The influence of contaminant residues on PCB Spot Weld and Discussion on Cleaning Craft

May 17, 2016 // By Ming
With the development of the electronic industry and the increased requirement of electronic performance, electronic components are developing with a trend of miniaturization, finer spacing and high integrity. As the spacing between the adjacent conductors becomes smaller, the problem of the residue and other contaminants on Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) are becoming increasingly protruding in terms of the influence on the reliability of PCBs.

Although the soldering craft of low residue and no-clean is well utilized by traditional Surface Mount Technology (SMT), in the products with high reliability, the structure densification of products and the miniaturization assembly of components make it increasingly more difficult to reach the suitable cleaning grade with an increase of product failure led by the cleaning problem. This passage will briefly discuss the influence of contaminant residues on PCB spot weld and some problems concerning cleaning.

● The Influence of Contaminant Residues on PCB Spot Weld

a. Electrochemical Migration

ECM, short for Electrochemical migration, refers to ion migration by means of some medium such as flux leftover under the influence of electromagnetic field. For PCB products, with the change of the environmental humidity, some ionic contaminants in the flux residue such as the active agent and salt will be changed into electrolytes, leading to the feature change of spot welds. When these PCBs are working, under the condition of stress voltage, short cuts will possibly take place between spot welds, causing intermittent faults that decrease the reliability of PCBs.

This process is comprised by three steps: path formation, initialization and arborized crystal generation. The path formation starts with the dissolution of metal ion in the electrolyte that is a kind of weak acid formed by the combination of chlorine and bromine residue in the flux and the water in the air. When metal is dissolved in the weak acid, metal filament will be generated. Therefore, the elements including ionic leftover, voltage deviation and humidity must be required to implement the mechanism of the electrochemical effectiveness. Besides, the electrochemical effectiveness is also influenced by temperature, humidity, offer, conductor material, conductor spacing, contaminant type and quantity.


b. Creep Corrosion

Creep corrosion refers to the phenomenon that the sulfide crystal of copper or silver is generated on the surface of PCBs. Different from electrochemical migration, just the existence of contamination source and moisture in the environment is capable of leading to the creep corrosion, without the need of voltage difference. When the sulfur in the air combines with the copper or silver on PCBs, copper sulfide or silver sulfide will be generated.

These chemical compounds such as copper sulfide and silver sulfide will grow towards any direction, making fine leads open or short cuts between spacing leads, which will finally result in the bad quality of PCBs. With the PCB size becoming smaller and components miniaturized, the risk of this type of corrosion will definitely improve. Creep corrosion mostly occurs in the fields of industrial control electronics and aerospace because of the more existence of contamination gas in their ambient air.

Another reason lies in the HASL implementation on the surface of previous PCBs whose outside copper foil is protected by tin lead. However, with the development of lead-free craft, materials with copper or silver are used in PCB fabrication, welding and plating. Once the wetting doesn’t reach the grade in the process of soldering, some copper or silver will be exposed to the air and when the environment becomes bad with the influence of moisture, the risk of creep corrosion will increase greatly.