Cleaning Trends: The Challenges of Miniaturization and Proximity


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I met up with KYZEN VP of Global Technology Ram Wissel, at the recent SMTA International conference and show. Our discussion focused on cleaning.

Patty Goldman: Ram, thanks for joining me today. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your company?

Ram Wissel: I'm the vice president of global technology with KYZEN. We supply cleaning products for the electronics assembly industry. What I want to talk about is a couple of industry trends that we're seeing. Number one is in electronics. We're seeing a continued drive towards miniaturization, and as parts get smaller they become more difficult to clean, but with that residue, they become more sensitive to the residue as well. If you have a little bit of material left under a bottom termination component, it's more likely to cause an issue down the road than on a tall through-hole component that might have been on a board say 5, 10, or 15 years ago.

Goldman: Components and so forth are closer together, too, so that must be a cleaning concern as well.

Wissel: Right. LGAs, QFNs, and other densely populated devices are very sensitive to residues left behind. Besides that, engineers are also being tasked with many different priorities today. Their companies are trying to do more with fewer engineers, or less staff, and there's always a fight for attention with them. So, cleaning is becoming more critical, but the resource pool is becoming smaller. I had an old mentor friend tell me, "You know, Ram, to say ‘if I only had more money, or I only had more time or more resources’ is kind of a fool's errand, because you're never going to have enough. If you had an extra 10 people or a million dollars, then you'd find a way to consume those resources and then you'd be complaining about the same thing.”

Goldman: You just have to make do with what you have.

Wissel: In a way, yes. It’s about setting priorities and focusing on what’s most important. What we're seeing with industry 4.0 and the IoT is really empowering people to be more efficient and focused.

An example that I like to use is our dogs at home. A few years back my wife and I got a Nest camera. The selling point was that she could check in on the dogs while we are off at work. However the real value came when we’re gone on vacation. You’ve probably seen the commercials on TV, if someone comes to the driveway or the front door, you can get a picture or an email notification. That's peace of mind. My wife is now focused on vacation or whatever the trip may be and is confident knowing that, "If the house catches on fire or somebody comes to the door, we’ll immediately get notified."

What we think is very empowering is bringing that same type of technology with Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things to our world of cleaning and assembly. As I mentioned before an engineer or process technician may have their attention spread across several tasks or responsibilities. Now you can configure your cleaning process with certain parameters, and say, "Okay, I don't want my concentration to go 1% above or below my setpoint," then it will send you an alert, a text or email notification if that threshold is crossed. So now, that engineer or technician can be more focused on their other responsibilities until they get that email or text warning that the cleaning process needs attention. Just like the house hasn't caught fire, you know the oven wasn’t left on and everything is okay.

Goldman: How reliable is that? Is it foolproof? Is it engineer-proof? (Laughs)

Wissel: Nothing is engineer-proof! But as Industry 4.0, it's as reliable as the Internet. There have been process monitoring tools almost like an SAP system for the entire production plant available for years,  however, those are extremely complicated to implement and very expensive. The technology need is there, so we figured out how to bring that technology to help the smaller manufacturers.

Goldman: There are a lot of them out there.

Wissel: Exactly. So those businesses are going to be the ones that I think will be most benefited by the exciting things that are going on with Industry 4.0 and the internet of things.

Goldman: So KYZEN is all about cleaning products, am I correct?

Wissel: Yes, you're correct but we’re also process consultants. We provide precision cleaning agents and process solutions primarily for the electronics, semiconductor, and industrial metal finishing markets. We have a broad portfolio. We also have an array of lab services, because one of the things that's changing now with the J-STD-001 and general industry guidelines is trying to measure how clean is clean.

Goldman: Oh yes, and there's the whole issue about no-clean. It's not really no-residue. It's low-residue. People think that no-clean means there's nothing there but that’s not quite true.

Wissel: Precisely. No-clean is a wonderful marketing tool or name because it's really not a “no residue,” rather it leaves a small amount of residue behind. That may be fine for your toaster, but when I’m flying on an airplane, I'd rather the components be clean. Or if I were going to get a pacemaker I would absolutely want to know it was cleaned. So, we have products that fill those needs where a “no clean” needs to be removed.

In Southeast Asia, in China, and in Europe as well as North America, we have applications labs to prove out processes where it's challenging for a customer who wants to perform testing or implement changes that may interrupt production. We have an array of tools that allow customers to send in parts or, better yet, bring them in person to participate in the evaluation. It's kind of like a playground where they can develop and refine the process and say, "Alright, I've got this widget, I know it needs to be cleaned for reliability. What's the best way?” And then we have various analytical techniques to measure how clean is clean so that they can verify and define the process.

Goldman: That's great. I would think that's very successful, and an excellent way of engaging the customer.

Wissel: It's very customer-forward. We sell chemistry, but we really are process experts. We have a global team of experienced technical support and process engineers that have a lot of manufacturing, chemical and machine background. The other analogy I like to use is that some of these machines look very much like a common dishwasher, right?

Goldman: Yes, that is very true.

Wissel: So when your dishes at home aren't coming out clean today, but they were yesterday, do you go out and buy a new dishwasher?

Goldman: No, you look at the detergent or you clean out the machine.

Wissel: Right, the most common answer is to change soap. We take a very customer-focused, hands-on approach to understand the concern and say, “Okay, if this is a process that has worked for a long period of time and suddenly it's not, something has changed. What is it and how can we find a solution together.”

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