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QUALITY

Switching To Lead-Free Solder:


Test And Inspection Issues
by Michael J. Smith,
Teradyne

The PCB fabrication and electron- and in-circuit test (ICT) – are ex- what reduced by longer pre-heat
ics packaging / assembly indus- amined below. times. Rework temperatures also
tries use many chemical processes, are affected, with some parts reach-
some of which are regarded as con- ing 280°C. Components need to
taining substances harmful to the New solder formulations be qualified for these higher tem-
environment. Over the last years peratures, and some non-qualified
environmental issues have in- The upcoming ban on the use components may actually require
creasingly had an impact on these of Lead has prompted electron- hand assembly, with relevant ad-
industries. New legislation and ics manufacturers and industry junctive and unpredictable costs.
stricter rules are forcing industrial organizations such as NEMI (Na-
sectors to adopt new manufactur- tional Electronics Manufacturing
ing practices, and to move towards Initiative) and IPC to consider sev- Optical inspection issues
the proscription or restriction eral alternatives to the traditional
of hazardous substances such as Tin-Lead solder chemistry. Tera- Inspecting Lead-free solder termi-
Lead, Chromium and brominated dyne has participated in NEMI’s nations is fundamentally no differ-
flame retardants, etc. In the fu- “Roadmap of Lead-free Assembly ent than inspecting a conventional
ture, the use of these materials will in North America,” the “Lead- leaded joint. The image of a Lead-
also generally introduce additional Free Hybrid Assembly and Rework free joint is similar in appearance
costs - with significant impct on Project,” and in the IPC 7-32 sol- to that of a traditional Tin-lead
profitability and competitiveness der inspectability standards com- joint. The key to inspecting ei-
- because they are difficult to dis- mittee. ther type of solder is an inspec-
pose of and treat. tion mechanism that can correctly
New Lead-free formulations in- measure the visual attributes of
Around the world, the major in- clude Tin-Silver-Copper and Tin- each image type.
dustrial nations are rapidly mov- Copper. The majority of the elec-
ing to eliminate Lead from manu- tronics industry seems to be mov- However, there are some differ-
facturing processes, including fab- ing toward the Tin-Silver-Copper ences in the visual appearance be-
rication and assembly of printed family of alloys for Lead-free sol- tween Lead-free and leaded solder
circuit boards with components. dering. NEMI has recommended joints that can affect AOI systems.
North America, the European Un- an “industry standard” Lead-free Lead-free solder joints are typically
ion, and Japan all have plans to go alloy of Sn3.9Ag0.6Cu (+/- 0.2%) more striated and rough than cor-
“Lead- free,” making it imperative for reflow and Sn0.7Cu for wave responding lead joints, due to the
for many companies to move away solder. However, as with any proc- phase transition from liquid to
from Lead as soon as possible. ess change, the most appropriate solid. As a result the joints may ap-
Some companies are taking advan- mix for a broad range of applica- pear slightly duller and uneven.
tage of the situation and are using tions should be carefully consid-
“Lead-free” as a major marketing ered, along with the logistics and Also, Lead-free solder has a higher
initiative, for example in the con- economics of specifying a particu- surface tension and does not flow
sumer market. lar alloy. as readily as leaded solder, causing
a slightly different-shaped fillet.
These visual differences will prob-
Reflow temperature ably require a recalibration of AOI
The move to Lead-free solder has equipment and software. For ex-
a particularly important impact on Lead-free solder mixes have higher ample, automatically learned pass
all phases of printed circuit board melting points, which can lead to levels in some AOI systems may
assembly, including test and in- possible component and/or board be slightly different for Lead-free
spection. Some of the technical damage. With Lead-free solder joints.
issues involved and the impact of formulations, melt temperatures
Lead-free solder on the major test rise from 183°C to approximately If a company is currently using
and inspection technologies - au- 217°C for SnAgCu, with tempera- human inspectors and considering
tomated optical inspection (AOI), ture spikes as high as 260°C. The moving to AOI, now may be a logi-
automated X-ray inspection (AXI), high temperatures can be some- cal time to deploy these systems

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QUALITY
PCBs. False detect rates were also
similar for both sets of results. Test
times were unaffected by the Lead-
free nature of the test vehicle.
Although results did vary slightly
among the different machines, the
study concluded that most AOI
systems can be used to inspect
Lead-free surface mount assem-
blies. Some systems that use color-
based algorithms and systems that
rely on single cameras have expe-
rienced problems in evaluating
Lead-free solder joints. As a prac-
tical matter, a color image is not
needed by an AOI system to analyse
a solder joint; a monochrome im-
age contains all the necessary in-
formation. Angled camera systems
normally performed better at some
J-lead defects such as bridges, voids
and insufficient solder joints.

