Soldering technology is the key component of printed circuit board assembly. It started with the technological revolution when when the demand for flexible circuits reached an all-time high. And it hasn’t let up yet.
Flex circuits, or flexible printed circuit boards (PCB assembly), are intricate circuitries and conductors that are bonded to a thin, insulating film. These assemblies are flat, lightweight and can be two-sided, 3-D, or multilayered. They take up minimal space compared with rigid PCB and wire harnesses. They are also more reliable than traditional assemblies because little to no wiring is involved. In other words, they meet the stringent requirements of many 21st century products, including consumer electronics, communications equipment, medical equipment and more.
The soldering process is even a little different. In many cases, electronic components are directly soldered onto the flex circuit board, which requires precision and skill. Small-scale manufacturers might employ hand operators who are trained to work with a soldering iron. Large-scale manufacturers might use wave soldering, a technique that involves gluing components onto the surface of a printed circuit board and running it through a molten solder wave.
But both processes have their pitfalls. Hand operators struggle to keep up with mounting demands. And because flex circuits are so small, some areas are incredibly difficult to reach and solder, which means human error is more likely. Similarly, wave soldering requires an extra step in the attachment process and can result in defects, such as insufficient fills or voids within the solder joint.
What is Automation Soldering Technology?
Automation soldering technology is a breakthrough for both low- and high-production operations. Simply put, it is highly sophisticated robotic soldering machines that are incredibly accurate, fast and require little human involvement. Among its many advantages, automation soldering technology:
Eliminates the need for expensive wave solder pallets
Is inexpensive to run
Brings consistency and repetition to production lines
Provides independent control of each solder joint
Produces minimal thermal shock
How Can Automation Soldering Help Me?
Automation soldering technology enables manufacturers to meet the growing demand for flex circuits and flex PCB. Being able to provide these assemblies can decrease the cost of electrical interconnections by as much as 70%. They can also reduce cable and wiring use by as much as 75%.
Automation soldering technology also provides benefits over hand soldering. Things like temperature control and cleanliness come to mind. Hand-soldering operations can vary from station-to-station and operator-to-operator. This makes it the least favorable of all assembly methods. It is not a reproducible process.
Hand-soldering also heats parts up very rapidly. Within a second or two the temperature is well above the melting temperature of the alloy. Reflow soldering is an option because it slowly increases the temperature, but you must be extremely careful to solder the terminations only.
Since laser soldering does not require a vat of molten lead solders, like a wave soldering system does, it’s far more flexible. It’s also easier to use because it doesn’t have the same need to work a joint into a nozzle like a fountain-solder system. You can also move different board designs in and out without having to retool. It is a far more flexible system.
They type of soldering system you use can make a difference. By investing in automation soldering technology, iCONN successfully decreased its own costs by 13%.
We’ve also been able to bring assemblies back from China. This allowed us to employ more people and increase their engineering capabilities in the interconnect solutions vertical. In many instances, quality gets compromised for speed. But thanks to automation soldering technology, that’s not the case with manufacturing.
This technology improves quality and reliability by implementing mechanical-grade precision and creating greater consistency. The benefits of soldering technology will more than make up for the opportunity costs in the long run. This is due to the advantages it presents over other selective soldering methods.
Customers appreciate shorter lead times (especially on high-volume orders) and receive a superior product for less.
Automation soldering technology is just one of the custom solutions we provide to our customers. If you’d like to learn more, our guide “How to Get The Best Connector for Your Product” can help. Find out how you can avoid a costly connector mistake by letting us guide you through the process. We’ll be happy to take you through all three steps. From researching and strategy to design engineering, to prototype, pre-production and environmental analysis.