Tools & Supplies for Electronic Repair and Assembly

  • Differences in Solder

    Differences in Solder 

    So you’ve taken up soldering, eh? Or maybe you're just thinking about it… Perhaps you’ve seen the blog about the components of a soldering iron and even purchased one. Without going into the WHYs of soldering, let’s navigate the myriad of solder types.

    Types of Core:

    1. Acid core: This has a wire form but is filled with an acid-based flux (flux being a chemical cleaning or adhesion agent- think “prepping the surface”). Don’t use this unless you’re a plumber or working with sheet metal.
    2. Rosin core: Also a wire form but filled with a material based on resin. You will want to use this in your electronics applications. (Tip: look for RMA, mildly-activated, rosin.) Note, though, that you will have to clean up the residue unless you buy the “no-clean” kind. If you have asthma or are doing an application in a place for youth, however, you may want to do more research to find a more appropriate core.

    Types of Materials:

    1. Lead: Although its benefit is a lower melting temperature, you might not want to use it. If you don’t know why, search “lead side effects” in your preferred browser. If you still decide to use it because of its ease to work with (like many pros still do), just have common sense, follow all precautions, and don’t sell your product to anyone in Europe.
    2. Platinum, Gold, or Silver: For jewelers. Silver has some benefits in electronic applications but those are not usually worth the added cost.
    3. Indium: Low melting point and high resistance to temperature swings. Often used to solder to gold or for cryogenic applications; somewhat expensive.
    4. Copper: Copper plus tin equals bronze, copper plus zinc equals brass. Copper improves the wetting properties and resistance to thermal cycle fatigue. (Wetting or wettability refers to the ability to stay on a solid surface, versus kind of rolling off.)
    5. Nickel: Increases melt fluidity, has a prettier shinier finish- a very good addition.
    6. Antimony: Increases strength and prevents “tin pest” (aka deterioration). Do not use on zinc, cadmium, or galvanized metals unless you want brittle joints. Does not affect wettability.
    7. Bismuth: Lowers the melting point and improves wettability but not worth using because of expense and its proneness to cracking.
    8. Tin: very widely used but best when in an alloy; no good on its own unless you like “tin whiskers”.
    9. Zinc: Low cost and low melting point but pretty corrosive and susceptible to oxidation.
    10. There are a few more, less known additives but that’s enough to get you started.


    Basically you can get any diameter wire you want but here’s a guideline: buy two thicknesses, 0.8mm (0.032”) and 1.0mm (0.039”). The 0.8 will be for surface mount components, and 1.0 will be for wires and leads.  


    If you want to worry the least about environmental implications and clean-up, search “lead free” and “no clean” then filter by type, etc. M many sites provide reviews you can read and filter by. Kester is a reputable brand that will give you more options than you can shake a stick at, so give that a whirl we highly recommend their products!

  • ESD in Winter

    Our Circuit Boards are in Danger in the Winter!

    Okay, technically circuit boards are in danger all the time, but more so in the winter. Why? Because it’s easier to shock them. And when circuit boards get shocked, they can fail immediately or start doing crazy, bad things. There are two main culprits when it comes to electrostatic discharge (ESD) damage and the first is: you. Yes, you and your habits when handling circuit boards. The second is mother nature and her affinity for changing seasons. But first, the basics:

    (Remember, this is simplified to retain your attention.) Electrostatic discharge (ESD) happens when two electrically charged objects have a sudden flow of electricity between them. You can rub almost any two objects together and one will get positively charged and the other negatively, for example: the simple act of unwinding tape, and some objects hold charges longer and stronger than others. This is where YOU come in- by utilizing best practices, you can minimize the risk you pose to your boards. On the flip side, your new knowledge will allow you to maximize the shocks you bestow on your loved ones. For instance, you (a being who holds a lot of positive charge) could wear a polyester shirt (a material that likes to hold negative charges) and shuffle across the carpet in your socks to the unsuspecting human on the couch…ZAP!

