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SMT & Inspection | October 23, 2007

EPM launch selective soldering at Productronica

Swiss based EPM Handels AG will launch a new selective soldering machine at Productronica.
“We have been watching the market patiently,” says CEO Hans Isler, “and have discovered which soldering processes and technologies our customers want and which ones they would rather do without. Not many people realize that EPM has been working with selective soldering technology for over 10 years, during which time the company has gained extensive metallurgical experience in this field. In recent years, hardly any other electronics production technology has progressed as rapidly as selective soldering, and it goes without saying that this new knowledge has been incorporated in our new selective soldering machines. Today, we have a highly advanced technology that is mature in every respect and which offers users everything they could ask for."
Selective soldering with the wave soldering machine?

Sales manager Oliver Kägi confirms that EPM is sensitive to the needs of its customers as far as selective soldering machines are concerned: "Quite a number of our customers are using our wave soldering machines with masks in a variety of sizes and shapes to carry out selective soldering, and to a certain extent, this method offers some of the functionality of the selective technology." The question is, however, when is it time to move on? In other words, how much masking, what thickness and size of mask is acceptable before you need to seriously consider switching from a wave soldering to a selective soldering system. "There isn't a checklist that tells you whether wave soldering or selective soldering is the better choice for a particular job. Component layout is key to the choice of machine. The fewer high power components on the board, the more suitable it is for selective soldering," says Kägi.

Like all selective soldering machines, the CIG Selecta Highspeed TMS uses less energy and takes up less space than a wave soldering machine. It also offers tremendous savings on flux, solder and nitrogen. The Selecta offers a host of other benefits, according to Kägi. "For example, its RNC (Rapid Nozzle Change) system makes it possible to change tools extremely quickly. Without shutting down the system, you can prepare the nozzles required for the next job right next to the machine and fit them in less than 10 minutes.” The Selecta's preheating, which is achieved using up to three different heating cassettes, is also very user friendly. Preheating (up to 125 - 135 degrees) takes place more slowly, so avoiding thermal shocks that could damage the material. "This is achieved via pyrometer temperature control, which improves soldering results and cuts down on rejects." The boards are soldered at an optimum temperature of 250 - 265 degrees and not, as with most selective machines, at temperatures as high as 310 degrees. Once again, the benefits are clear, insists Kägi, because working at this moderate temperature makes board delamination (splitting as a result of being subjected to excessive temperatures) impossible.

For the soldering process itself, we developed our own technology, for which the CEO of EPM has now applied for a patent. "In contrast to dip soldering, the flues in the Selecta remain in the same position throughout the soldering process. Pumps are used to transport the solder to the flues, where it is covered with nitrogen," explains Isler.
Another innovative feature is the optional camera, which can check whether boards are sufficiently fluxed and also that there is always plenty of flux available. "Manufacturing today is no longer satisfied with failure rates of one in a million. Companies are looking for "zero defects", or 100 percent fault-free production. The Selecta's video monitoring can help achieve this difficult production goal," says Isler.

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