Electronics Assembly Knowledge, Vision & Wisdom
What is Ideal Humidity for Final Assembly?
What is Ideal Humidity for Final Assembly?
What is ideal humidity within a final assembly facility? No soldering involved. The facility is used for final box build. The Assembly Brothers, Phil Zarrow and Jim Hall, share their own experiences and answers.
Board Talk

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Board Talk is presented by ITM Consulting

Phil Zarrow
Phil Zarrow, ITM Consulting
With over 35 years experience in PCB assembly, Phil is one of the leading experts in SMT process failure analysis. He has vast experience in SMT equipment, materials and processes.


Jim Hall
Jim Hall, ITM Consulting
A Lean Six-Sigma Master Blackbelt, Jim has a wealth of knowledge in soldering, thermal technology, equipment and process basics. He is a pioneer in the science of reflow.

ITM Consulting
* EMS Qualification, Evaluation and Selection
* SMT Process Consulting and Troubleshooting
* SMT Process Development and Set-up
* SMT Process Audits
* Lead-free Process Readiness Audits
* SMT Process Optimization
* On-Site Workshops
Transcript
Phil
And welcome to the Board Talk. This is Jim Hall and Phil Zarrow, the Assembly Brothers, coming to you from high atop Mount Rialto, which is Board Talk's version of reality, such as it is.

And we're here to talk about soldering and assembly processes, materials, and all kinds of fun things like that. And I believe today, Jim, we have a climate question.

Jim
This question comes from Craig. The question is what is ideal humidity for final assembly? No soldering.

Phil
We're basically talking about box build. I'm interpreting that as saying not attaching components.

Not attaching components, not putting on conformal coating,everything's done. It's time to go in the box.

Jim
What is the ideal humidity, Phil?

Phil
As we know at this point, we're not really material-sensitive, per se. What's done is done. So, essentially, our biggest concern at this point in time is electrostatic discharge, ESD.

Jim
Isn't generally 50% relative humidity a desired norm, minimum for ESD protection?

I almost committed you to living here and you don't live here anymore, Phil. But here in the Northeast, where us rugged men live, often when the heat comes on in the winter, like it is now, the air gets very dry.

You get static electricity walking across the carpet, touch the door knob - classic examples. The materials, once they're done soldering they in their lifetime are going to get saturated with ambient moisture anyway, so there's no concern about that in final assembly.

Phil
But anybody who has listened to us before knows, if you are going to solder them again, as in rework, repair, field repair or something like that, the books are open again.

And what do we always recommend? We always recommend baking out the board before you rework it to take care of the MSD situations and accumulated moisture in the circuit board.

If you are going to solder again, yes, everything is back to zero in that respect, and you have to be aware of the humidity. But from final assembly, the ESD is the big question.

Anything to add to that, Uncle Jim?

So, moving along, we pounded the hell out of that question, didn't we? We hope Craig and anybody else listening is more informed than confused.

I don't think there's any confusion here - 50% is the target. And always take the proper precautions, too. We've had cases where - don't leave anything for granted. Everybody should be properly grounded.

Jim
You spent all that good time not soldering like my brother, so don't mess it up now. And you sure wasted enough time listening us tackle this very easy question, didn't you?

Phil
So whatever you, don't solder like my brother.
Reader Comment

I suspect that you must be aware that if products are assembled at 50%RH at room temperature into, sealed containers, that they can become flooded with moisture when the temperature falls. Wet products can fail for a number of reasons. Our customers want their parts dry.

Tom, Salzer
Reader Comment

Please allow me to add my two cents about humidity control from an ESD control perspective in an electronics assembly environment. Per the ESD Associations' ANSI/ESD S20.20-2014 Standard, there is no "requirement" for humidity control. There has only long been a "recommendation" for 30% to 70%. Some level of humidity between those two points is beneficial to limiting static generation but humidity is not the best solution to static control. If you need ESD control, use approved methods and techniques for proper grounding and insulator control.

Gregg Heckler, Desco Industries, Inc.
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