Lead Free Hand Soldering – Process Issues

• • • • • • • • Soldering tip should be set to 343°C (650°F) from 315°C (600°F). Iron should be kept clean and fully coated with solder to prevent further oxidation. Lead free solders are more sensitive to the effects of dirty soldering iron. Soldering iron should be removed quickly after soldering to prevent the formation of icicles. Quick removal of soldering iron from the solder joint repair site will result in lesser disturbed joints. Lifted pads are more predominant in the hand soldering of lead free leads and pads and so the operators must guard against heating the boards excessively. In order to insure correct amount of heat, attention should be paid to dwell time and tip size for soldering. Soldering tip used for lead free solder should be kept separate from the ones used for Sn-Pb solder. Lead free solder may not wet the leads and pads as well as Sn-Pb solder and so in order to improve the solderability, higher tip temperature and/or more active flux may be required. Increasing the solder tip temperature may damage the hardware if done indiscriminately. If more active flux is used, the board assemblies may require more aggressive cleaning processes. More active flux residues may also promote dendrites and poor adhesion of conformal coating. The lead free solder joints will look dull and grainy. The J-STD-001 and IPC-A-610 standards allow for solder joints that have dull, matte, or grainy appearances, provided that such appearance is normal for the materials and processes involved. Operators will have to adjust their visual criteria for an acceptable solder joint to allow for these differences. Despite the variations between lead free and lead-based hand soldering, it is possible to meet IPC Class 3 requirements with respect to solder fillet quality, wetting, and solder pad coverage. Operators may wish to use a digitally-controlled hot plate to preheat the board prior to soldering. This will reduce the thermal gradients within the board during the hand soldering process.

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Lead Free Hand Soldering – Material Issues
• Most lead free alloys have a higher melting point than SnPb. The melting point of eutectic SnPb solder is 183°C. Other than tin bismuth (SnBi), most of the popular lead free solder alloys have a melting temperature between 215°C and 227°C. The components and board will be more sensitive to heat-related soldering damage with lead free solders than with SnPb solders. It has been shown that components will increase their moisture resistance sensitivity by two levels, based on IPC-J-STD-020 testing specifications. The higher lead free soldering temperatures can result in an increase in board delamination, measling, and blistering. For example, measling bridging over 50% of the span between conductors is a defect, in accordance to IPC J-STD-001. OSP board finishes are prone to developing a halo around the solder joint. Because lead free solders do not wet as well, this halo effect is more prominent with lead free than with SnPb solders. The following are various alternative finishes provided by component manufacturers: Sn, SnAg, SnCu, SnAgCu, Ni, NiPd and Pd. According to EMPF, there are no process incompatibilities and no reliability issues between the various lead free solders and the above lead free board finishes. There are possible incompatibilities between lead free component finishes and SnPb solders. This is known as “backwards compatibility”. This is especially true when Sn-Ag-Cu finish is used in the component metallization as is the case in BGAs. The use of Sn-Pb solder paste could render the solder joints unreliable. Tin-finished components pose a major reliability risk because they are susceptible to tin whiskers, which can cause electrical system failures.

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Lead Free Hand Soldering – Conclusion
• Despite the variations between lead free and lead-based hand soldering, it is possible to meet IPC Class 3 requirements. The Lead Free Component Focus Group and the JG-PP / JCAA Lead Free Soldering Program determined that it is feasible to meet IPC Class 3 requirements with respect to solder fillet quality, wetting, and solder pad coverage.

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