SMT Perspectives and Prospects: Ebullient Trade Events Going Virtual

In the first quarter of recent years, we have looked to two information-rich events in the electronics industry arena—IPC APEX EXPO and CES (formerly Consumer Electronics Show)—to learn, observe, contribute, and enjoy. I have attended and participated in both events for several years, something I have relished.

This year, both events will be unprecedentedly different as they go virtual. We have been on this virtual platform for the past 10 months, and by now, perhaps we are all “trained” to conduct business virtually. IPC officials have indicated that IPC is committed to providing a digital platform that will allow the attendees to easily navigate more than 100 technical conference sessions and to view product demonstrations, as well as to advance by attending professional development courses.

As stated in the CES official site, CES is owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), and is the most influential tech event in the world. It is the proving ground for breakthrough technologies and global innovators. This is where the world's biggest brands do business and meet new partners, and the sharpest innovators hit the stage. CES features every aspect of the tech sector.

Indeed, CES has been the venue for leading electronics companies to showcase their cutting-edge products and services, as well as a platform for business leaders and innovators to share their vision and views on prevailing issue.

Certainly, there is nothing short of innovation in products and of inspiring and informative presentations and speeches. I recall that my very first in-person speech by Bill Gates (then CEO of Microsoft) was at CES. Without exception, I have been dazzled every year by the extent and the breadth of new products and lively demonstrations. The exciting products displayed at the show are mind-boggling in terms of the ingenuity, creativity, innovation, and the phenomenal functionalities of end-use products.

IPC APEX EXPO, on the other hand, focuses on the packaging and assembly of the electronic circuit board that is the critical “brain” behind the electronic products that are used across all industry sectors, be it consumer, industrial, commercial, military, telecommunication, computing, or medical and health care sectors. The IPC APEX EXPO conference and exposition address real-world problems related to printed circuit boards.

According to the IPC APEX EXPO 2021 website:

  • Attendees at all career stages can expect to access new material- and process-related research and best practices
  • Learn more about trending materials, applications and processes to prepare for the Factory of the Future
  • Interface with the collection of top suppliers
  • Learn from new product demos
  • Learn technical advances in technical sessions and professional development courses
  • Network with colleagues

Over the years, countless professionals, engineers, managers and business-decision makers have unequivocally benefited by attending and participating in the IPC APEX EXPO. At IPC APEX EXPO 2021, there will be a comprehensive slate of professional development course offerings, ranging from circuit design and component technologies to PCB fabrication/materials and assembly processes to quality/test/inspection and reliability. Here, I would like to introduce two professional development courses I will be presenting that focus on preventing production defects and enhancing product reliability.

First Course: Preventing Manufacturing Defects and Product Failure
This course focuses on preventing the most prevailing production defects and product reliability issues that affect yield, cost and performance through an understanding of potential causes and plausible solutions. I will provide a holistic overview of product reliability, including the roles of materials, processes, testing/service conditions, and crucial principles behind the product reliability.

I will discuss two selected areas related to product failure:

  • Intermetallics
  • Tin whiskers

and five selected defects:

  • PCB pad cratering vs. pad lifting
  • BGA head-on-pillow
  • Open or insufficient solder joints
  • Copper dissolution issue
  • Lead-free through-hole barrel filling

Specific defects associated with the reliability of BTC, PoP and BGA assembly will be highlighted. The role of intermetallics at-interface and in-bulk, and the difference between SnPb and Pb-free solder joint in terms of intermetallic compounds, will be concisely summarized.

From practical perspectives, tin whiskers with emphasis on risk mitigation through understanding the factors that affect tin whisker growth and its testing challenges will be outlined. The practical tin whisker criteria for reliability implications in the lead-free environment and the relative effectiveness of mitigating measures will be ranked.

Second Course: Reliability of Electronics—Role of Intermetallic Compounds
As intermetallic compounds (IMCs) play an increasingly critical role in the performance and reliability of solder interconnections in the chip level, package level and board level of lead-free electronics, the second course expands the content coverage on the role of intermetallic compounds in the reliability of electronic products.

This course covers the relevant and important aspects of intermetallic compounds ranging from scientific fundamentals to practical application scenarios. I will examine IMCs before solder joint formation, during solder joint formation and after solder joint formation in storage and during service. Intermetallics at-interface and in-bulk, as well as the role of PCB surface finish/component coating in relation to intermetallics, in turn, to reliability will be discussed. The difference between SnPb and Pb-free solder joints in terms of intermetallic compounds, which affects production-floor phenomena and the actual field failure, will be outlined. The course will also address the relevant aspects of newer lead-free alloys that were recently introduced to the market.

