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The electronic assembly cleaning industry is unique among other assembly equipment segments. Very few, if any, other assembly processes are considered unnecessary by some while being absolutely required by others.
The fact is, assembly contamination may or may not cause a reduction in product reliability. Each assembly has a "contamination tolerance signature." While some assemblies are impervious to contamination residues, others are not.
The amount of electronic assemblies with a high tolerance for contamination is shrinking. Assembly design including size, component type and density, stand-off heights, electrical voltage and current factors, as well as end-product in-use environmental/climatic conditions all play a role in determining the contamination tolerance signature of an electronic assembly. Add to that a cost of failure analysis and the decision to remove process residues/contamination or leave them on the assembly is an easy one. While other electronic assembly processes measure performance in "more" (more feeders, more zones, more magnification, more capacity), cleaning equipment and chemicals measure progress in "less" (less water, less chemicals, less VOCs, less discharge, less contamination, etc.). In the cleaning world, less is more.
In 1992, Aqueous Technologies made a commitment to reduce the footprint of cleaning. We designed equipment that cleaned electronic assemblies using less water, less electricity, less chemicals, less discharge, and less time than other processes common in that era. While less was more 23 years ago, even less is even more today.
During 2015, Aqueous Technologies' products saved millions of gallons of water (a fact not lost on our West Coast customers). More of our zero discharge cleaning systems were sold than any other year resulting in the savings of millions of gallons of water consumed and the complete elimination of a need for a drain. Our goal in 2016 is to continue our environmental stewardship by providing more zero discharge models to companies who clean their assemblies, resulting in improved product reliability and a cleaner, greener planet.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of SMT Magazine.