Automated Soldering Processes Benefit from Flexible Extraction Solutions

Automated soldering processes have a significant and positive impact on productivity in the global electronics industry, but to optimize these gains, businesses also need to invest in fume extraction solutions that offer flexibility as well ensuring safe working environments.

Whereas the default position for electronics companies was once to hook up any new or changed process to a vent-to-air or centralized exhaust system, now portable extraction systems, such as those designed by BOFA, are increasingly gaining traction to support the agile working practices driving improved productivity.

What automation doesn’t do, of course, is to de-risk industrial processes. While it can reduce manual contact – in soldering for example – automated processes often present different hazards that need to be controlled.

Automated soldering

Take wave soldering for example. Here, the printed circuit board (pcb) components are placed on the board and passed over a continuous wave of molten solder. Areas not to be soldered are covered with a protective ‘mask’.

While this process doesn’t involve the resin/colophony present in hand soldering (with its inherent risks of occupational asthma), it can require the use of an alcohol-based solvent such Iso Propyl Alcohol (IPA) and a small amount of organic acid, fume from which needs to be controlled, extracted and filtered.

Before soldering, the boards are ‘spray fluxed’. This can be a general spray, which generates an airborne dispersion of the flux, or a targeted jet from a robotic nozzle. Either way, airborne contaminants are created that can irritate eyes and lungs, while any IPA vapor concentration may cause drowsiness and dizziness, throat irritation and a feeling of tightness in the chest.

With reflow soldering, solder paste is applied to the pcb and components are then ‘picked and placed’. The board moves through various heating, stabilizing and cooling zones, during which the solder metal ‘reflows’ or melts and solidifies around the component connection.  During this process, the solvent which makes the paste liquify will evaporate and will need to be extracted/filtered.

The fume from this process will include rosin content, with the associated health risks. A solder flux may also be used, which is likely to possess a significant concentration of ammonium chloride. As with wave soldering, operating temperatures need to be taken into account to ensure the effective capture and filtration of any potentially harmful emissions.

Portable fume extraction

BOFA solutions combat all these risks, through multi-stage filtration technology that includes specialist activated carbon filters designed to capture specific chemical emissions. This ensures a particulate filter efficiency of near 100% (99.997%) is achieved, working towards compliant health protection while helping deliver the productivity gains that come from mobile technology and fume and dust free process lines.

Popular BOFA technology for automated soldering processes includes the V 2000 iQ, a high airflow fume extraction system for reflow ovens and wave solder machines. Large filter capacity and vast carbon filters ensure long filter life and optimal extraction even when lead free solder is used. It also offers adjustable and regulated airflow control to ensure consistent temperatures.

In addition, BOFA’s revolutionary iQ operating platform has introduced new levels of control, including independent filter status monitoring to improve extraction efficiency, reduce the risk of downtime and lower the overall cost of system ownership.

To find out more, go to BOFA’s web section on electronics solutions.