    Where does mother nature come in? Well, she likes to decrease the humidity in the winter, and decreased relative humidity lengthens the amount of time an object will hold a charge. Simplified, moisture in the air or on surfaces acts like a film through which charges can dissipate. Are you a numbers person? Okay, here’re a few examples:

    Walking on carpet: 35,000 volts at 15% RH versus 1,500 volts at 65% RH

    Walking on vinyl tile: 12,000 volts at 15% RH versus 250 volts at 65% RH

    So, now you’re convinced ESD is a problem in winter...but what can you do about it!? Make it super humid! Just kidding, don’t do that unless you want to deal with corrosion and other side effects. You can shoot for some middle ground, like 40%, with an air humidifier, but you’ll want to take other steps, too. The following are anti-static devices and when combined are quite effective at drastically reducing the threat of ESD:

    1. Wrist straps: these are connected to metal clamps that connect to the desk or table to ground you
    2. Heel grounders: these are designed to effectively connect with a grounded floor
    3. Anti-static matting: for floors or tables, these have high electrical resistance
    4. Ground cords: often connect to mats and best for non-mobile environments
    5. Anything labeled “antistatic”, such as lotion, tape, shoes, garments, etc.
  • What is Polyimide Tape and What are its Applications?

    Polyimide tape, also called polyimide film or Kapton tape, is primarily used in electrical applications but also any other applications where reliable and durable performance is required. It can withstand extremely harsh environments and has a temperature range of -452 degrees F to 752 degrees F, even leaving minimal residue after removal. This is the material of choice for people in many different industries. In basic terms, if you need a tough, durable and long lasting tape, this is the stuff for you.

    There are many different applications for Kapton tape, but here are some of the most common:

    • Electronic Manufacturing

    Due to its ability to withstand heat, polyimide tape is most commonly found in electronics manufacturing and serves as an insulated and protective layer over sensitive components. Even after coming into contact with a soldering iron, the tape will not melt or stretch.

    • 3D Printing

    The material commonly used in 3D printing is known as ABS, and it adheres to Kapton extremely well, making Kapton the preferred choice in building 3D printers.

    • X-Ray

    Again, Kapton’s ability to withstand extreme heat makes it the preferred material for different kinds of X-Ray processes. Kapton can also withstand the high radiation environments found in X-Rays, making it the number one choice in these applications.

    • Spacecraft & Aircraft

    The spacecraft and aircraft industries commonly use polyimide tape for insulation of the wings since it can endure the most intense and extreme environments. In the spacecraft industry, the tape is also used on space blankets, which can help with thermal control of the spacecraft and can also be used by people.

    • Auto

    Professionals in the auto industry may use polyimide tape for parts of automobiles that come in contact with heat such as switches, diaphragms, coils and sensors.

    On our GoKimco site, you can find Kapton tape rolls in a variety of different widths, ranging from 1/8” to 3”. The large rolls allow you to cover entire surfaces with a single sheet and are puncture and wear resistant. Check them out here. We also offer Kapton film dots, which come in a variety of sizes as well and come in counts of 1000 or 2000. Check them out here. We currently offer free shipping on all Kapton tape so go ahead and get yours now!

  • Eight Steps For Being S20.20 Compliant

    For all of our ESD prevention, assessment and detection products, you’ll find a feature in the description that states something like this: “Meets ANSI/ESD S20.20…” or “In accordance with ANSI/ESD S20.20…” What does this mean, exactly? In order to meet the need for standard level products in the electronics industry, the ESD Association established the ANSI/ESD S20.20, which helps organizations design, implement and maintain an ESD program to protect all ESD-sensitive electrical parts, assemblies and equipment. There are eight steps to follow in order to become S20.20 compliant, and we’ll go over each one of them:

    1. Training

    All personnel who handle or even just come into contact with ESD sensitive items most have initial and recurrent ESD awareness and prevention training.

    2. Product Qualification

    This is conducted during the initial selection of ESD control items to ensure that all of the chosen ESD control items meet the plan requirements. This list of these items should be included on your ESD Control Plan, a controlled document approved by upper management.

