Investigating Analytical Tools for Testing Cleanliness with Foresite's Eric Camden


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At the West Penn SMTA Expo, I met Eric Camden, lead investigator at Foresite Inc. He was quite busy most of the day but towards the end, we found time for a chat. In the short time we talked, he taught me a great deal about fluxes and analytical tools for testing cleanliness.

Patty Goldman: Eric, Tell me a little bit about Foresite and yourself.

Eric Camden: Foresite is an analytical third-party testing lab that focuses on the process and all the materials that go into assembly. We do failure analysis as well as process qualification, process audits and optimization. We cover everything from incoming raw components to the final packaged product as it leaves the door. We have a long history of dealing with OEMs and CMs and looking at both the failure side of the process as well as the process qualification side. What we've learned in our 26 years is that everything matters. It's a cumulative process when it comes to building an assembly. We look at everything from the innerlayer of the PC fab all the way to the ESD bag that a board is put in on the way out the door.

Everything that comes in contact with an assembly has an opportunity to cause an issue. Today I was here specifically speaking about no-clean flux processes—how to properly wash them, and what happens if you don't—and I also gave a presentation on localized cleaning. We kind of ran the gamut in terms of different people that I've talked to and different topics, but there seems to be a very large market out there cleaning no-clean flux and all the associated risk and the right parameters to use to remove all those fluxes.

Goldman: You are largely a testing laboratory, correct? You don't have any cleaning product or anything like that, do you?

Camden: Correct. We don't have any cleaning product. We do some recovery cleaning for some of our customers if they find something has been in the field that wasn't properly processed the first time around and they can't get it back through their process in time. They'll ship it to us, we'll clean it and ship it back out. But primarily we're a process materials lab so we do cross sections, SEM/EDX, FTIR, XRF, X-ray, ion chromatography, IC mass spec, we have a lot of equipment that helps us determine the quality of a product both before it goes out the door and after it comes back from the field in a failure mode.

Goldman: Are your customers generally the assembly companies or the OEMs or is it a mix?

Camden: It is a mix. Typically, the CMs aren't a direct customer. They're being driven by their customers to use our services. But there are certainly many larger CMs that you can think of that have been our direct customers for many, many years now because they've seen what happens if they don't do certain types of analyses before a product goes out and how it tends to come back as a failure. Over time it's a lot easier to do the work up front than it is to do it on the back end because then you've got a failure. It’s not only the money it takes to replace those but the potential of losing business going forward due to issues that the assembly caused their customer by failing. It's a lot easier and cheaper to do all that homework up front to determine if cleanliness is an issue or the material is an issue with the product in the field. If you do the homework up front and you determine that it either is or is not proper for the application, we can help the customer determine that before building 100,000 of these a month and getting them in the field.

Goldman: So, reliability is the name of the game.

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