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Reliable testing of lead-free solder connections

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article image ProLine for testing the tensile strength of solder connections

Recently, lead-free soldering has been made mandatory in the EU (EU guideline 2002/95/EG). Manufacturers are now having to replace traditional solders made from Sn60Pb40 with SnAg or SnAgCu and introduce these into the production process.

Zwick, represented in Australia by Testing and Production Engineers Pty Ltd , provides tailored testing solutions to solve these problems, and the ProLine testing machines were developed especially for such component testing and designed to meet the increasing demand for high quality and affordable testing machines in quality assurance environments.

The use of elements such as tin, silver, and copper in place of lead presents a number of challenges including higher processing temperatures, reduced time for the melting process, the multitude of new solder metals with various properties, and the lack of long-term experience regarding the reliability of lead-free solder connections.

One way to prevent failures is through an efficient materials testing program. However, a new problem is emerging during the soldering process, particularly for components with high thermal capacity such as connectors.

In these cases the heat is conducted away from the soldering point resulting in a lower temperature than required. If the solder does not melt completely during the specified time then a bad joint is created, and the required mechanical strength is not achieved.

Dry joints and solder joints containing microscopic hairline cracks appear between printed circuit board and component, and over the lifetime of the board such solder joints are often the cause of broken electrical connections which reduce in-service reliability, and cause inevitable follow-up costs.

The ProLine boasts a wide range of accessories including specimen grips, compression and flexure test kits, as well as special testing kits and associated tools and fixtures enabling tests on solder to be configured with ease.

As with all Zwick materials testing machines, the ProLine is designed to operate with the universal testing software testXpert(r) II, which controls the complete test sequence including monitoring of all safety systems in real time. This ensures that operator safety is ensured at all times.

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