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April 23, 2014
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Average Temperature/Humidity for an Electronics Assembly Facility?

I'm the Production Manager for a contract manufacturer. We do mostly thru-hole circuit boards and limited SMT with the small pick and place we have. In the summer time the humidity reaches 85 to 95% and the temperature runs 78 to 82 degrees inside the building. I say it should be cool and dry-but the President doesn't think there's a temperature or humidity problem. I know there is..  What should the average temperature and humidity level be in an electronic assembly and manufacturing facility?

S.H.

Experts Comments

Of course, it is best to have a temperature and humidity controlled environment for any electronics assembly environment. Ideally, the temperature would be in the range of 70-77 F and the relative humidity would remain in the range of 35-65%. The question really comes down to a cost-benefit analysis based on the facts in your particular case.

Lack of humidity and temperature control can influence defect levels in wave soldering and SMT applications. Of these two processes, the one that is more susceptible to added defect levels is probably the SMT process, based on the materials and components that are used in this area. Lack of temperature and humidity control can have the following effects on the SMT process (among others):

Low humidity: Solder paste solvent evaporates quicker than expected, causing the paste to dry out. This creates poor release from stencils and insufficient solder joint defects.

Low temperature: Paste viscosity increases, creating poor printing behavior (rolling, release, etc.). This can cause insufficient solder joint defects.

High humidity: Solder paste accepts water and may begin to slump, creating additional bridging defects. Solder paste accepts water and may exhibit poor coalescence, resulting in solderballing defects. Moisture-sensitive components stored in this area will have shorter shelf life, possibly creating defects and/or damage to the components during processing. Excess water absorbed by the entire system (boards, components, paste) can out-gas during reflow and increase the size and incidence of voiding underneath BGA components.

High temperature: Solder paste viscosity decreases, possibly creating an excess of paste smearing, slumping, etc. This can cause bridging or solderballing defects. Higher temperatures in the factory induce extra oxidation of solder, boards and components prior to soldering, meaning that solderability can be compromised with higher factory temperatures.

It's worth noting that some solder pastes have wider operating windows than others. If controlling the environment is not an option, selecting a more forgiving material may help improve soldering results.

Given all of this, the company needs to determine the cost of upgrading the temperature and humidity control versus the costs that could be saved by reducing the defect levels. Also, what amount of additional business would your company have a better chance of capturing within the EMS market if your factory exhibited better environmental control? In most cases, I advise companies to take control over the environment rather than operate in extreme temperature and humidity conditions -- this is certainly the best strategy from a defect reduction standpoint. However, the decision in your company would still need to be analyzed from a cost-benefit approach given your defect levels, type of boards being assembled, customer expectations and other factors.

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Brian Smith
General Manager - Electronic Assembly Americas
DEK International
Mr. Smith has been supporting customers in the electronics assembly industry since 1994. His expertise is focused on solder paste printing and reducing soldering defects. He holds a BS in Chemical Engineering and an MBA in Marketing. He has authored several papers in trade magazines and at industry conferences. He is an SMTA Certified Process Engineer.

Most electronics manufacturers I know of aim to keep the temperature in the 15C (59F) to 25C (77F) range, with humidity in the 40-70% range to be a) ESD safer and b) more comfortable to your operators.

Ideally, the fluctuation in temperature should be as small as possible - temperature affects the properties of most liquids... including solder paste, adhesives and conformal coatings to name but a few - the bigger the swing, the greater the difference in behavior, the more time you spend playing with equipment parameters... And time is money after all.

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Phil Kinner
European Sales Manager
PVA Inc
Phil Kinner is European Sales Manager of PVA, Inc.

Humidity levels should be maintained around 60%RH. Too low and you have ESD issues (think winter time). Too high and you have issues with lifetime of solder paste on the screen and increased potential of popcorning. Temperature levels can be slightly above controlled conditions, so I would say 74-78 is an acceptable range. As someone who assess EMS providers for a living, I would not recommend an EMS shop to my clients that does not have some level of climate control.

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Dr. Craig D. Hillman
CEO & Managing Partner
DfR Solutions
Dr. Hillman's specialties include best practices in Design for Reliability, strategies for transitioning to Pb-free, supplier qualification, passive component technology and printed board failure mechanisms.

Typically in the normal human comfort zone. 68-75 degrees F with a Relative Humidity of 45-55%.

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Edward Zamborsky
Regional Sales Manager
OK International Inc.
Mr. Zamborsky serves as one of OK's technology advisers to the Product Development group. Ed has authored articles and papers on topics such as; Low Volume SMT Assembly, Solder Fume Extraction, SMT Rework, BGA Rework, Lead Free Hand Soldering, Lead Free Visual Inspection and Lead Free Array Rework.

Both temperature and humidity affect the workers comfort, equipment and the process. High temperatures can make equipment run hotter which can cause failures and of course make people uncomfortable. The humidity however not only makes the people uncomfortable but causes problems with the solder paste, SMT glue and the circuit boards will absorb the moisture which will lead to blow holes during wave soldering. The temperature should be kept at 74 - 78 F and the humidity between 45 and 60%.

Kenneth Kirby
Applications Engineer
Speedline Technologies
Mr. Kirby has been in the electronics manufacturing industry for 18 plus years. Over the years Ken has been in roles such as Equipment and Process trainer, Senior Process Engineer, R&D Application Development Engineer and currently Process Application Engineer.
Reader Comment

Normal temperature for human body should be between 20 to 25 degree celcius and relative humidity should be between 40% to 60%.

M. A. W.

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