Cleaning Trends: The Challenges of Miniaturization and Proximity


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Goldman: So, you get in to a lot troubleshooting? And you have to know the machines pretty well then, all the different types of cleaning machines that are in use?

Wissel: We absolutely do. We have an excellent support team that has well over a hundred years’ combined experience on machines—in-lines, batch washers, etc.—and this is all over the world.

Goldman: That's good, because the chemistry always gets blamed…

Wissel: What's really funny is, let's say you go out and you wash your car, and you find a scratch. Now was that scratch there before you washed it or because you washed it? Sometimes cleaning may reveal something that was already there, but you just didn’t notice it until the dirt was out of the way.

Goldman: So, it partly falls to you to sort that out.

Wissel: Well, it often falls to us to help the customer. Sometimes it really is a cleaning-related issue, such as a compatibility concern with a certain component or label, or other times the issue stems from something upstream.

Goldman: But your team sees many shops and manufacturers and you must have quite an overall picture that one manufacturer doesn't see. So, you could bring a whole lot to the party.

Wissel: Absolutely. We have a global team of seasoned experts in chemistry and machine process-related issues. Our goal is to retain customers for life.

Goldman: You have to look beyond the one episode or the one problem. I always say you have to help your customers succeed. Your customers need to succeed for you to succeed.

Wissel: Very true. Our business model is simple. It's about working side by side with our customers overcoming whatever challenges are presented. By providing products that work every time and unmatched technical support, we’ve achieved mutually successful partnerships for nearly 30 years.

Goldman: And you have been helping those customers to succeed. Having all that technical background, you can say, "Oh, I saw that somewhere else and here’s the solution," that an individual shop with their limited resources may not see or may not know about.

Wissel: As I mentioned, industry miniaturization is driving things and creating new cleaning challenges for assemblers. KYZEN has been involved in the semiconductor and advanced packaging market for decades. As assembly is driving towards smaller and smaller devices with higher densities, our experience in the advanced packaging world gives us a great perspective and insight to addressing these evolving needs.

Goldman: You can teach your customers as well.

Wissel: We like to think of ourselves as “consultants that get paid by the blue drum.” So, really being able to help that customer develop their process and have reliable production is our priority. This allows them to focus on other parts of their business. Cleaning may be a necessity, but it's not something that everybody wants to do or be a champion of.

Goldman: They expect it to just work, period.

Wissel: Yes, they expect it to just work. If the cleaning process isn’t successful, then their finished product may not achieve their standards as well. We all brush our teeth and take showers or do dishes every day. Cleaning isn’t new and it’s not elegant, however it is often a necessity that must work. For example, Class III manufacturers building medical, military or automotive devices can have life and death ramifications if they fail. It's important that we take a lot of pride in making quality products that support those industries.

Goldman: Tell me a little bit about no-clean versus clean types of fluxes. Do you have different products for each, or how does it that work?

Wissel: Excellent question. No-clean presents certain solubility challenges compared with traditional flux formulations, however product selection is often about process and customer equipment. Our R&D department continuously evaluates our products with the latest soldering materials.

Goldman: And the users figured they didn't need you for no-clean, right? (Laughs)

Wissel: People were a little worried about that. But it's amazing now how many users are discovering that they need to remove a “no clean” residue. Again, as components shrink in size and complexity of the devices increase, even seemingly benign residues can be problematic. The challenge increases because most no-clean materials are designed not to be cleaned.

Goldman: Is the cleaning of them more difficult?

Wissel: It requires continuous R&D and testing. It's always this chicken or egg scenario with the flux manufacturers, and we partner with all of them to assist with feedback in developing more cleanable no-cleans. If they have a paste that's very difficult to clean, and a high-reliability customer needs to remove it, then it creates real challenges for the user, the solder manufacturer and the cleaning agent company. So, there's a lot of industry collaboration trying to make more cleanable no-clean fluxes.

There is continuous evolution and product development on the soldering materials (fluxes), which drives innovation in the cleaning agents (chemistry). We’re also seeing more diversity in board surface finish. Whether it be an OSP coating, ENIG or other type, you want a cleaning agent that works on everything. Historically, compatibility was focused on a tin-lead HASL surface. Precious metals are now more common on the surface and because they're precious, they're plated very thinly, often only angstroms thick. Customers demand an effective cleaning agent that removes something that may not be designed to be removed without harming any of the precious, delicate materials on the surface. It’s a true balancing act.

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