    3. Compliance Verification

    The compliance verification plan identifies electrical properties needing checked, measurement limits, and test frequencies per manufacturer and industry recommendations.

    4. Grounding/Equipotential Bonding Systems

    In this step, you connect ESDS items, personnel and other conductors to the same electrical potential. The 3rd-wire AC electrical equipment ground is the preferred, recommended ground reference.

    5. Personnel Grounding

    The two options for grounding here are either wrist straps or heel grounders. If person will be seated, wrist straps must be the product of choice. A flooring system must also be installed if heel grounders are used.

    6. ESD Protected Area (EPA) Requirements

    You must handle ESDS items, parts, assemblies and equipment without ESD protective packaging in an EPA Protected Area with clear boundaries. The plans for these must evolve to keep pace with costs, device sensitivities and the way they are manufactured.

    7. Packaging Systems

    Define ESD protective packing requirements for both inside and outside the EPA. When you are moving ESD susceptible devices outside the protected area, you must package and enclose the device in an ESD shielding bag.

    8. Marking

    Mark ESDS items in accordance with other customer contracts, purchase orders, drawings or other documentation.

  • Best Tools for ESD Event Detection

    We’ve harped on it time and time again: Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) prevention is so important! Electronic build-up that is undetectable to humans still has the capability to damage or even destroy your electrical equipment.

    If not properly maintained, ESD damage can really set you back in terms of production cost and time. In fact, the ESD Association estimates that the cost of losses due to ESD ranges between half a billion dollars to $5 billion each year. This is because ESD damage can be tricky to detect. Some devices stop working altogether (known as catastrophic failure) while others experience partial damage over time that cause an overall drop in efficiency (known as a latent defect).

    If there were a way to save yourself cost and labor in the long run, would you do it? Of course you would! The good news is that there are ways to save cost and labor when it comes to ESD prevention, and it starts with detection. Here are three of our most recommended products for detecting, measuring and monitoring ESD events so you can ensure that the ESD control program you have in place is working:

    1. SCS CTM082 Pro ESD Event Indicator

    The SCS CTM082 both detects and counts ESD events for control program troubleshooting and improvement. The four-digit display counts the number of ESD events that have occurred at or above the alarm threshold and resets every time the power is turned off. Get as close as you can to the suspected source of the ESD event and use the indicator to detect and measure its relative strength. When the strength of an event exceeds the set threshold, the LED will turn red. Shop the SCS CTM082 here.

      2. SCS CTM048-21 ESD Events Sensor Meter

    This user-friendly and portable meter serves as a measuring instrument for most ESD signals and measures the magnitude of ESD events. It can also estimate the magnitude for CDM, HBM and MM models. The device’s touch screen allows users to easily navigate through the features and the speaker and headphone alarm outputs allow you to use it in a noisy place. The microsSD card within the device can log data and then be exported to an Excel sheet for quick analysis. Buy the SCS CTM048-21 here.

    3. SCS 770063 EM Aware Monitor, Field & Ionization, Ethernet Output

    The SCS 770063 is compatible with the SCS Static Management Program (SMP) and through it, collects data including ESD event count, changes in the static voltage field and ionizer performance. Because of this, it is able to identify problematic environments and qualify tools for handling ESD-sensitive devices. This monitor, as well as all the products listed, meets the requirements of S20.20, which states that continuous monitoring should be considered or even mandated. The data collected by device allows you to see overall trends and improve the efficiency and quality of your ESD control.  Shop the SCS 770063 here.

    As always, if you have questions about any of the products listed, be sure to contact us and we'd be happy to help!

  • How To Protect Your Electronic Components From Moisture

    Think back to the times you spent hours working on a school project or typing a term paper before it was due. The hard work and meticulous planning was worth the perfected final result. Now imagine it being the due date and right before you submit it you close out of the document without saving any of the work or drop the 3D model you crafted on the floor, smashing it to pieces. You can probably imagine that feeling of devastation you would have felt when you realized the project you spent so long on is now suddenly useless.