The virtual setting of the APEX EXPO 2021 will be unique. However, it is the intent to make my courses interactive and lively. More importantly, attendees are encouraged to bring their own issues relevant to the topics for deliberation; questions and comments are warmly welcomed.

On a lighter note, in this virtual environment, one unintended “fringe benefit” is that the sore feet caused by walking for many hours a day on the expansive and enticing show floor will be spared, while we still can see, learn, observe the exhibits, and interact with the exhibitors on the show floor through the virtual platform. 

As I sifted through my previous writings related to IPC APEX EXPO, I want to share what I wrote in March 2001:

Reflections from APEX 2001, “… As I strolled on the exhibit floor, Siemens proudly and confidently demonstrated their newest equipment that offers the capability and precision in handling 0201 components. With the robust market demand in wireless products, this is indeed the year to actually implement the ‘tiny’ 0201s—be prepared... Another real progress is the keen interest in the alloy selection, technology and applications of lead-free systems as vividly demonstrated across the industry. Actual operation of lead-free assembly production finally extends to the U.S. from the foreign market. A slow yet steady progress in this area is expected… There were many other examples on the show floor that are evidence of the continued technology advancement. At APEX my time ran out unnoticeably and I wish I could have spent more time on the floor…”

It's been 20 years since that column, and the “tiny” passive components such as 0201 and 01005 have been implemented successfully and continue the path on miniaturization, integration and embedded system. Lead-free alloys, having gone through converging to SAC alloy and then diverging to application-specific alloys, continue to advance and evolve. 

This year, without reservation, I expect a variety of new products and frontier technologies to be exhibited; and I look forward to an exuberant, invigorating and enriching experience at IPC APEX EXPO and CES. (Note: This column was written just before CES, scheduled for Jan. 11-14.)

IPC APEX EXPO Presentations

  • Preventing Manufacturing Defects and Product Failure,” by Dr. Jennie S. Hwang, 9 a.m.-noon CST March 8.
  • Reliability of Electronics—Role of Intermetallic Compounds,” by Dr. Jennie S. Hwang, 2-5 p.m. CST March 8.

This column originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine.

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2021

SMT Perspectives and Prospects: Ebullient Trade Events Going Virtual

02-04-2021

Jennie Hwang reflects on past and current versions of CES and IPC APEX EXPO, and outlines her two presentations at APEX.

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2020

SMT Perspectives and Prospects: Joint Industry Standard IPC J-STD-00-Electronic Solder Alloys, Part 2

10-01-2020

In Part 2 of her column series on requirements for electronic-grade solder alloys and fluxed and non-fluxed solid solders for electronic soldering applications, Jennie Hwang addresses questions raised regarding the subject industry standard IPC J-STD-006. She also summarizes relevant background information, the options for plausible naming systems, and the logic behind the decision to adopt the current naming system.

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SMT Perspectives and Prospects: Rethinking Manufacturing–Bracing for and Embracing a Post-Pandemic Decade

07-28-2020

Against the potent backdrop of current events, how should our industry respond? How should we manage and rethink manufacturing? And what are the main issues at hand in near-term and long-term horizons? Dr. Jennie Hwang explores these questions, as well as three tangible areas of business and manufacturing.

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SMT Perspectives and Prospects: Smart Factory Implementation—How Smart Is Smart Enough?

04-13-2020

As we are moving further into the Industry 4.0 era, rigidity is out, and flexibility is in; stiffness is out, and agility is in; and sluggishness is out, and swiftness is in. Dr. Jennie Hwang explains how manufacturing companies need to develop a thorough understanding of the available technologies that can be utilized to translate business objectives into business roadmaps targeting operational excellence to produce competitive, reliable, and economic products that perform in a timely fashion in the marketplace.

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SMT Perspectives and Prospects: Joint Industry Standard IPC J-STD-006—Electronic Solder Alloys

01-02-2020

It has been nearly two decades since the global electronics industry adopted lead-free conversion from leaded electronics. Readers who have been in the industry during this period will recognize the changes and challenges the industry has faced and appreciate the fact that taking the element lead (Pb) out of electronics has not been a straightforward path.

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2019

SMT Perspectives and Prospects—Revisiting Globalization: Technology, Jobs, Trade

11-21-2019

In 2004, Dr. Jennie Hwang wrote a column titled “Globalization: Technology, Jobs, Trade,” which was published in the July issue of SMT007 Magazine. Amid the protracted and roller-coaster trade uncertainty between the U.S. and China, and the renewed debate on globalization, she revisits the topic. What has changed over the last 15 years? Where do we stand today? Is globalization undergoing a retreat or reverse course?

