Monthly Archives: January 2015

  • Proper Tecniques for Printed Circuit Board Cleaning

    Proper Tecniques for Printed Circuit Board Cleaning

    Printed Circuit Boards are delicate pieces of electronics and it is important that they be cleaned and maintained properly. Though many may feel that dusting a PCB is sufficient for removing potentially harmful build up, there are a few different methods for removing sediment that can help extend the life and improve performance of a PCB.

    canned-airThe first and most common item used for cleaning PCBs is canned air. This highly compressed air is great for pinpointing dust and particulates without damaging or disturbing the rest of the circuit board in the process. Using a dust rag or other, harsher cleaning agent can dislodge connections and can cause major issues down the road. Rough or abrasive cleaning can break connections and damage the circuit board to the point of replacement.

    ACL StaticideThe next cleaning agents to consider are solvents. Sometimes dusting is simply not enough to remove particulates and other dust that is on a PCB. Solvents can help to remove large deposits like corrosion, rust, solids that have formed on the surface, and other issues that can damage and even stall the function of a PCB. When choosing a solvent it is always important to choose a product that has vapor rinse. This will help to remove all residue that is left after soldering.

    There are a few different ways that residues can be removed, the first is submersion of the PCB in the proper solvent. For soldering residue, water based submersions work best. It may also be sufficient to use air based cleaning to remove these harmful build up. For tougher residues using a solvent can help.

    Branson Ultrasonic CleanerUltrasonic cleaning can help to dislodge residue without much contact. The less users have to touch the PCB to remove residue the better. Extensive handling can cause damage without truly cleaning the PCB. Because these circuit boards are so small and delicate, it is important that precision is used to remove any dirt or other sediment. Taking the time to find the proper solvent for the issue at hand can save time and money in the long run and can insure a clean and well functioning PCB.

  • Why Should my Company Switch to Lead Free Soldering?

    If circuits were living creatures, solder would be the blood cells. Without this valuable tool, many of the luxuries we take for granted (like computers, smartphones and GPS) wouldn't function. For more than a century, lead based solder has been the standard for connecting resistors and capacitors to a circuit. However, a recent rise in environmental concern has the future of lead-based solder in question. It's already illegal in Europe, and it may soon suffer the same fate in the US.

    Is Lead-Based Solder Better?

    There are many hobbyists and amateur electricians who swear by lead based solder, because they think it provides a better bond. However, a skilled worker can garner quality results from a 100% lead-free solder. Most solders have a 60/40 ratio of lead to other metals, typically tin and aluminum. However, there are completely lead-free options available and their benefits far outweigh any perceived disadvantages.

    Benefits of Lead-Free Soldering

    • Safety- The threat of lead poisoning has caused this metal's elimination from virtually every phase of modern life. Precautions can be taken to prevent workers from inhaling lead vapors, but lead-free is a safer option. The National Institute for Health (NHI) suggests avoiding lead-based soldering, so there's no debate about which type is more harmful.
    • Going Green- Products made with lead-based solder can't be recycled, which creates far more waste. Lead-based solder also contaminates the ground water when it's buried in land fills.
    • Global Commerce- Products with lead-based solder have already been outlawed in Europe. Anyone looking to capitalize in foreign markets should be using lead-free.
    • Reliability- People may think that lead-based solder is more dependable, but reliable sources at Dartmouth College say otherwise. Lead-based solder has also been outlawed in Europe since 2011, and they have yet to experience any adverse effects.

    Why is Lead-Based so Popular

    It takes time to become familiar with 100% lead-free solder. It molds differently, and it may take a day or so for you grow accustom to the change. However, there is no credible data to suggest lead-free is any less reliable. Even if it did bond better, choosing lead-based solder over lead-free is like replacing the graphite in pencils with lead because it writes better. That one minor benefit is heavily outweighed by the bounty of benefits provided by the safer alternative. In general, people are typically opposed to change, but this is a simple decision to save the lives of those who build circuits and improve the health of the environment.

  • What do I need to know about Lead Free soldering?

     

     

     

     

     

     

    As most companies start the slow transition to lead free solder over older methods of lead solder it is helpful to learn a thing or two about this relatively new technology. Though there have been many products made specifically for lead free solder applications, it was not until recently that many started to see the benefits of a fully lead free solder.

    Solder Strength

    Though most larger companies have opted for lead free options as a measure to both cut costs and help the environment, most at home soldering is still lead based simply because it is still widely available. There are some additional advantages to lead free solder such as overall tensile strength. Though initial products that were made for lead free applications lacked strength that lead solder had, there have been great advances in the overall strength of lead free solder materials. For starters, SAC305 contains 96.5% tin, 3% silver, and 0.5% copper making for a very strong solder when it is used. Another popular lead free alloy is of course SN100, this contains 99.3% tin, 0.6% copper, and a small amount of silver and nickel. Both of these present great options for those that are looking to make the transition to fully lead free solder.

    Personal Health

    Another helpful tid bit about lead free solder is that is it far less likely to cause you and the environment harm with long term use. Of course, if you are only using solder once or twice a month or less, you are not going to be exposed too much lead. However, if you solder very often it may be beneficial for you and your health to use a lead free alternative. There have been many regulations passed that are geared toward reducing the amount of harmful substances like lead and others from widespread use.

    Temperatures and Solder Mixing

    It is important to keep in mind when using lead free solder that it is at its strongest when it is pure. This means that you should never mix lead free and leaded solder together because it can potentially weaken your joints. Lead free solder is easy to use and does not require any special soldering irons either which is a great help to those that simply want to switch their solder material. It is important however that you pay close attention to the melting point of your lead free solder as it will differ from traditional solders. For example, SAC305 melts at 217°C while SN100 melts at 228°C. If you pay attention to the specific elements of your solder it should be simple enough to get your solder in tip top shape in no time.

    Lead-Free Soldering

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