    Why waste hours of your life working on your electronic components if you’re going to expose them to moisture and meet the same fate as that school project? If you’re storing your electronics in damp, dark or humid environments, you just might end up with a final result that is just as useless. There are ways to avoid this, though, and there are products that you can buy that will ensure your components stay in top condition.

    Here are a few of our recommendations:

    1. Moisture Barrier Bags

    Moisture barrier bags are comprised of multiple layers of plastic and aluminum that are designed to keep out moisture. They are one of the most effective packing solutions for sensitive components and protect against humidity, moisture, oxygen, grease or other airborne contaminants that could cause damage. The bags feature a vacuum seal that also protect against damage due to other events such as ESD (Electrostatic Discharge) and EMI (Electromagnetic Interference). Check out the moisture barrier bags that GoKimco offers here.

    2. Humidity Indicator Cards

    Humidity Indicator Cards, or HIC’s, are cards that indicate humidity levels inside sealed packaging. They contain a moisture-sensitive chemical that will change color if a great enough humidity level is detected. The SCS 6HIC200 6-Spot Humidity Cards respond to various levels of humidity with a visible color change from blue to pink. Each can contains 200 cards, which is a great value for your purchase. Pair these with your moisture barrier bags to provide the best protection for moisture sensitive items.

    3. Desiccant Packs

    Desiccant packs are used alongside humidity indicator cards and placed inside moisture barrier bags to absorb moisture.  Packs come in many different sizes and in addition to absorbing moisture, can also absorb gas, vapor or odor. The porous pouch allows moisture to seep through and be absorbed by the desiccant inside. The Desco 13844 Desiccant Packs are reusable and can be reactivated by oven drying. Even when saturated by moisture, the desiccant pack remains dry. Together, the moisture barrier bags, humidity indicator cards and desiccant packs make up what’s known as a “dry package”.

    4.Conformal Coating

    Conformal coating is a protective chemical that can protect sensitive electronics from moist environments and electrical shorts by creating a barrier of insulation. Although not designed to be a total sealant, conformal coatings will also allow moisture trapped in PCBs to escape. There are different ways to apply a conformal coating including dipping, spraying and brushing. The ACL 8690 Acrylic Conformal Coating Spray is applied by spraying and has an operating temperature of -75 degrees F to 270 degrees F, so check it out.

    Those are our most recommended products for moisture control for your sensitive electronic components so you can rest assured knowing that your best work will be preserved and protected against any sort of environment. Have questions? Contact us here.

  • Why is ESD Prevention Important?

    Our latest blogs have discussed many things involving ESD- ESD flooring and maintenance, ESD bags, and ESD devices such as heel grounders. We’ve explained how important it is to maintain an ESD-safe environment, but why is it so important? Today, we’re going to dive into why electrostatic discharge can be as simple as a shock you feel on a cold, dry day, or as serious as a shock that ignites flammable mixtures or ruins electronic components in your workspace.

    It’s true, electrostatic shock can be harmless. The sudden jolt you sometimes get after touching a car door or the hand of another person can be a little painful, but most of the time it brings a good laugh, especially when it startles you or the person you touched. Electricity is constantly passing back and forth between ourselves and objects, but the voltage is often times too low to feel. It typically takes a voltage of at least 3,000 for people to detect the shock.

    On the flip side, it only takes 30 volts to damage highly sensitive electronic components, while most components are at risk when the charge is between 100 and 200 volts. With that being said, electronic shocks that are undetectable to humans have the capability to damage or destroy your electrical equipment.

    There are two types of damages that your equipment could experience as a result of ESD events- immediate or delayed damage. With delayed damages, you could see a malfunction of your device at any point of its lifespan. This is also known as a latent defect. These are harder to identify, as the component might continue to perform its function for a certain period of time, but ultimately the operating life will be reduced dramatically.

    The second type of damage is the immediate damage, otherwise known as catastrophic failure. This is when the device is damaged and fails immediately. The damages are permanent and the electronic component is essentially destroyed. 

