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70 SMT Magazine • January 2016 by Steve Fraser FirSTronic Talk to electronics manufacturers about va- por phase (VP) reflow solder technology and you'll find people who either love it or hate it. The reason for this diversity of opinion is due to fact that it is a technology that many people still do not fully understand. Yet, it is also a technol- ogy that has come of age in an era where its efficiency in reflowing densely packed printed circuit board assemblies is highly valued, since the vapor blanket immersion process ensures perfect wetting and void-free, high-quality sol- der joints. Firstronic's electronics contract manufactur- ing operation in Juarez, Mexico has installed two VP reflow soldering systems over the last year. The facility also uses convection reflow soldering. On the positive side of the equation, VP re- flow soldering offers several advantages: • Fewer process windows, which reduces changeover time • Cleaner solder joints at lower temperatures • More even heating for even large PCBAs • Can eliminate need for wave solder or selective solder on mixed technology PCBAs • Lower energy costs than convection reflow technology. However, there can also be learning curve issues and tradeoffs: • While the oven is in line and operates as a pass-through system, VP technology is still a batch process and the machine capacity must be sized to projected line volume • The efficiency of the VP process can generate surprises in initial process development • The fluid utilized in the process is a consumable which adds to cost. an Excellent Solution for Lean Manufacturing One of the big advantages in VP reflow sol- dering technology is that relatively few unique profiles are required. There is zero wait state be- tween products and VP requires far fewer pro- files than found in convection reflow soldering. ArTiClE figure 1: firstronic has added two vapor phase reflow soldering systems to its Juarez, Mexico facility. Vapor Phase Technology is a Viable Solution, but Carries a Learning Curve

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