SMT Manufacturing Process:5 Steps You Need to Know

1. SMC and PCB Preparation

This is the preliminary stage where the SMCs are selected and PCB designed. The board usually contains flat, commonly silver, tin-lead, or gold plated copper pads devoid of holes, called solder pads. Solder pads support the pins of the components like transistors and chips.

Another vital tool is the stencil, which is used to provide a fixed position for the next phase of the process (solder paste printing), according to the predetermined positions of solder pads on the PCB. These materials, along with others that are to be used in the manufacturing process must be properly examined for flaws.

2. Solder Paste Printing

This is a critical phase in the SMT process. During this phase, a printer applies solder paste using the prepared stencil and squeegee (a tool for cleaning in printing) at an angle ranging from 45° to 60°. Solder paste is a putty-like mixture of powdered metal solder and sticky flux. The flux serves as a temporary glue to hold the surface mount components in place as well as cleansing the soldering surfaces of impurities and oxidation.

The solder paste, on the other hand, is used to connect the SMC and solder pads on the PCB. It is pertinent that each pad is coated in the correct quantity of paste. Otherwise, there will be no connection established when the solder is melted in the reflow oven. In the electronics manufacturing industry, a reflow oven is an electronic heating device used in surface mount technology (SMT) to place electronic components on printed circuit boards (PCBs).

3. Components Placement

Next, pick-and-place machines are used to mount components on the PCB. Each component is removed from its packaging using a vacuum or a gripper nozzle, and the placement machine places it in its designed location. The PCB is carried on a conveyor belt while the electronic components are placed on it by the quick and accurate machines, some of which can place 80,000 individual components per hour.

Accuracy is required in this process because any erroneous placement soldered into a position can be costly and time-consuming to rework.

4. Reflow Soldering

After SMCs are placed, the PCB is then conveyed into the reflow soldering oven, where it passes through the following zones to undergo the soldering process:

Preheat zone: this is the first zone in the oven, where the temperature of the board and all the attached components is raised simultaneously and gradually. Temperature is cranked up at the rate of 1.0℃-2.0℃ per second until it enters 140℃-160℃.

Soak zone: here, the board will be kept at a temperature between 140℃ and 160℃ for 60-90 seconds.

Reflow zone: the boards then enter a zone where the temperature is ramped up at 1.0℃-2.0℃ per second to the maximum of 210℃-230℃ to melt the tin in the solder paste, welding the component leads to the pads on the PCB. While this is going on, the components are kept in place by the surface tension of the molten solder.

Cooling zone: this is the final section that ensures solder freezes upon exiting the heating zone to avoid joint defects.

If the printed circuit board is double-sided then these processes may be repeated using either solder paste or glue to hold the SMCs in place.

5. Cleaning and Inspection

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