KIC Shows Solutions to Voiding Problems via Optimized Reflow Profiling

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I had a chance to sit down with MB (Marybeth) Allen at SMTAI recently, who gave me a background on her company, KIC, and discussed some of the details of her presentation “Optimized Reflow Profiling to Minimize Voiding” with me.

Patty Goldman: MB, so nice to meet you. Please tell me a little about yourself and your company.

MB Allen: I am a project manager with KIC. I was a rep for KIC initially and have worked directly, both nationally and internationally, a total of about 27 years. KIC makes equipment and software geared towards process control during the thermal processes in SMT. We work with reflow ovens, wave soldering machines and other thermal equipment.

Goldman: What equipment are you exhibiting here today?

Allen: As I said, we deal primarily with thermal management of the reflow and wave processes. This week I'm also doing some presentations for SMTA during the IPC sessions and we're focusing right now on the problem with voiding. We offer some solutions for customers who have problems with voiding. Typically, voiding can be associated to a few different parts of the process even before it gets to the reflow oven, like the soldering materials themselves, the stencils and the placement. Once it gets past reflow, if you have voiding you have a problem. There are solutions that you can look at on those first three parts of the process, but very often the problem with voiding is addressed through the reflow process.

What we offer are some software solutions to help the customers understand what their profile is, and then to find an optimized profile to eliminate that problem or at least significantly reduce it. Usually, that has to do with the profile/recipe itself. When the industry went to lead-free manufacturing, on some of the smaller components, like bottom terminated components, voiding became an issue. They're smaller and of course that's a bit challenging. It's very important to be able to find a solution for them as well as balance the profile for the rest of the components and not damage anything else.

Some ideas for the changes in profiling for reducing voids are eliminating a soak and going to a ramp to peak. When you do that however, some of these recommended profiles are also taking the peak temperature a little bit higher and you risk damaging some of the components likes LEDs or plastic connectors. So, for components like QFNs we're helping the customer to focus on those plus one of the things that we're showing is that you can attach thermocouples to various components on the board and create a process window around each of those.

You’re not focusing on just the solder paste but you're also focusing on the component specifications and finding an appropriate recipe and profile across the board. That's very important because if you find a solution for one thing and then you turn something else out of spec, you're back where you started from. That's what we're focusing on right now.

Goldman: Very interesting. And you're also presenting here at SMTAI?

Allen: Yes, as a matter of fact, I'm in a discussion on Thursday on this topic, and I'm in a couple of roundtable discussions as well. A lot of the discussions are focusing on Industry 4.0, IoT and things like that because our company knows that this is the direction of the industry. We've had solutions for this for a very long time—where we can integrate to other software and work with various ovens and so forth—but now the focus is becoming much more worldly.

Goldman: Everybody's paying attention now.

Allen: Exactly. I'm very pleased to be involved in some of that. The key is looking at profiling as a solution when people have voiding problems because it's becoming worse and it's very difficult; very often your hands are tied when it comes to that. Profiling is the one variable that you can use. You can change it immediately and that effect is immediately recognized. You're not going to have to wait some time to find out if that was a good solution or not. It's an instantaneous change and immediate results can be seen. Using profiling as a source for eliminating or reducing voiding is very popular and we offer the tools for these solutions. That's part of my focus here at the show.

Goldman: Have you authored a paper for the session?

Allen: I have not authored a paper yet. I'm presenting and then it's not part of IPC so it's not part of the SMTA. It's a group that I'm working with that will be presenting on Thursday. We have a lot of partners that we work with, other manufacturers, solder paste manufacturers. It's important to do that research, which I have done, and to gather that information and put it all together so that we can help our customers.

I'm also on the 2-17 IPC committee that’s looking at data communication for the entire factory. I'm very happy to be on that. It's a new committee and we're working on a new standard. I'm excited to see how that goes.

Goldman: It's always good to get involved and play a part in improving the industry.

Allen: I enjoy it very much.

Goldman: Thank you so much for your time.

Allen: It's my pleasure.


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