    If you work in any industry, there are two things you want to save- time and cost. The same could be said for the electronic assembly industry. If you subject yourself to ESD damages, you’re ultimately wasting both your time and your money. Don’t worry, though. There are many different ways to prevent ESD damages and keep your workspace controlled:

    1. ESD Mats and Flooring
    SCS ESD Floor Mat

    ESD matting and flooring work to disperse the electricity created when your feet make contact with the ground. We wrote an entire blog about the different types of ESD flooring and how to maintain it to ensure that you receive the best possible results, so check that out here.

    2 . ESD Clothing

    SCS ESD Smock

    There are also anti-static clothing pieces that you can wear that will help disperse electricity and protect the components you’re working on. You can find ESD clothing options on the GoKimco website. We also highly recommend checking out our Desco 17200 Premium Foot Grounder. We also wrote an entire blog about how these grounders work to prevent static shock, so check that out here.

    3. ESD Accessories

    Desco ESD Wrist STrap

    There are a number of additional items and accessories available that can prevent potential ESD damage. One of these is an ESD wrist strap. GoKimco offers the Desco 14401 Disposable Wrist Strap, a one-time-use strap that is perfect for guests visiting your work environment and can also be used to ship with ESD sensitive products.

    4. ESD Bags

    SCS ESD Bag

    ESD Bags are a great way to store your equipment in a safe environment. We wrote a blog on the difference between Metal-In and Metal-Out ESD bags so that you can choose the type that’s best for the equipment you intend to store. Check that out here.

    There are many other ways to control ESD, but always make sure you are in compliance with the EOS/ESD Association. Stay up-to-date on today’s standards and keep your staff educated on the risk associated with working in electronic assembly environments. As always, if you have any questions about ESD prevention or our ESD products, you can contact us here.

  • How to Choose the Best Soldering Mask For You

    If you’re new at or unfamiliar with the soldering process, you might not initially know the purpose of using a soldering mask for your PCB manufacturing, let alone how to choose one that’s right for the types of applications you’re performing. For starters, a solder mask is a permanent, protective layer or coating that is applied to the copper traces and interfaces on PCBs to protect it from oxidizing. The masks are able to withstand the extreme heat that the soldering iron creates, preventing solder bridging and short circuits.

    Now that you know the purpose of solder masks, it’s time to choose one that’s right for you! There are different types of PCB solder masks that you can choose from, including epoxy liquid, liquid photoimageable mask and dry film photoimageable mask.

    TechSpray Solder Mask

    Here is a look into the three types so you can choose which is best for you:

    1. Epoxy Liquid

    If you’re looking for the most affordable type of soldering mask, this is most likely for you. Liquid epoxy is the most basic and commonly used type of mask and is made of a thermal resistant polymer material. The liquid is silkscreened onto the PCB pattern, usually using ink or other synthetic fibers. Once the transfer of the synthetic fibers is completed, thermal curing is performed in the final stage.

    2. Liquid Photoimagable

    The liquid photoimagable mask is the most commonly used type of mask. They are the most reliable and accurate and make better contact with the board. The liquid can either be sprayed or silkscreened onto your PCB, most often by using the Hot Air Surface Leveling (HASL) method. This operation needs to be performed in a clean environment, free from any contaminants or other particles that could damage the board. Afterwards, the PCB is placed into a UV developer where the film is precisely aligned over the board. The blacked out locations on the PCB will prevent curing in areas where it is unwanted. Afterwards, the uncured areas are washed off.

    3. Dry Film Photoimageable

    This type of mask is best if your board surface is very flat. The mask must be applied using vacuum lamination to avoid defects and air bubbles, and therefore is not recommended for complex surface features. After applying the dry film, it is exposed and then developed, leaving various openings in the pattern. Copper is then layered onto the board inside the openings using electrochemical processing and followed up with tin to protect the copper from oxidizing. Once this process is done, the film is removed, leaving the copper exposed. The final step is thermal curing.

