Vapour Phase capability

Speedboard Assembly Services has enhanced its Printed Circuit Board (PCB) assembly capabilities, following its investment in an IBL BLC 509 Vapour Phase oven; where Vapour Phase affords much better control and stability over the entire soldering process, compared to traditional reflow soldering, regardless of board characteristics.

For instance, the above PCB was produced using the new Vapour Phase oven. It has 75µ track / 85µm gap over nearly all of its area, approximately 10,000 microvias, approximately 8,000 conventional vias, and 22 layers in a flexi-rigid construction (giving a total thickness of 2.5mm). This combination of features makes the board extremely challenging to assemble using traditional reflow techniques.

PCBs manufactured using Vapour Phase do not experience the high temperature differences (‘delta Ts’) typically produced during traditional reflow soldering, which can cause component and/or board damage. For example, the large thermal mass variations between the rigid areas and the flexi limbs of the above PCB, combined with the wide variety of component types, demand a very controllable soldering process. Indeed, for boards of this complexity, and greater, Vapour Phase is fast becoming the only way guaranteeing consistently high production yields.

The Vapour Phase process works by heating the PCB, which has already been through screen-print and one or more pick and place stages, in the vapour of boiling Galden, an inert liquid which is ideal for the wetting of lead-free alloys without risk of oxidation.

Neil Owen, Speedboard’s Managing Director (left), comments: “High complexity, and by extension high value, boards demand the use of alternative production techniques in order to maintain consistently high quality. Following our investment in Vapour Phase, we are able to tackle increasingly challenging projects for customers operating in sectors such as Industrial, Defence, Medical, Communications and Security, where stringent standards are demanding consistency and quality throughout the entire manufacturing process.”

A Vapour Phase oven requires far less electrical power than a traditional reflow oven, so is a cost-effective solution for small batch PCBs. Owen adds: “We’re also very conscious of our environmental responsibilities and obligations. Galden is an environmentally-friendly liquid plus the IBL oven has airlocks to minimise evaporation to atmosphere as well as the volume of liquid lost during board transfer on the pallets. Indeed, we are expecting to use no more than a few litres of Galden per year.”

Working conditions for employees are also a priority for Speedboard, and in this respect the IBL oven is easy to work around and is well insulated; so does not radiate as much heat as a conventional reflow machine.

Speedboard purchased its IBL BLC 509 Vapour Phase oven through Blundell Production Equipment, IBL’s exclusive distributor in the UK. The oven is fully operational and its use is, as per IBL’s claims, resulting in consistently high quality boards.

Owen concludes: “Customer satisfaction is of paramount importance to us, and our new Vapour Phase oven allows us to take on increasingly complex projects without even beginning to compromise the levels of repeatable high quality for which Speedboard is renowned.

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