Ask the Experts
November 3, 2017 - Updated
December 14, 2008 - Originally Posted

Micro Solder Balls Problem

We're using a lead-free HASL circuit board with a SAC alloy and a RoHS reflow process using nitrogen. We are generating a lot of micro solder balls. Do you have any suggestions how to resolve this issue?


Expert Panel Responses

Micro-balling can be attributed to the print process, placement process, reflow process, the environment or the solder paste itself. Verify solder paste is properly stored, and allowed to sufficiently warm to ambient temperature prior to being used. Verify proper stencil design guidelines have been followed, especially stencil thickness and aperture size, and verify deposition registration is accurate and repeatable. Verify that the reflow process parameters; (especially the first two minutes) are correct for the solder paste being used. Too low of a rate-of-rise will contribute to micro-balling by allowing the solder paste to hot-slump. High-humidity, and high-temperature environments can contribute to the cold slump characteristics of solder paste. If boards are being printed and allowed to sit for an extended period of time prior to placement and reflow, cold-slump could be a contributing factor. Consider evaluating a solder paste with a slightly higher viscosity and/or metal load. This will help combat the affects of both cold and hot slump. Check placement pressures to verify components are not being driven too far into the paste deposit.

Mike Scimeca
FCT Assembly
Mike Scimeca created FCT Assembly after the purchase of Fine Line Stencil, Inc., and consists of two major operations: stencil manufacturing and the manufacturing of electronic assembly products such as solder paste, flux and solder bar.

Consider repeating the test following a baking cycle in a batch oven at 125C for 8 hours to determine whether moisture is a factor.

Al Cabral
Regional Sales Manager
Al Cabral is Regional Sales Manager for Finetech and Martin rework products. His expertise includes through-hole, surface mount and semiconductor packaging with an emphasis on soldering and heat transfer. Al has been a significant contributor to the development and optimization of reflow and rework processes and systems, particularly lead-free transitions and microelectronic applications.

It sounds like your reflow process is too aggressive. Try reducing the ramp rate so the fluxes don't burn off as fast.

Edward Zamborsky
Regional Sales Manager
OK International Inc.
Ed Zamborsky is a Regional Sales & Technical Support Manager for Thermaltronics, located in New York. His position requires frequent customer visits throughout North America and the Caribbean and his position encompasses not only sales but the role of trainer and master applications engineer for all of Thermaltronics products. His expertise includes such specialties as hand soldering, convection and conduction reflow techniques, array rework, fluid dispensing equipment, and fume extraction. Ed has authored many articles and has presented many papers on topics such as; Low Volume SMT Assembly, Solder Fume Extraction, SMT Rework, BGA Rework, Lead-Free Hand Soldering, High Thermal Demand Hand Soldering, Lead Free Visual Inspection and Lead Free Array Rework.

You indicated that you are experiencing micro-balls on a printed circuit board that has NO solder paste on it. My concern is that the circuit board may have some residual solder alloy on it that was left behind during the HASL process. With nitrogen, these residues of alloy may coalesce and form micro balls. I would suggest that you look at the board under magnification to observe this residue. Or have your board manufacturer try to clean the boards prior to shipping to you. I hope this will assist you in processes issues.

Gregory Arslanian
Global Segment Manager
Air Products & Chemicals, Inc.
Mr. Arslanian has been involved in electronics packaging processing and equipment since 1981 including flipchip, TAB, wirebonding and die attach. Current responsiblities include R&D, applications, marketing and customer interaction.

All good points from the other experts. One suggestion that I would have - look at the recommendations and try to solve the problem by adjusting one parameter at a time. A common mistake is change overload - changing multiple parameters and never finding the true root cause.

Georgian Simion
Engineering and Operations Management
Independent Consultant
Georgian Simion is an independent consultant with 20+ years in electronics manufacturing engineering and operations.
Contact me at
Submit A Comment

Comments are reviewed prior to posting. You must include your full name to have your comments posted. We will not post your email address.

Your Name

Your Company
Your E-mail

Your Country
Your Comments

Free Newsletter Subscription
Circuitnet is built for professionals who bear the responsibility of looking ahead, imagining the future, and preparing for it.

Insert Your Email Address