You know, at ECD we have been in the thermal profiling business for over 25 years. Most of what we profile is the reflow soldering process. There are many others like wave soldering, baking, drying, curing, and a host of other industrial temperature process. Still, reflow soldering is the most popular use for a thermal profiler like the MOLE. And yet, most of what can be found on the subject of reflow soldering, at least on the web, focuses on specific portions of the reflow process and not on the entire process as a whole.
For example, component manufacturers would have you avoid certain limits in temperature or temperature change rate (slope) to avoid damaging their parts. And that’s ok, but that only tells you what to avoid, temperature wise. Most solder paste manufacturers would have you believe that their paste can take most any reflow thermal process so as not to be excluded from purchase. This too is understandable and in reality, most solder pastes are good and will solder your components to your circuit board. Many standards (like IPC standards) on the subject suggest what your product MUST withstand to be considered robust and not necessarily an ideal reflow process thermal profile. This makes sense, because there is no one reflow thermal profile that will solder every possible circuit board assembly, and standards must be general in their application. Then there are the public websites that are often peppered with bias toward a specific brand of profiler in their description of what’s important or how to view it.
Each year new talent enters the work force and training in the art of reflow soldering is limited or costly. Worse yet, some learning about the reflow process only occurs from failures caused by incorrect reflow process settings. And perhaps worst of all, many reflow solder machine are still running the same setting set generations ago because no one currently available has the skill to make them better. Just because many industry veterans understand the issues around reflow soldering and thermal profiling does not mean the new talent can hit the road running. And, since most every electronic assembly will pass through either reflow soldering, wave soldering, or sometimes both, I thought it important to take a look at the reflow solder process, dissect it and consider what’s important to measure and control. Click here for the more in-depth look.