series of tests and industrial studies on various cleanliness conditions; Some of these findings are available in the public domain. These technical papers and manuals guide individuals or companies in understanding this subtle and critical element of process testing and effectiveness. A good example is the in-depth cleaning and cleanliness testing program sponsored by IPC, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Defense (DOD), which was completed in the late 1980s. This program investigates new materials and processes used in the clean process of electronic manufacturing to reduce the level of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC).
The next big wave in the PCB electronic industry - the movement of lead-free solder and halogen-free insulating layer - may trigger another extensive industrial research on cleanliness and cleanliness. Until then, readers and telephone consultants will need to understand clearly from various sales materials, case studies, reports and guidelines telling them what individual cleanliness requirements should be on the basis of mastering IPC specifications.