Ron Lasky: A Perspective on Writing About Solder Defects

Reading time ( words)

Nolan Johnson speaks with Dr. Ron Lasky about The Printed Circuit Assembler’s Guide to… Solder Defects. Dr. Lasky is a full-time professor at Dartmouth College, and he works part-time at Indium Corporation as a senior technologist, helping its customers solve defects. This I-Connect007 eBook, he says, is a compilation of all he’s learned over the years as well as the deep technical knowledge of the team at Indium Corporation. 

Nolan Johnson: Dr. Lasky, it’s nice to talk with you. In your role with Indium Corporation, you’ve just published a new book. Tell me about it. 

Dr. Ron Lasky: The folks at Indium Corporation have been committed to providing the industry with a focused book that would cover how to solve defects in electronic assembly; we felt that there was a real need for this. People who work at companies like Indium Corporation, which supplies materials to its customers, are usually helping their customers solve defects. So, the engineers and technicians at Indium Corporation are probably more knowledgeable about solving defects than many people would be in their working companies that assemble, because every day many of them are on the phone helping people with problems. They’ve kind of seen it all. 

Johnson: Indium Corporation’s experience draws from multiple people, multiple facilities, multiple technologies, solving problems every day. Of course, they’ve got a huge body of knowledge to work from. 

Lasky: In addition, there are new failure modes that come out. For example, go back probably 10 years when the head-in-pillow defect reared its ugly head. In addition to helping their customers solve problems, companies like Indium Corporation improve their solder paste so that they would minimize this defect. Indium Corporation engineers are in the lab testing the new solder paste and studying, firsthand, the head-in-pillow defect. It’s natural that they would have the information to put together a book on defects. 

If you had asked me when I was 25 if I would partially make my living by writing technical papers, I would have laughed because I was always the lopsided guy who was really good in math and science and got a B- in English. But I’ve now worked with Indium Corporation for 20 years. Often, the engineers there will have worked on the head-in-pillow defect, helped customers, and created a PowerPoint presentation to share with the customers on how to minimize the head-in-pillow defect, so there is a tremendous knowledge base to draw from. 

It is truly a collaborative effort. When our engineers don’t have the bandwidth to write a paper, I’ll draft a presentation – for example on the head-in-pillow defect – into a paper or poster, and they will provide a review. 

When we thought about doing this defects book, I had a rich body of past papers, posters, and PowerPoint presentations to draw from. The book’s co-author, Indium Corporation Senior Product Manager Chris Nash, provided a majority of the editing duties. He is an invaluable co-author because while I think I’m very knowledgeable in this world, Chris is working in it every day. I don’t have a lab where I can do experiments. So, in a sense, I do my experiments through people at Indium Corporation—such as Chris, Ed Briggs, and Tim Jensen—who provide the real-world data. 

Johnson: That sure points to the deep technical knowledge on the team. How practical do you get with the contents of the book? 

Lasky: Well, that’s one of the things that we really were striving for: to be practical. If you’re having a problem with voiding, graping, the head-in-pillow defect, or tombstoning, you could read this book, then go out to your line and actually perform a process improvement. 

We were striving to make the book practical and something you could take with you out on the line, hopefully helping the reader to solve a real-world problem. 

Johnson: Who do you see as your target reader? 

Lasky: I would say a process engineer. It would be great for the operators to read it. But the implementer and the change of the process should be the process engineer. 

Johnson: What about management level roles? Is the book useful to them? How? 

Lasky: Yes, absolutely, because the manager should understand what’s going on in the line and should be knowledgeable about this. In some cases, just to know to point out to the process engineer and the operators, we discussed that this exists, and you should be reading it. 

Whether you are a process engineer, an operator, or someone in a management role, I think we can all take a step back from time to time to refresh on the basics. One interesting thing I find is that when I give workshops, I always give a “pre-test.” I ask 10 questions to see where the participants in the workshop are knowledge-wise. Basic questions, such as “What does the S stand for in SAC solder?” “What is a typical lead spacing for a plastic quad flat pack?” “What is the melting point of the lead-free solder?” Things like that. I’m almost always stunned by the responses I get to these 10-question tests. 

One of my missions—and Indium Corporation’s as well—is helping people through education. 

Johnson: Final thoughts? 

Lasky: It’s fulfilling to finish something like this. There was a thing or two that I thought I understood pretty well, but now in writing it and going through it, I’ve really solidified my own understanding of the defects. 

Johnson: So, you can even be an industry expert, with your own firsthand experience on a topic such as this, and in the process of writing a book, you learn something new? 

Lasky: Yeah. Or you ask yourself a question that you never asked before. I find that’s always the case, even in writing papers. It can even be a little embarrassing: Why did I never think of this before? But you need to be humble, right? We all need to be humble. 

Johnson: That’s valuable information for the readers, to be sure. Dr. Lasky, thanks for taking the time to talk with us about the book. 

Lasky: Anytime.


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