Monthly Archives: March 2014

  • Why Worry About Electrostatic Discharge ( ESD ) when working on a Printed Circuit Board?

    static-container-labelFor some, the prevention of Electrostatic Discharge, or ESD, is simply an item on a checklist that you mark through when doing a job, just to keep the boss off your back. However, ESD is a serious issue and can cause catastrophic damage to a project. If you are unconvinced about the ramifications of ESD, read on.

    What Is ESD?

    Electrostatic Discharge is a sudden, unexpected flow of electrical currents between two points. ESD can cause a short, damage to electrical components, and even damage to you and other members of your team. ESD can cause a catastrophic problem on a project, causing you to replace expensive components or even scrap the job and start all over. In addition to the monetary expense that can occur, there is also a measure of stress and even personal ramifications when ESD halts a project.

    How You Can Prevent ESD

    There are several steps you can take to prevent ESD.

      • First, don't let yourself become complacent. ESD is a serious concern and should be treated as such.
      • Next, take the proper steps to prevent ESD. These steps are different for each job, but proper grounding of your work area, your body and project components is imperative.
      • Cool, dry areas are also a concern, so be especially cautious when working in these places.
      • Do not stand on carpeted surfaces, and keep your work components off of fabric, carpet and similar surfaces.
      • Wearing sturdy shoes with a rubber sole with ESD foot or heel grounders can also help prevent ESD. You should also remain aware of your surroundings; there are two symbols that you can look for to assist you.
      • The use of ESD SAFE equipment will help you ensure that you avoid ESD issues when working on a project.
      • You should also keep an eye out for ESD Sensitive labels; these labels indicate that an item is highly susceptible to ESD, so you should exercise extreme caution.
      • Make sure to store circuit boards in an ESD safe container or a static shielding bag.
      • In addition to the precautions taken above, it is recommended that the controls are setup to maintain and monitor you ESD Safe working environment.  A few tips for doing this is to setup ESD monitoring devices and ionizers that will maintain safe areas.

    How We Can Help

    If you have questions about anything related to ESD, Kimco has the answers you need. Browse around the remainder of our website for information on products that monitor, control or prevent electro static discharge (ESD).  If you prefer, you can also contact our team of professional customer service representatives for assistance with your needs by calling (800) 521-9197.

  • 3 Crucial Things You Need to Know Before Soldering With Lead Free Materials

    Lead FreeSoldering with lead-free solder presents special challenges that you should know about before getting started. Knowing these challenges can help make it more likely that you will get the results you want. Three of the top items you need to keep in mind to meet those challenges are outlined below.

    1. Lead Free Means Higher Wetting Temperature

    Lead free Kester solder requires a higher temperature than those that are lead based. With its tin/silver/copper combination, this temperature is 217 degrees. This solder is no clean, an important aspect of lead free soldering since the higher temperatures required can often lead to unwanted residue.

    2. Stability of Components

    Though there are other types of lead free solder that are made with other alloys - tin-copper in particular - they have a higher melting point. This means that their wetting time is longer and it needs to be maintained for longer periods of time in order to ensure the right flow. Using Kester flux that is VOC, as well as lead free, helps ensure the balance out the high temperatures required by lead free solder.Kester 63-0004-0971 971M VOC Free No-Clean Liquid Flux

    3. Compatibility Issues

    When working with lead-free solder, ensuring that materials are compatible is imperative.This compatibility ranges from the tips used to the materials being soldered. Tips that are specifically designed to be used in lead free applications also reduce the residue, giving the finished product a cleaner look.

    Though working with lead-free solder can present challenges, they can be overcome with a few key adjustments. The benefits of a lead-free environment make the challenge of lead-free solder one to meet wholeheartedly.

  • Hand Soldering With Lead Free Materials: A How-to Guide for Beginners

     

    Lead FreeSoldering with lead-free materials does not need to be difficult. There are a number of tools that are designed specifically to make this job easier. When they are combined with the right techniques, a novice can enjoy an end product that is clean and residue free.

    Choose the Right Kester Solderimages (1)

    For the best results, use the appropriate alloy combination that is designed to be drawn into the wire. One such alloy is made of a tin-silver-copper combination (SAC) such as Chip Quik SMD291SNL10 Rework Solder Lead Free. This solder has a melting temperature of 217 degrees and is designed to be no clean. When compared to the other popular alloy formulation that utilize tin-copper (SnCu), this type of solder offers a quicker melting point, ensuring that it wets better and has better flow.

    KES-Pb-free-alloy-wire_27_4_1Choose the Right Wire

    To promote the proper wetting necessary to solder components together, the wire you choose needs to have at least 2% flux by weight. Using wire that has this weight allows for a good balance between wetting times and the possibility of residue. For wetting times that are deemed too slow, 3% flux can be used. However, the residue that is typically the result can be unsightly. Kester flux is specifically designed to work within lead free applications. Charring, splattering and the breakdown of the flux are minimized even when the necessary higher temperatures are used.

    Choose the Right TipSoldering tip locator

    The right tip choice makes all the difference in the delivery of the Kester solder. Lead free tips are crucial to both the success and aesthetics of the bond. These tips need to be able to deliver enough heat so that the right amount of coverage is generated. To increase the life of tips, it is important that the entire tip be designed for lead free applications. Those tips that are simply tinned with solder that is lead free tend to have a dramatically shortened life span.

    Choose the Right Technique

    Before making the final selection of flux, ensure sure that parts can be easily soldered with it. This will help reduce the desire to add excessive amounts of flux as well as the need to rework the piece repeatedly. Keeping contact times to a minimum will also result in a cleaner end product.

    Lead free soldering can result in a stable connect of materials that is also clean and residue free.

     

  • 10 Important Caveats When Cleaning PCBs

    PCB ImageWithout question printed circuit boards (PCBs) are extremely fragile pieces of equipment. To that end, cleaning them requires proper attention and care. Here are some mistakes to avoid when cleaning PCBs:

     

    1) Avoid using regular vacuums. In addition to possibly being too powerful (air-pressure wise), they may carry a charge that can be damaging in terms of ESD. Instead, use smaller units specifically designed for electronics.

    2) Use liquid detergents and water with extreme caution. Some delicate components (older crystals) may be irreparably damaged; this goes for things like labels.

    3) Use heat to dry "washed boards" only in controlled amounts. The use of an oven, for example, may be okay, as long as low heat is used and the oven is turned off when the board is put in it.

    4) Let only those persons who know what they are doing clean PCBs. This is not something to delegate to just anyone.

    5) Read up on the dos and don’ts of PCB cleaning before attempting it.

    6) Don’t be afraid to clean up sticky grime, paint, solder flux, etc. These types of debris can impair function in the long run.

    7) Corrosion (especially from battery acid) should always be cleaned up. Not doing so risks undergoing continuous damage.

    8) Take proper ESD precautions. Some people forget that ESD is still an issue when cleaning PCBs.

    9) Avail yourself of the latest products and services. Some of them may save you money and time.

    10) Don’t forget to remove any components (even if it involves de-soldering something) that may hamper the cleaning process.MicroCare mcc-frc flux cleaner

    Conclusion

     

    PCBs, like everything else, do get dirty. While cleaning them can be risky (if damage is brought about), not cleaning PCBs also carries risks, especially if performance is in question, damage has already occurred (for which debris may be blamed), or debris can clearly be seen with the naked eye.

     

    Cleaning a PCB can be safely, conveniently and efficiently done, if you follow strict protocols and take all the necessary precautions.

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