IPC (Northbrook, IL) has selected Speedline's (Franklin, MA) patent-pending MPM Gel-Flex conformal board support system for this year's Innovative Technology Showcase (ITS). The 2004 ITS highlighted new and emerging technologies from all segments of the electronics interconnection supply chain, including assembly, printed circuit board fabrication and design. After a rigorous evaluation, the ITS Review Board selected Speedline's board support system as one of the industry's cutting-edge technologies. The showcase was held on Feb.24-26, during APEX, in Anaheim, CA.

The board support system is a cost-effective answer to the challenge of supporting the circuit board during the stencil printing process. Consisting of electrostatic discharge (ESD)-safe polyurethane elastomer gel enclosed within a durable membrane shell and mounted to a magnetic base, Gel-Flex tooling is a true conformal board-support system. The compressible gel material provides gentle compliance to delicate bottom-side components and leads while providing firm support for the entire board surface.

Since product setup takes literally seconds to complete, and product changeovers are as simple as relocating the support bars, downtime associated with board support changes is dramatically reduced with the system. Compared to other more expensive options, such as dedicated workholder and fixed-grid pin support tooling, the system is considerably less expensive to purchase and operate.

Speedline Technologies provides single-source process knowledge, solutions and service to the PCB assembly and semiconductor packaging industries. The company sells five brands - ACCEL microelectronics cleaning, CAMALOT dispensing systems, ELECTROVERT wave soldering, reflow soldering and cleaning equipment, MPM stencil and screen printing systems, and PROTECT global services, support and training solutions.

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Aqueous Technologies Corp. (Rancho Cucamonga, CA) has announced the introduction of a series of evaporators: Model AQ-7, Model AQ-12 and Model AQ-12G.

The evaporators are available in either a natural gas or propane-heated configuration, or as an electric model. Typical applications include minimizing wastewater from machining operations, parts washing equipment, compressor condensate, mop water, die cast solutions and many other water-based wastestreams.

Installation of the series is simple. Model AQ-7 requires an electrical service and a 6 in. vent stack. Model AQ-12 requires an electrical connection and a 10 in. diameter vent stack. Model AQ-12G requires a 110 VAC electrical connection, a ¾ in. standard pressure gas line and a 10 in. exhaust stack. The units can be filled using three different methods: plumbing the feed source into the supplied coupling on top of the unit; removing the lid and manually fill the unit; or using the optional 70 GPM self-priming fill pump.

After an initial heat up time of approximately one hour, the units will evaporate at rates between 5-7 GPH or 12-17 GPH, depending on the model.

The evaporators will shut down automatically via a low-level control. A secondary high-temperature shutoff is also provided. When a cycle is completed, the waste material can be drained via a 2 in. drain opening, vacuumed out of the unit via the removable lid with a wet/dry vacuum or pump, or, for solid materials, scooped out. To facilitate cleanout, the interior tank of the AQ-12G is sloped toward a 2 in. outlet. Additionally, its u-shaped burner tube is located around the perimeter of the process tank, allowing access between the tubes.

Each evaporator in the series features a heavy-duty 12-gauge tank, covers and stack. Additionally, the series offers adjustable burners (NG or Propane) with electronic ignition, flame rectification system and, on the AQ-12G only, an air-pressure sensor. Automatic shutoffs, two-switch on/off operation, removable lid for fast and easy cleanout, fully insulated tanks, power exhaust for outdoor venting and polyurethane finish also come standard.

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National Physical Laboratory has completed a three-year project investigating the impact of thermal cycling regimes on the shear strength of lead-free solder joints.

The project undertook a comparison of accelerated test regimes for accessing the reliability of solder joints, in particular those made using lead-free solders. Samples were subjected to six different cycling regimes to investigate the effect of thermal excursions, ramp rates and temperature dwells. The most damage to joints per cycle was found to be caused by thermal cycling between 55-125°C, with a 10°C/min ramp rate and 5 minute dwells.

Similar degrees of damage in the lead-free solder joints were experienced from thermal shock regimes with ramp rates in excess of 50°C/min. However, these regimes, although faster to undertake, appeared to cause different crack propagation paths than observed with the thermal cycling regimes, although importantly still remaining within the solder.