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Learn From the Wise

07-12-2019

How can we get ahead in this digital world inundated with a gargantuan amount of information available to all? More sustainably, how can we stay ahead of the curve? Knowledge and wisdom are the fuel to propel us ahead; learning from the wise is the speedier path to acquire the fuel.

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The Role of Bismuth (Bi) in Electronics, Part 6

05-10-2019

In this installment of this column series on the role of bismuth (Bi) in electronic products, Dr. Jennie Hwang looks at the effects of Bi on the properties and performance of solder interconnections in electronic products when Bi is not contained in the solder alloy for the SMT assembly process (Bi-absent solder alloy composition of solder paste).

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The Role of Bismuth (Bi) in Electronics, Part 5

03-07-2019

The fifth part of this column series addresses the most interesting, yet intricate, aspect of the subject—plausible underlying operating mechanisms among the four elements (Sn, Ag, Cu, Bi) in a SnAgCuBi system. This article features illustrations on relative elemental dosages in relation to relevant properties and performance.

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2018

SMT Manufacturing: Why Soldering?

11-15-2018

Upcoming AI hardware requires advanced semiconductors, packaging approaches, new architectures, increased speeds and capabilities of inference processing, and system design and manufacturing prowess continually developed to reach the interconnect density. Against this backdrop, packaging and assembly levels will continue to be critical technology and serve as the backbone of manufacturing electronic hardware to deliver desired products with enhanced miniaturization, functionality, and augmented intelligence promptly.

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Artificial Intelligence: Super-Exciting, Ultra-Competitive

09-18-2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have become common everyday words, however, the present reality and future potential are yet to evolve. This article looks into the key considerations and strategies to better leverage these trends that are expected to transform the manufacturing world.

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The Role of Bismuth (Bi) in Electronics, Part 3

08-08-2018

The third part of this column series aims to answer why SAC isn't able to become a universal interconnecting material for electronic circuits, and why a quaternary alloy system offer a more wholesome approach.

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The Role of Bismuth (Bi) in Electronics, Part 4

06-04-2018

Dr. Jennie Hwang's column series continues in Part 4, which addresses two pivotal questions: Why SAC is not able to be a universal interconnecting material for electronic circuits, and why a quaternary alloy system offers a more wholesome approach.

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New Year Resolutions and Best Wishes

03-12-2018

The New Year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals. But the true challenge is to keep these goals from falling into a wish list and to know how to stick to those goals and when. I hope that in this year to come, goals give us direction in whatever we do, be it on AI, 5G, mixed reality and quantum computing or the next chip design.

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2017

The Role of Bismuth (Bi) in Electronics, Part 2

12-08-2017

Part 2 of Dr. Jennie Hwang's article series outlines the Bi effects on 63Sn37Pb solder material, which have been substantiated by years of field performance prior to lead-free implementation. This should serve as the sound baseline for further discussion on the subject.

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The Role of Bismuth (Bi) in Electronics, Part 1

10-17-2017

In this column series about bismuth, Dr. Jennie Hwang starts with its elemental properties: where it is usually mined, its safety data, and application areas—in the chemical world, the metals industry, and electronics. She also writes about how bismuth compounds improve the performance some electronics devices, such as varistors.

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The Role of Bismuth (Bi) in Electronics: A Prelude

08-24-2017

When it comes to considering applications in electronics and microelectronics industry, over last three decades, the industry has shied away from using bismuth (Bi), at least not in standard practices in mass production. However, an interest has surfaced recently. This article series is tailored to electronics and microelectronics industry, to provide an overview in its entirety in the areas of importance to industry applications going forward.

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Do Acquisitions Bear Fruit? A Pragmatic Perspective

05-02-2017

Acquisition is an effective tool for a company’s growth as a part of corporate growth strategy; and it is one of the top fiduciary duties of a company board’s governance oversight. However, statistically, the acquisition failure rate is quite high. In her column this month, Dr. Jennie Hwang reflects on her hands-on experience as well as observations on mergers and acquisitions in the corporate world.

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2016

The Theory Behind Tin Whisker Phenomena, Part 5

11-23-2016

In this installment of the series on the theory behind tin whisker phenomena, Dr. Jennie Hwang completes the discussion of key processes likely engaged in tin whisker growth—crystal structure and defects.

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New Year Outlook: China’s Five Year Plan

01-25-2016

In this article, Dr. Jennie Hwang writes about the latest developments in the current global economic landscape, as well as mega-technological trends, which include: the highlights of macro-economy outlook, China factor, oil dynamics, cyber security, and grand challenges in technology and the path forward.