    There are also different colors of solder masks available that can improve the aesthetics of your PCB. While the most common solder mask color is green, there are also several other colors that you can use depending on your design requirements or preferences, including red, blue, black, white, yellow, orange, purple and clear. Green is most recommended because of its ability to adhere evenly and its higher resolution. Red typically gives the best color contrast between a PCB’s components. Blue is more highly coveted because of its rarity. Black absorbs more heat than other colors.

    Colored PCBs

    There’s no definite right or wrong answer for the color and type of soldering mask you should choose for your applications. If you still have any questions about the uses of each type and whether it would be best for you, be sure to give our experts at GoKimco a call by visiting the Contact Us page on our website.

  • Difference Between Metal-In and Metal-Out ESD Bags

    In previous blogs, we’ve discussed how important it is to take care of sensitive materials and devices by ensuring that your work environment is ESD safe. Today we’re going to dive into the differences between two commonly used ESD protection bags- the metal-in and metal-out bags.

    Both types of bags are conductive, or metalized, and comprised of multiple layers that make up a protective shield. The protective shield works to keep electrostatic discharge generated by surfaces, other materials and the user from making contact with ESD sensitive devices. With that being said, both are different in their overall makeup as well as their best uses and features.

    Metal-In ESD Bags

    The more commonly used of the two is the metal-in shielding bag. Like it’s name would suggest, metal-in bags feature a metal shield closer to the middle, or inside, of the bag. The metal shield lies within a layer of static dissipative polyethylene and polyester. Typically speaking, the metal-in bags gain the edge when it comes to cost and durability. They last longer than metal-out bags as they are less likely to scratch and they’re more commonly found on the market.

    Metal-Out ESD Bags

    In metal-out bags, the layer of metal is closer to the outside surface of the bag in between the polyester and the abrasion resistant coating. Because of this, this type of bags have a lower resistance reading and can dispel a static charge faster than metal-in bags can. They’re most commonly used in critical electronics applications and disk drive manufacturing and are most recommended for operations where faster charge decay is preferred.

    While there’s no direct answer to which type of bag you should buy, it will depend on your budget, the materials you use and the types of operations you perform. If you have any additional questions about metal-in and metal-out bags, be sure to give us a call. You can shop our inventory of ESD protection bags here.

  • Why You Should Refrigerate Solder Paste

    Solder paste is a vital material used in the manufacturing of printed circuit boards. It connects surface mount components to pads on the board through its sticky consistency once heated and forms a bond and an electrical connection. Inside the paste, there are ingredients that serve as activators that essentially remove oxides from the surface being soldered and the powdered solder alloy itself once heated.

    As the paste ages, however, its physical characteristics and overall effectiveness will change. Most solder pastes typically have a shelf life of around 3-6 months when refrigerated. This makes refrigeration the best and most effective way to get the longest use out of your solder paste. Once your paste reaches room temperature or higher, the six month shelf life can shorten to as little as 24 hours. Generally speaking, the ideal temperature for most pastes is between 0 and 10 degrees Celsius. Temperatures warmer than this could separate the flux medium from the body of the paste, possibly causing printing defects and errors.

    Kester EP256 Solder Paste

    While it is not recommended to leave solder paste in warm environments, freezing solder paste is also not recommended. Placing solder paste in too low of temperatures could result in the precipitation of the activators. There are many different solder paste options, but whichever paste you buy should be stored immediately as soon as it arrives.

    Think of your solder paste as a carton of milk. You wouldn’t want to leave the milk sitting out in your car for hours before you finally arrive home from the grocery store. Solder paste generally comes in a package that has insulating materials or ice packs, but it is still recommended that you choose next day shipping and move it to a refrigerated environment as soon as possible.

    Solder paste is designed to have quick reactions at higher temperatures but remain fairly dormant at lower temperatures. This is why it is extremely important to keep the paste at the aforementioned temperature range until removing for use. GoKimco offers a wide variety of different solder pastes, but each product includes details on the recommended handling and shelf life.  

    Kester R276 Solder Paste, 35gr Syringe

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