Automated x-ray inspection issues

With Lead-free solder ball joints,


Figure 1 – An AXI System – the Teradyne XStation HS we can expect an increase in voids.
Lead-free solders have sufficient
density to allow cracks and voids in
because human inspectors will The test vehicle used in the study the solder joint to be detected. Cop-
need “recalibration” at this time was a single board type devel- per, Tin and Silver are still “dense”
anyway. oped specifically for the study. A materials and therefore, like Lead,
number of boards were produced, impede X-rays. Some recalibration
some with defects, and some de- of the X-ray system maybe be re-
Results of industry study on fect free. The board included many quired, but all the X-ray inspection
Lead-free solder inspection different solder termination types. companies - whether they produce
Each assembly contained nearly manual X-ray or automatic X-ray
In 2002 Teradyne helped fund 100 components with a total of inspection systems - have conclud-
the National Physical Laboratory over 1400 Lead-free solder joints. ed that Lead-free has no inspection
(NPL), UK to independently evalu- The component types incorporated issues but does offer an opportuni-
ate the ability of AOI systems to in- into the design included 0.4mm ty for increased inspection require-
spect Lead-free solder joints. The pitch 256-pin QFPs, 0.5mm pitch ments on the manufacturing line
National Physical Laboratory is the TSOPs, and 0402 resistors. The to characterise good joints, moni-
United Kingdom’s national stand- defect categories covered included tor the assembly process and, most
ards laboratory, an independent missing components, misaligned importantly, analyse the structural
center of excellence in research, components, components of cor- integrity of joints (Figure 1).
development and knowledge trans- rect size but wrong value, poor
fer in measurement and materials quality solder joints, components
science. with wrong polarity, solder bridg- Impact of Lead-free solder on ICT
es, and poor component planarity.
The NPL performed a study and As we have documented, Tin alloys
published the results in July 2002 The study evaluated AOI systems are the Lead-free choice; however,
under the title “A Comparison of from six different manufactur- Tin has demonstrated a “whisker”
Automated Optical Inspection Sys- ers, including Teradyne. Identi- phenomenon—generally small
tems for Use with Lead-Free Sur- cal software algorithms were used and thin protrusions of metal that
face Mount Assemblies.” The goal for Lead-free inspection and for “grow” out of a solder joint or pad.
of the project was to determine if inspection of conventional Lead- These whiskers can become large
Lead-free assemblies presented solder assemblies. The study found enough to short across two lands
any problems for automatic opti- that results were similar to or bet- and can carry sufficient current
cal inspection systems. ter than those found with Lead to cause equipment malfunction.

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compatible solder formulations,
fluxes, surface finishes and correct
manufacturing, testing and inspec-
tion practices and equipment are
important. A lot of attention has
recently been paid to new legisla-
tion and rules issued in different
regions of the world. The following
are “flashes” regarding key rules
and data contained in “Lead-free”
legislation issued in the major in-
dustrial centers of the world - Eu-
rope, United States of America and
Japan - where industry is moving
to eliminate Lead from manufac-
turing processes:

Europe

• OECD: Lower the Lead content


limit in underground water from
Figure 2 – An ICT System – the Teradyne Test Station LH 0.05mg/L to 0.025mg/L by 2000.
This can be found easily with in- of the larger heat dissipation. With • Total abolition of Lead, Cad-
circuit test, but unfortunately Tin the introduction of Lead-free sol- mium, hexa-Chromium, and non-
whisker growth can take time and der and the elimination of certain flammable agent halogen starting
may be a long-term reliability is- fire-retardants within the bare in 2005/6, according to the EU di-
sue. Efforts are underway in or- printed circuit boards, the higher rective (WEEE & Rosh).
ganisations such as NEMI to try temperatures required for rework
and minimise this phenomenon may damage the component and/ USA
with different Tin alloys. or board. These problems are being
investigated by the NEMI “Lead- • 1990: Introduced a bill prohibit-
To help with the reflow process for Free Hybrid Assembly and Rework ing use of solder containing over
Lead-free, we do see an increase Project” mentioned earlier. Many 0.1% Lead. (However, this excludes
use of flux, which in a no-clean en- companies may find that they need the electronics industry.)
vironment can have a detrimental to minimise defects from the PCB • 1999: Industrial organization
effect on fixture performance with assembly line, and the “zero-de- NEMI, formed by the USA elec-
increased contact resistance and fect” line may become a reality. tronic parts manufacturing in-
a buildup of probe tip contamina- dustry, government organizations
tion. This will require increased and universities, started research
maintenance of fixtures and maybe Lead-free legislation and development targeting the to-
a change to more aggressive probe tal abolition of Lead products by
tip styles. But more aggressive With increasing legislation, regu- 2004.
probe tip may conflict with the lations, as well as disposal and • 2002: Proposition 65 California.
brittle nature of Lead-free solder treatment costs, it is essential that • End Of Life legislation pending
and cause damage. In addition, the electronics industry comply in 20 plus states.
the brittle nature of Lead-free also with and adopt innovative best
means that more care will have practices to minimise the costs of Japan
to be taken to limit the flexing of environmental compliance, avoid-
boards in the fixture of the equip- ing unnecessary costs and enhanc- • 1991: The Waste Disposal Law
ment during the test (Figure 2). ing its competitiveness on the requires disposal within the facil-
global market. The move to ban ity when the detected Lead amount
Lead from electronics industry is, is over 0.3mg/L by eluting test of
Rework and repair issues in fact, a global headlong flight. A industrial waste.
number of studies, research and • 1994: The Water Pollution Pre-
A final area to consider is the im- legislative efforts are in process. vention Law lowers the Lead con-
pact of Lead-free solder on rework Soldering processes are a critical tent of rivers from 0.1mg/L to
and repair. Higher temperatures area - particularly in printed circuit 0.01mg/L.
are needed to melt Lead-free al- board manufacturing and assem- • 2001-4: The Consumer Electron-
loys. If you have larger compo- bly of populated boards, packages, ics Recycle Law requires manufac-
nents on a board, you may need to modules and circuits - where the turers to recover harmful materi-
pre-heat the component because adoption of more environmentally als.

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