Cleanliness is paramount in the electronics and computer hard drive industry. With so many critical components and environments, even microscopic and ionic particles can cause circuit board shorts. Of course, circuit board shorts are a product quality issue that can lead to downed production time or consumer frustration if an error isn’t caught before a product makes it to market.
However, contamination doesn’t have to go unchecked. When it comes to ionic contamination, such as flux residues and organic or inorganic materials left behind by a step in the manufacturing process, cleanliness testing techniques such as ion chromatography (IC) can determine whether an ionic contaminant is present and how much of it exists, as well as help identify what may be the source.
Ion chromatography is a fast, simple, and accurate way to identify contamination. Here’s one example of how we used IC to conduct ionic contamination testing to determine what was causing circuit board shorts.
An electronics manufacturer was experiencing electrical shorts in their circuit boards and suspected that the rinse water could be responsible for the issue. Without the in-house tools or expertise, the manufacturer needed a testing partner to identify the contaminant and its source.
We know that contamination can be caused by a myriad of particles—many of which are not detectable by the naked eye. Some of those contamination sources include: etching, plating, tinning, or leveling residues; dust; moisture or rinse water; oil pollution from fingerprints; component packaging materials; or even machine maintenance oils, like those found on conveyors.
With this in mind, as well as the client’s suspicions about its rinse water, the team at Innovatech Labs chose IC testing, which uses a high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) system to separate and a conductivity detector to quantify anions and cations.
After extracting material samples from a “failing” and “good” circuit board using deionized water, we analyzed the extract using IC. The results, which you can see in the figure below, showed that there were high levels of potassium and sodium present within the failing circuit board sample, which is consistent with hard water.
This signaled that our client was right to be concerned about the rinse water being used during the production cycle, and we recommended changing out the water. After changing the water, the electrical shorting problem was eliminated thanks to a significant reduction in sodium and potassium cations.
Uncover the Cause of Circuit Board Shorts
Contamination can occur at anytime during the manufacturing cycle. And for electronics manufacturers, microcontamination like the presence of ionic particles needs specialized testing to identify the contamination and the potential source.
Let our experienced team analytical scientists help. With more than 100 years of combined experience in the analytical testing field, our team has the right expertise and the right tools to deliver you with quality service and accurate, fast results.