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2015

A Look at the Theory Behind Tin Whisker Phenomena, Part 3

11-05-2015

The third installation in Jennie Hwang's five-part series on tin whisker phenomena continues the discussion on key processes engaged in tin whisker growth. She discusses the energy of free surface, recrystallization, and the impact of solubility and external temperature on grain growth.

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The Theory Behind Tin Whisker Phenomena, Part 2

08-06-2015

In the second part of this article series, Dr. Jennie Hwang writes that a plausible theory of tin whisker growth can be postulated through deliberating the combination and confluence of several key metallurgical processes.

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The Theory Behind Tin Whisker Phenomena, Part 1

05-27-2015

In this first article of a five-part series, Dr. Jennie Hwang goes back to basics as she discusses the theory behind the tin whisker phenomena--the reasons and mechanisms behind its occurrence--as well as how tin whiskers can be mitigated in the plating process.

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New Year Outlook: What Can We Expect in 2015?

03-04-2015

Dr. Jennie Hwang takes a long view on market thrusts in the anticipated global economic landscape, as well as mega-technological trends in selected areas deemed timely and relevant to the industry: macro-economy, oil dynamics, China factor, cybersecurity, and grand challenges in technology and the path forward.

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2014

2014: Year-end Review

12-31-2014

In her latest column, Dr. Jennie S. Hwang reviews how predictions in her January 2014 column actually panned out. She goes through the key sub-topics that directly or indirectly impact the industry in terms of macroeconomics, business environment, technology, and the global marketplace. By and large her 2014 outlook was on or close to target.

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Tin Whiskers, Part 6, Preventive and Mitigating Measures: Strategy and Tactics

09-24-2014

In this installment of the tin whisker series, Dr. Jennie S. Hwang takes a look at the preventive and mitigating measures--the strategy and tactics. She says an effective strategy for prevention and mitigation starts with a good understanding of the causations of tin whiskers. A smorgasbord of material and technique options are offered as a guide to prevent or retard tin whiskers.

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Capsulization

08-06-2014

Since lead-free implementation, concerns about tin whiskers have intensified. For the past 12 years, studies and research by various laboratories and organizations have delivered burgeoning reports and papers, and Dr. Hwang has devoted an entire series to this subject. This article aims to capsulize the important areas of the subject.

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Tin Whiskers, Part 5: Impact of Testing Conditions

05-21-2014

Dr. Jennie S. Hwang says, "Real-life stresses may lead a different tin whisker behavior as in accelerated tests (temperature cycling, elevated temperature storage). The alloy-making process to achieve homogeneity needs to be taken into consideration. For an 'impurity' system, how the process that adds elements into tin could also affect the whisker propensity."

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Tin Whiskers, Part 4: Causes and Contributing Factors

03-26-2014

According to Columnist Dr. Jennie S. Hwang, nucleation and growth can be encouraged by stresses introduced during and after the plating process. The sources of these stresses includes residual stresses caused by electroplatin, additional stresses imposed after plating, the induced stresses by foreign elements, and thermally-induced stresses.

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New Year Outlook: What Can We Expect in 2014?

01-29-2014

In her latest column, Dr. Jennie Hwang takes a long view on market thrusts in the anticipated 2014 global economic landscape, as well as technological trends in selected areas important to the SMT industry. Readers, pay attention--her predictions for 2013 were extremely accurate.

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2013, A Year-End Review

01-09-2014

For this year-in-review column, Dr. Jennie S. Hwang checks on whether her January 2013 column, "Outlook for the New Year," is on or off target. She addresses the key sub-topics that directly or indirectly impact the industry in terms of business environment, technology, and global marketplace to see how her predictions actually panned out.

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2013

Tin Whiskers: Concerns & Potential Impact

11-26-2013

What is the biggest concern about the growth of tin whiskers? A simple answer is "uncertainty." If or when tin whiskering occurs, what are likely sources of uncertainty or potential adverse impact? Dr. Jennie Hwang explains that concerns and impact concerning tin whiskers primarily fall into one of four categories.

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Tin Whiskers: Phenomena and Observations

10-09-2013

Tin whisker reflects its coined name. It has long been recognized to be associated with electroplated tin coating and most likely occurs with pure tin. Its appearance resembles whiskers. However, whiskers can also form in a wide range of shapes and sizes, such as fibrous filament-like spiral, nodule, column, and mound.

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Cyber Security: From Boardroom to Factory Floor

08-21-2013

Cyber attacks are and will continue to be a huge concern to U.S. corporations in the foreseeable future. It's a matter of when, not if. It is not industry-specific and every company will have to deal with this challenge. The earlier preparation is made, the better a company is positioned to fend off the attack.

