Editor's Note: Understanding Plating and Surface Finishing

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We recently covered the HKPCA and IPC Show 2016 in Shenzhen, China. The overall mood at the event was very bullish on the coming year, despite recent news about raw material cost hikes, in particular that of copper clad laminates. Equipment and systems manufacturers say 2017 is expected to see more capital investments as the electronics manufacturing industry gets a little bit of clarity—for lack of a better word—in terms of the no-longer-hyped Industry 4.0 trend.

That is because China “got it” with its Smart Factory 1.0 model. Basically, Industry 4.0 will take years of development—from an electronics11 manufacturing standpoint—before we have a fully automated electronics assembly line without human intervention. What Smart Factory 1.0 promotes is that the industry already has advanced equipment with automation features designed to replace manual labor and improve processes—so the first step (the “1.0” tag) is to adopt these systems to transform production processes and make the more efficient. The thing is, it’s not so much as shooting for the moon, but taking baby steps to get there. The industry will get to 4.0 eventually; but for now, it’s important to optimize processes first and make them more efficient, which I believe is another part of the vision of intelligent manufacturing.

Equipment manufacturers also remain bullish because while most industry segments are not faring so well, one major growth driver remains: the automotive electronics sector. This is due to the continually increasing amount of electronics in cars, the development of more electric vehicles, and government initiatives to make driving safer than ever.

So much for my recap of the general atmosphere at that show and what these manufacturers think 2017 will be. Of course, it is too early to tell, but at least it gives us some sort of insight as to the developments to expect throughout the year.

survey.jpgMoving on, this month’s issue focuses on the impact of plating and surface finishing in electronics assembly. True, plating and surface finishing may be more directly significant in PCB fabrication (we are covering the same topic in The PCB Magazine and The PCB Design Magazine to provide you an end-to-end coverage on this particular topic), but surely they are important issues as well when it comes to the assembly side. In fact, according to our recent survey, 82% of the respondents said surface finishing impacts their assembly process.

Key issues include poor solderability and solder joint reliability, wettability, head on pillow issues, and inspection. One particular comment reads: “The most significant impact is on wire-bonding process window and die-attach (epoxy). The delivery inspection process is also painful when it comes to acceptance of imperfections.”

On this note, Joemar Apolinario and Dnichols Dulang of EMS firm Integrated Micro-Electronics Inc. elaborated in a short interview how plating and surface finishing impact the assembly process. They talked about solderability, and provided key parameters to consider to help optimize the assembly process.

Inside, you will also find an article by Ben Gumpert, William Fox, and C. Don Dupriest of Lockheed Martin that evaluates the use of electroless nickel/electroless palladium/immersion gold (ENEPIG) plating in small solder joints amid the decreasing size of parts used in electronics assembly.

On a slightly similar topic, Yoshinori Ejiri, Takehisa Sakurai, Yoshinori Arayama, Yoshiaki Tsubomatsu, and Kiyoshi Hasegawa of Hitachi Chemical Co. Ltd discuss the influence of electroless Ni/Pd/Au plating film thickness on solder ball joint reliability.

Finally, Jim Wilcox and Francis Mutuku of Universal Instruments Corp. and Shuai Shao and Babak Arfaei of Binghamton University focus on the different failure modes as observed based on board surface finish.

As always, we also have a lineup of interesting articles to kick-start the year. First, we have Jake Kulp of MC Assembly breaking down the long, complex sales cycle in the EMS industry.

Next, we have Eddie Groves of the Selective Soldering Academy writing about the advantages and disadvantages of different fluxes in the selective soldering process, and their impact on solder joint quality and reliability.

Finally, we have Stefan Meissner of ULT AG writing about the influence of clean air on the value-added chain in electronics production.

Of course, SMT Magazine is not complete without our columnists. First, Michael Ford continues his “Smart for Smart’s Sake” series. This month, he writes about another opportunity offered by the move toward digital manufacturing—the complete traceability of the operation.

Next, Tom Borkes continues on the topic of a new organizational model using logic, cost effectiveness and customer service. In previous columns, he talked extensively about one of the controllable components of labor cost: using automation to reduce labor content. This month, he starts his discussion on the other controllable component of labor cost: indirect labor.

For his part, Bob Wettermann writes about reducing warpage on BGAs to avoid shorts and open circuits post rework.

I am happy to announce that we have a new columnist. Richard Heimsch, a director at Protean Inbound, and Super Dry in the Americas, will be writing about management of moisture sensitivity in his column “More Than Just Dry Air.” His inaugural column talks about controlling oxidation and intermetallics in moisturesensitive devices.

Finally, we have Keith M. Sellers, a regular columnist at The PCB Magazine, who explores the tin whisker phenomenon, and why testing of your mitigation practices is both critical and prudent in the development of a reliable product.

I hope you enjoy this month’s issue of SMT

Magazine. By the way, IPC APEX EXPO 2017 is just around the corner. I hope to see you there!

And so, Happy New Year! I hope this year will be better than the last and bring you more business and success.  


Stephen Las Marias is managing editor of SMT Magazine. He has been a technology editor for more than 12 years covering electronics, components, and industrial automation systems.

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of SMT Magazine.


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