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Use of Nitrogen for Hand Soldering
Is there any reasonable way to hand solder without flux? Is there such a thing as using nitrogen in a local area while hand soldering?
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Use of Nitrogen for Hand Soldering

Is there any reasonable way to hand solder without flux to totally eliminate cleaning?

Is there such a thing as using nitrogen in a local area while hand soldering?

S. R.
Expert's Panel Responses

I am not aware of "fluxless" soldering using metallic solder (not conductive adhesives).

One should consider the other residues potentially on an assembly besides flux residues.

In addition to the elimination of post-reflow residue related product failures, the cleaning of electronic assemblies, while intended for the removal of flux residues, actually provides for the removal of other contamination species. While the emphasis of a cleaning program is flux removal it is important to consider the many other sources of potential contamination.

BOARD FABRICATION

COMPONENT FABRICATION

ASSEMBLY PROCESS

Etch residues

Plating bath residues

Solder paste

Developer chemicals

Water quality rinses

Flux - wave / core

Water quality rinses for inner layers

Deflashing chemicals

Reworked/Repaired

Fluxes

Water quality rinses for outer layers

Mold release agents

Cleaning chemicals

HASL Fluids (HO) and

final rinses

Preplating oxide cleaning

Water rinse Quality

Alkaline cleaners

Pretinning flux residues

Rework Cleaner

 
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Mike Konrad
President
Aqueous Technologies
Mr. Konrad has been in the electronic assembly equipment industry since 1985. He is founder and CEO of Aqueous Technologies Corporation, a manufacturer of automatic de-fluxing equipment, chemicals, and cleanliness testing systems.

The purpose of a flux is to reduce oxide and fluxless soldering could involve (a) ultrasonic soldering to scrub the oxide away; (b) forming gas / formic acid to reduce oxide.

Ultrasonic hand soldering may be possible without a flux, but will need new equipment and training

To a use a flux and eliminate cleaning for hand-soldering:

  • A no-clean flux can be used. If there are concerns that the no-clean flux is not completely activated, there are no-clean rework fluxes that pass SIR unactivated. This means that even if the flux saw no heat, there would be no reliability issue.

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Karthik Vijay
Technical Manager - Europe
Indium Corp.
Currently with Indium Corporation and responsible for technology programs and technical support for customers in Europe. Over 15 yrs experience in SMT, Power, Thermal & Semiconductor Applications. Masters Degree in Industrial Engg, State University of New York-Binghamton.

I do not know of such a thing and there are a number of potential problems the main ones are how to prevent the Nitrogen form leaking out an depleting the oxygen and causing asfixiation of the operators.

Second is how do you ensure that you have oxide free, contaminant free surfaces going into the soldering process.

Neil Poole
Senior Applications Chemist
Henkel Electronics
Dr. Poole is a Senior Applications Chemist in Henkel Technologies, electronics assembly materials application engineering group. He is responsible for all of Henkel's assembly products including soldering products, underfills, PCB protection materials, and thermally conductive adhesives.

Both of your requests are handled within the selective soldering process.

All manufacturers utilize minimal flux for a no clean process which is enhanced with pure N2. Check it all out by searching Google for "selective soldering."

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Alan Cable
President
ACE Production Technologies
Alan Cable, the principle owner of ACE production technologies Inc. has over 40 years experience in the electronics manufacturing arena. Alan's expertise is high production manufacturing automation, equipment design and process engineering. For the past 25 years Alan has focused specifically on soldering issues relating to component solderability, lead tinning and selective soldering, owning several companies with this focus.

Ultrasonic soldering has been used without flux for many years, this certainly works with Die attach how ever not sure how useful it would be on standard PCB design (localised damage to other components).

You can get Nitrogen re-work pens these should work on PWBs where solder still remains on pads and if there is a good finish on the components. How ever as there would be substantially less solder than would be normal and as the intermetalic would not be guaranteed then it would be difficult to confirm a good joint.

To have any form of reliability it would be better to use a flux in conjunction with the solder.

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Richard Boyle
Global Product Champion
Henkel Electronics
Richard Boyle is a Global Product Champion at Henkel Electronics. He has over 25 years experience in the electronics assembly industry and is responsible for the global technical service of all of Henkel's solder materials.
Reader Comment

I use a Pace soldering station with a handle that has N2 around the tip. I have used this for 3 + years. I find that the N2 is heated by the tip and preheats the area that I am soldering. I can solder the joint faster and better.

Erwin Kroulik, ELK Engineering, USA
Reader Comment

Hakko makes a hand soldering system/nitrogen generator that allows a nitrogen environment around the connection while hand soldering. Flux will still have to be used due to any oxidation on the circuit card pad/land and component termination/lead prior to the soldering operation. If I am not mistaken, about 12 to 14 years ago Hexagon also had a soldering hand-piece that had a nitrogen tube right above the soldering tip to purge air from the area of the solder joint.

Bruce Sander, CIT, Exelis Communications and Force Protection Systems
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