Since this is a small difference, thermal shock testing may still be used to differentiate between, or enable ranking of, the effects of changes to materials or processes on the reliability of the solder joints. Hence, if a wide range of conditions are to be tested, a first sift can be completed using thermal shock, with the final work using more typical thermal cycling conditions. The difference between the SAC (95.5Sn3.8Ag0.7Cu) and SnAg (96.5Sn3.5Ag) solder alloy results across all types of cycles showed very little difference in rates of joint degradation.

Dr. Chris Hunt, one of the investigators, said, "One of the major findings to come out of this work is that the thermal shock cycles do produce a failure that is different to ordinary thermal cycles, but the failure is still in the solder, hence it gives us enough confidence to use it as a process to sort out reliability on a range of assemblies. It requires us to use the more usual thermal cycles which are slower ramp and dwell for final qualification, but the thermal shock is definitely a useful tool in getting through lots of different assemblies and evaluating & ranking reliability. The thermal shock cycle will typically be at least a third of the time, so you will get there more than three times quicker. So, if you are cycling, typically up to 2000 cycles, significant time can be saved—down from two months to two weeks."

For more information contact Dr. Chris Hunt:

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Transition Automation Inc. (Billerica, MA) released a new Permalex squeegee holder and blade assembly for EKRA printers.

The new design is specially created for E1, E4, E5 and X5 models of EKRA printers. The holders are adjustable and feature Transition Automation's unique sliding paste retainers. These retainers allow one holder to accommodate many different blade lengths. The new holder design accepts Permalex bare-blade replacement stock, eliminating the need for additional holders.

Transition Automation is an international manufacturer for the electronics assembly industry, supplying two distinct product lines: tooling services and squeegee technology.

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Aegis Industrial Software Corp. (Horsham, PA), a provider of manufacturing productivity software, has announced that the Key Electronics (New Albany, IN) has purchased the entire scope of Aegis software to support all factory information management from new product introduction (NPI) through manufacturing execution, quality, traceability and line monitoring. The electronic manufacturing services (EMS) provider has selected Aegis software to deliver efficient management of data from the factory office to the factory floor and from end-to-end of the product lifecycle.

Tom Hardy, Key Electronics president, said, "Our decision to partner with Aegis is the result of a deliberate effort to increase efficiencies and productivity for our customers as we grow as well as maintain aggressive quality levels....and demonstrates our commitment to leading edge technology, improved processes and total commitment to be the choice for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the high mix/low volume marketplace."

Jason Spera, chief executive officer of Aegis, said, "Key Electronics and Aegis are both recipients of our industry's Service Excellence Awards, sponsored by Circuits Assembly. By standardizing factory-wide on the entire Aegis system, Key Electronics has invested to even further enhance their quality and the service they provide their customers. Both companies share a common vision; a single software platform spanning NPI to MES to the real-time machine data, and out to management and customer portals delivers real business advantage."

The deployment of Aegis software at Key Electronics provides a single source for all NPI engineering operations, including bill of materials (BOM) validation and program generation cross-line, and a single-database solution for MES and factory execution analysis. Quality data collection, automated repair and product tracking is automated through interactive and visual Web interfaces throughout the factory floor. The system joins this information to real-time data streaming from machines across the entire line—not just surface-mount placement—for real process visibility and traceability.

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Preco Electronics (Morton, IL), a provider of electronic manufacturing services, received ITM Process Certification for Class 2, Electronics Assembly.

ITM Consulting's (Durham, NH) principal consultants, Jim Hall and Phil Zarrow, conducted a series of operations and process audits and certified that the materials, equipment, processes and personnel comprising the Preco Electronics facility have met the standards set forth by ITM and represent best practices for the assembly of Class 2 electronic products. ITM determined that the printed circuit board (PCB) assembly operation within the Preco's Morton facility is capable of producing high-quality printed circuit assemblies in accordance with IPC-A-610, Class 2, Acceptability of Printed Circuit Boards.

Jim Lanigan, director of operations and engineering at Preco, said, "The significance of attaining ITM Certification is that it allows our customers to benefit from our sophisticated degree of technology for EMS products coupled with a high commitment to quality, all while enjoying the service level a world-class Tier 3 EMS provider can offer. The team at ITM conducted the audit and noted areas requiring enhancement or improvement. Our engineering, quality and production staff made the modifications and we attained certification."

ITM president, Phil Zarrow, said, "Preco's certification should help dispel the myth that only a Tier 1 EMS provider can have a world-class facility. Preco is the first North American EMS provider to receive ITM Assembly Process Certification."

PCB Assembly and PCB Fabrication Process Certifications are patent pending services provided exclusively through ITM Consulting.

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