The benefits of controlling the atmosphere in an infra‐red reflow oven are evident in improved soldering yields and easier post‐soldering cleaning of the assembly. The main benefits arise from reducing the oxygen partial pressure in the atmosphere at the time when the solder is molten. The most common inerting atmosphere used is nitrogen, and to reduce the oxygen concentration to 100 ppm is relatively straightforward, but below this level the equipment and the running costs increase with decreasing oxygen requirement. This paper gives data on the effects of reducing the oxygen level on a number of parameters relevant to high quality manufacture and product reliability. The aim is to identify which aspects of the soldering process are crucially sensitive to the oxygen concentration and which are not, in order to establish a good working compromise between oxygen level and the cost of its attainment.
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