Electronics Assembly Knowledge, Vision & Wisdom
Trends for Printing Ultra Miniature Chips
Trends for Printing Ultra Miniature Chips
What are the current trends and practices for printing ultra-miniature chips, a la 01005? The Assembly Brothers, Phil and Jim, take a look and share their opinions.
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.

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And welcome to Board Talk with Jim Hall and Phil Zarrow of ITM Consulting, the Assembly Brothers, coming to you from the ITM elegante ballroom high atop Mount Rialto. And we are here to talk about electronic assembly, materials, equipment, components, practices and procedures and who knows what else. A myriad of things. A wonderment of our wonderful industry.

Jim, what is today's question?

Well, it comes from B.L. He says, what are the current trends and practices for printing ultra-miniature chips, a la 01 005?

Ah, well somebody is heading into stormy waters there. But fortunately there is quite a bit of work going on in this direction and it really runs a whole range of things.

I guess some of the direction we have seen for a while in general was a trend going to smaller particle size, with regard to the solder paste itself, typically going to a type 4 paste. Type 3 paste just kinds of runs out of steam.

And of course when you look at the appropriate apertures and you apply the five ball rule you can see where this kind of goes mathematically. And then the other area of course that is brought up in terms is stencil thickness.

Wow, if you are still using a five mil stencil and you are trying to do these, general wisdom says you may be running out of steam. We've seen studies where some of the best results, and this is even going back a few years here, have been with a type 4 paste and a 3 mil stencil and for the best release and coverage. But Jim, there is a lot of direction to go.

Well certainly from a traditional area ratio for stencil apertures of .66, the 3 mil stencil gives you a lot better chance of getting there, because it is thinner. And I think we have to realize that a lot of the published research is being driven by people who are building handheld devices.

They are the principle users, the first users, and people who use these ultra-miniature chips more than anybody else. They have the reality where everything, take a smartphone, everything on the board is ultra-fine pitch. So a 3 mil stencil is a possibility.

Because you don't have issues with bigger components, where you need a thicker deposit of solder paste. On the other hand, other industries such as automotive and so forth, where they have a bigger variety of components are looking to try to stay with their thicker stencils and still print for these.

There have been some pretty heroic tests published with, I will have to admit, ultra-optimized printing equipment and processes that have successfully used a 5 mil stencil and a type 3 paste. But what capabilities you have, in terms of the age of your equipment, does it have all of the latest and greatest features on it for accuracy squeegee control and so forth.

What is the mix on your board? Do you need to continue to use thicker stencils? Those are going to drive your decisions.

Obviously, using a thinner stencil and a finer pitch powder is going to make the printing job easier. Can you do it with a more difficult combination? Yes. What is the degree of difficulty?

It is practical for you in your environment? That is something you are going to have to decide for yourselves.

Right and your level of expertise of your people and your environment. Because it is one thing to have a bunch of printing experts and that is all they do all day, live and breathe in a lab environment. And that is a lot different than the people you may have on your engineering staff and on your shop floor.

It may be different. They may have really good people.

There are good people out there. There's a few. Anyway, very good. Well, you've been listening to Board Talk. And remember, if you can't laugh at yourself we certainly we. And whatever you do...

Don't solder like my brother.

And don't solder like my brother, please.
Reader Comment

You guys would be great on NPR! I'm excited to hear the sounds callers attribute to there malfunctioning printers

Zack, MIT
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