Ask the Experts
May 8, 2019
BGA Placement Paste or Only Flux
What are the risks with using flux-only vs. solder paste for placing BGAs in a hybrid lead-free environment?
Expert Panel Responses
The biggest risk for using flux only would be the increased propensity for open joints. If the BGA warps during reflow, bumps can lift and lose contact with the pad. At least if there is 4 to 6 mils of paste on the pad, that will help to bridge any gap that occurs due to component warpage.
Generally speaking the additional solder supplied by the paste will improve the mechanical integrity of the solder joint. It will also help to improve the standoff height which would facilitate cleaning underneath the BGA, if required.
Technical Support Engineer
Kay Parker is a Technical Support Engineer based at Indium Corporation's headquarters in Clinton, N.Y. In this role she provides guidance and recommendations to customers related to process steps, equipment, techniques, and materials. She is also responsible for servicing the company's existing accounts and retaining new business.
With a flux only process for placing BGA's you have the potential for unsoldered connections and insufficient solder which will cause an added heat cycle to rework. We use an automated paste dispenser which allows for better process control.
Manufacturing Applications Specialist
Mr. Bush has 20 years experience in electronics contract manufacturing. Major areas of expertise include through hole, SMT, wave and selective soldering.
When it comes to lead-free I prefer to deposit paste on the PCB BGA pads to maintain a steady process along the SMT line. When you use flux only, you rely on the BGA bump ability to form the solder joint with your PCB. The intermetallic layer formed might not be as reliable as one formed with solder paste.
I have worked with placement systems mostly used for micro-BGA which is "dipped" onto a tacky flux surface and placed on the board. These systems require a lot of maintenance because you need to measure the thickness of the tacky flux film in order to ensure proper ball coverage.
Senior Manufacturing Engineer
Edithel is a chemical engineer with 20 year experience in manufacturing & process development for electronic contract manufacturers in US as well as some major OEM's. Involved in SMT, Reflow, Wave and other assembly operations entailing conformal coating and robotics.
BGA's can be soldered using only gel/tacky flux. This process works well assuming there is enough solder volume in the spheres to form a good solder joint on the circuit board pads. If you intend to solder lead-free BGAs then it is recommended to use a lead-free gel flux and a lead-free reflow profile.
Gel/tacky fluxes leave more residue than using a solder paste simply because there is typically more flux applied than what would be present in the solder paste. If you use a water soluble gel/tacky flux then the washing parameters might have to be adjusted to remove all of the flux residue.
When using solder paste, it is recommended to use a lead-free paste along with lead-free BGAs. If that is not possible and leaded solder paste is used along with lead-free BGA's then issues can occur. A leaded reflow profile will not melt the BGA solder spheres completely which can lead to weak solder joints.
In this case we would recommend using a leaded solder paste that is also designed for lead-free applications, along with a lead-free reflow profile. The lead-free profile will ensure complete melting of the BGA spheres and good mixing with the leaded solder paste.
Tony has worked in the electronics industry since 1994. He worked as a process engineer at a circuit board manufacturer for 5 years. Since 1999, Tony has worked for FCT Companies as a laboratory manager, facility manager, and most recently a field application engineer. He has extensive experience doing research and development, quality control, and technical service with products used to manufacture and assemble printed circuit boards. He holds B.S. and M.B.S. degrees in Chemistry.
The flux-only scenario has been used for many years for flip-chip and for fine-pitch BGA mounting to some degree. It dies result in a somewhat lower solder volume, thus a slightly reduced stand-off height. This can result in lower thermal-cycle reliability, but whether this is a concern is highly dependent on the specific component, the PWB it is mounted to and the reliability requirements of the application, among other factors.
Fritz's career in electronics manufacturing has included diverse engineering roles including PWB fabrication, thick film print & fire, SMT and wave/selective solder process engineering, and electronics materials development and marketing. Fritz's educational background is in mechanical engineering with an emphasis on materials science. Design of Experiments (DoE) techniques have been an area of independent study. Fritz has published over a dozen papers at various industry conferences.
I do not see a risk with this process. My personal opinion is actually that the BGA pads should have no solder paste deposition and just flux. The flux only will allow a better reflow and "collapse" then the paste deposition.
Engineering and Operations Management
Georgian Simion is an independent consultant with 20+ years in electronics manufacturing engineering and operations.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.