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Improving the Reflow Process with SPC

Posted on Dec 01, 2001


With accurate monitoring of a reflow oven's operating parameters, SPC can track product quality and increase yields.

Today's reflow ovens provide a high level of "smart technology." But, no matter how advanced the oven, circumstances can result in shifts in the oven's operating parameters. These shifts can be caused buy shipping damage, lack of maintenance, when a machine is moved within a facility or over time as internal components start wearing. Accordingly, measuring a reflow oven's operating parameters throughout its lifetime is essential.

A recent study examined reflow oven quantification and why special tools are beneficial to monitor the oven parameters. This article, which is the first of three, describes these monitoring tools and the design of experiments conducted in this study. This article also explains the parameters that comprise a stable forced convection reflow oven.

The second article in the series will discuss the basics of statistical process control (SPC) and how it fits into the concept of total quality management (TQM) as applied to both the reflow process and production in general.In that article, data from the experiments will be applied to several basic SPC formulas to illustrate how each provides specific results and where each may be the most useful, based on why they are being used. The article will also describe the pitfalls of incomplete or inadequate SPC program planning and how best to avoid them.

The final article in the series will combine oven quantification with the SPC examples and apply them to real production situations. Detailed examples will describe how to decide data collection frequency, what SPC outputs best suit a particular situation, and how to use the results to improve the reflow process. The goal is to provide enought information to create a basic SPC framework that can be easily adapted to almost any electronics assembly line. SPC for specific problems will also be discussed, including the special needs of lead-free applications where extremely tight process windows will make reflow one of the most critical factors in the process.

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