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40 SMT007 MAGAZINE I JULY 2018 Feature by Jason Fullerton ALPHA ASSEMBLY SOLUTIONS As a technical support engineer for a solder manufacturer, I like to joke that nobody ever calls with easy questions. One common ques- tion that is received from current and prospec- tive customers is, "How do I test and evaluate new solder pastes?" Although that seems like it should be a straightforward question with an easy answer, this could not be further from the truth. The method of evaluation is of vital importance to an assembler who is looking to adopt a new solder paste because the resulting decision will impact factory operations for years to come. However, the best method of evaluation differs from one user to the next based on several factors. More simply put, the best answer that can be given to the question of how to eval- uate a solder paste is also the last answer most people that ask want to hear: "It depends." Perhaps a better way to state the answer is, "What is important to you?" So, if the best answer is different for every- one, how does one start to develop a test plan? A good start is to understand the level of resources that will be allocated to the evalua- tion, which is typically a function of organiza- tion size. If the evaluation is being performed by a small manufacturer with one SMT line and will be solely undertaken by a single engi- neer, then the focus should be limited to only the most important factors of solder paste product performance for that manufacturer. On the other hand, if the evaluation is being performed by a large multi-site (or even multi- national) manufacturer and the testing is being performed by a team under the guidance of a subject matter expert, then the test plan should encompass all possible performance factors and be very wide in scope. Larger evaluations may also be able to utilize custom or purpose- designed test vehicles and may repli- cate tests at more than one location, where smaller organizations may be limited to testing on current or proto- type product designs during breaks in the production schedule. The Strategies for Choosing Solder Paste for Successful Electronics Assembly

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