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Selective Soldering Frame Causing Cold Solder Joints
We have continual problems with cold solder joint on our wave soldering system. Could these be caused by using a selective soldering frame?
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Selective Soldering Frame Causing Cold Solder Joints
We have continual problems with our wave soldering system, especially cold solder joints. Could the cold solder joints be caused by using a selective soldering frame?
T.H.
Expert's Panel Responses
The selective soldering frame could be contributing to cold solder joints in your wave solder process. Frames act as heat sinks pulling heat away from the circuit board. This cooling affect could result in cold solder joints.   
 
I suggest running a temperature profile on the wave solder process on a board with a selective soldering frame on it. Check to be sure that the proper top side temperatures are being reached to enable good soldering. If not, then the preheat, conveyor speed, and solder pot temperature settings may have to be adjusted to correct this.
 
I also recommend having the solder analyzed to be sure it is within recommend specifications. When elements within the solder go out of specification, this can cause a dull/grainy appearance which may look like cold solder. High levels of elemental contamination, like copper, can cause a shift in melting point of the solder increasing the temperature required for good soldering.  It is best to analyze the solder composition on a regular schedule and make adjustments to keep it within specification.
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Tony Lentz
Field Applications
FCT Assembly
Tony has worked in the electronics industry since 1994. He worked as a process engineer at a circuit board manufacturer for 5 years. Since 1999, Tony has worked for FCT Companies as a laboratory manager, facility manager, and most recently a field application engineer. He has extensive experience doing research and development, quality control, and technical service with products used to manufacture and assemble printed circuit boards. He holds B.S. and M.B.S. degrees in Chemistry.
It is possible given that the frame can act as a heat sink and "wick" heat away from the areas of the board near the frame.
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Eric Bastow
Senior Technical Support Engineer
Indium Corporation
Eric is an SMTA-certified process engineer (CSMTPE) and has earned his Six Sigma Green Belt from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. He is also a certified IPC-A-600 and 610D Specialist. He has an associate's degree in Engineering Science from the State University of New York and has authored several technical papers and articles.
Yes, absolutely. Most wave soldering systems are a little challenged with getting adequate preheat and maintaining it across the gap between the preheaters and the wave. The selective frame will cause areas of the board "shaded" by the frame to remain cooler, and those areas will rapidly wick heat away from the areas to be soldered. In addition, the frame, no matter how well designed, will affect the flow of the wave, and may result in some areas not seeing as much contact time. The combination of preheat challenges and flow variation can certainly cause issues.

Now, all that said, the first thing I would expect to see if the frame is causing issues is lack of complete hole fill near the edges of the openings in the frame. If you are really seeing classic "cold" solder joints, i.e. coarse, grainy joints, then perhaps there is another cause, specifically the components getting jostled just as the joint is solidifying. What you have then is actually a disturbed joint, and the reliability of such a joint is terrible. If that is the case, look for sources of mechanical energy that may be moving components after the exit from the wave.
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Fritz Byle
Process Engineer
Astronautics
Fritz's career in electronics manufacturing has included diverse engineering roles including PWB fabrication, thick film print & fire, SMT and wave/selective solder process engineering, and electronics materials development and marketing. Fritz's educational background is in mechanical engineering with an emphasis on materials science. Design of Experiments (DoE) techniques have been an area of independent study. Fritz has published over a dozen papers at various industry conferences.
"Selective Soldering Frames" can "pull" large amounts of heat from the solder wave at the point of contact, effectively lowering the temperature of the solder at the solder joint. You should confirm the temperature of the solder joints by running a thermal profile, a time verses temperature measurement of the solder process. Once the solder joint temperatures are measured and understood, you can determine if temperature is one of the causes of the cold solder joints. You may find you will need to reduce the thickness of, or the materials that make up the selective solder frame to reduce the amount of heat it steals from the wave solder and thus the solder joints.
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Paul Austen
Senior Project Engineer
Electronic Controls Design Inc
Paul been with Electronic Controls Design Inc. (ECD) in Milwaukie, Oregon for over 34 years as a Senior Project Engineer. He has seen and worked with the electronic manufacturing industry from many points of view, including: technician, designer, manufacture, and customer. His focus has been the design and application of thermal process measurement tools used to improve manufacturing processes like: mass reflow and wave soldering, bread baking, paint and powder curing, metal heat treatment and more.
In my experience, cold solder joints were manually created, due to insufficient flux, insufficient heat and insufficient time to create the solder joint.

If this is happening in the selective solder system something must be happening to that particular joint is that particular location, so it reflects all the conditions previously stated.

I would check for clearances in the selective solder frame fixture for those particular solder joints and this has to also include the thickness of the fixture. If the fixture is too thick the solder will not be able to make full contact with the solder joint and the results could end up being a bad solder joint.

So, again check for flux coverage of the area to be soldered and make sure the flux penetrates the plated through holes. Check the dwell time of the solder flow to make sure the flow is long enough to create the solder joint, and this also includes the preheating of the product prior to soldering.
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Leo Lambert
Vice President, Technical Director
EPTAC Corporation
At EPTAC Corporation, Mr. Lambert oversees content of course offerings, IPC Certification programs and provides customers with expert consultation in electronics manufacturing, including RoHS/WEEE and lead free issues. Leo is also the IPC General Chairman for the Assembly/Joining Process Committee.
Cold solder joints during the wave soldering process can be caused by several factors including non-optimized conveyor speed, too low of a preheat temperature, contaminated solder alloy, too low of a solder pot temperature, or potentially board or component contamination.  If you are using a selective soldering frame, or wave aperture pallet, this very often can have a direct contributing effect.

Anytime a printed circuit board assembly is mounted in a selective soldering frame or wave aperture pallet fabricated of a variety of polymer materials along with aluminum, steel or titanium inserts or reinforcements, the additional thermal mass of the frame or pallet has to be taken into account as well as the thermal mass of the printed circuit board together with the SMT and through-hole components.  Very often the selective soldering frame or pallet acts as an additional heat sink and contributes to heat dissipation drawing thermal energy away from the solder joints much as internal ground planes do when soldering multilayer boards.

This can be verified by attaching thermocouples to various locations that do and do not have cold solder joints or other defects and running a thermal profile of the board through the wave soldering process to determine if your wave soldering machine has sufficient preheating capability to adequately preheat the frame and the board assembly.

A much better solution is to use the selective soldering process since the amount of thermal energy transferred into each solder joint can be defined and controlled down to the individual pin-by-pin level under program control which is much more efficient than mass soldering with a wave machine.
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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.
Reader Comment
Hot nitrogen improves heat transfer to the board mass and also inerts the soldering process. Less dross at the end.
Luiz Felipe Rodrigues, Air Liquide
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