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SMT Perspectives and Prospects: Cyber Security - From Boardroom to Factory Floor

08-21-2013

Cyber attacks are and will continue to be a huge concern to U.S. corporations in the foreseeable future. It's a matter of when, not if. It is not industry-specific and every company will have to deal with this challenge. The earlier preparation is made, the better a company is positioned to fend off the attack.

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Tin Whiskers: Clarity First

06-11-2013

Lead-free solder comprises a wide array of alloy systems and each system can be modified in numerous ways. A test scheme to represent lead-free is a daunting task with an astounding price tag. Dr. Jennie Hwang advises that any tin whisker propensity study be conducted with a specific alloy composition, as clarity is the name of the game.

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SMT Perspectives and Prospects: Conflict Minerals: A Snapshot

04-03-2013

As the supply chain becomes increasingly complex and global, with an ever-increasing number of suppliers, full traceability of conflict minerals throughout the global supply chain is a daunting task. To comply with the SEC’s reporting and disclosure requirement, a company must formulate a comprehensive program to achieving traceability and transparency.

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SMT Perspectives and Prospects: SAC System, A Revisit

03-13-2013

In compliance with the RoHS Directive initiated by the EU and later deployed globally, SAC305 of SnAgCu (SAC) system has been used as a lead-free solder interconnection alloy for both second- and third-level interconnection since the implementation of lead-free electronics. After a 10-year run, Dr. Jennie Hwang takes a look at SAC305 for IC packages and PCB assembly.

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SMT Perspectives and Prospects: Outlook for the New Year

02-06-2013

After protracted high unemployment and lack of a speedy recovery in the U.S., and in the absence of clear solutions to the Eurozone's financial crisis and China's lower manufacturing activities in 2012, will the grim global economic outlook extend to 2013?

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SMT Perspectives and Prospects: 2012 Year-End Review

01-16-2013

Dr. Jennie S. Hwang compares the past year to predictions made in her January 2012 column, "What Can We Expect in 2012?" including business, technology, and global marketplace issues. She feels that, overall, 2012 was another intriguing year filled with both wanted and unwanted events.

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2012

SMT Perspectives and Prospects: Can Microstructure Indicate a Good Solder Joint? Part IV

11-27-2012

How does one examine solder joint microstructure? Is the microstructure important? This month, Dr. Jennie S. Hwang continues a series that addresses the practical aspects of solder joint microstructure and what it can tell us about solder joint reliability. The focus of this offering is the role of the phase diagram in microstructure.

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SMT Perspectives and Prospects: Can Microstructure Indicate a Good Solder Joint? Part III

11-06-2012

How does one examine solder joint microstructure? Is the microstructure important? This month, Dr. Jennie S. Hwang continues a series that addresses the practical aspects of solder joint microstructure and what it can tell us about solder joint reliability.

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SMT Perspectives and Prospects: Can Microstructure Indicate a Good Solder Joint? Part I

09-11-2012

How does one examine solder joint microstructure? Is the microstructure important? This month, Dr. Jennie S. Hwang begins a series that addresses the practical aspects of solder joint microstructure and what it can tell us about solder joint reliability.

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SMT Perspectives and Prospects: 100 Points on Lead-Free Performance and Reliability, Part 2

08-21-2012

In the final of a two-part series, Dr. Jennie S. Hwang takes a wide, sweeping look at the history, timeline, highlights, and future projections for lead-free manufacturing.

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2011

Reliability of Lead-Free System: Part II, The Role of Creep

10-26-2011

The degradation of a solder joint is inevitable. The solder joint intrinsic degradation process engages two scientific phenomena--fatigue and creep. In this article, industry expert Dr. Jennie S. Hwang continues her look at the reliability of the lead-free system with a closer examination of the latter.

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Reliability of Lead-Free System: Part I, Solder Joint Fatigue

09-14-2011

Industry expert Dr. Jennie S. Hwang continues her look at the reliability of the lead-free system this month with a closer examination of solder joint fatigue. Fatigue is one of the most likely culprits for material failure--regardless of metals, polymers or ceramics.

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2002

Lead-free Symposium at APEX

04-15-2002

Amid a variety of programs, lead-free technology was "a conference in a conference" at APEX 2002, in San Diego. The program was designed with six focal themes covering components, printed wiring board (PWB) surface finishes, materials, assembly processes, test and rework, and reliability. Additionally, SMT Magazine developed an illuminative panel forum and NEMI discussed a summary report by NEMI

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