Ask the Experts
October 30, 2018 - Updated
October 26, 2009 - Originally Posted

Tacky Flux Residue Problem

We're experiencing problems with tacky flux residues under BGA components after rework. Upon removing the reworked part we notice a honey-like amber residue. We're not having functional failures, but have experienced failures after thermal cycling. Do you know what this residue is and how can we remove it from under the BGA parts? We prefer not to run the boards back through a full wash cycle. Are there any alternatives?

A. B.

Expert Panel Responses

The amber tacky residues would probably be the Rosin carrier for the Solder Paste. I assume this is a Water Washable Paste as you say you do not want to process them through a Full wash cycle. Functional failures could easily be the unremoved residue of the paste being conductive/Hygroscopic and I would strongly recommend cleaning them off properly in the first place back through a full wash cycle. Partially cleaned Rosin residues will normally appear white in colour the boards may not function correctly and could easily fail in Environmental test or worst out in the field. If the boards do not wash off correctly then investigate different cleaning mediums such as Saponifiers or branded cleaners designed for this process that assist the wetting ability of the cleaner to penetrate under the BGA. ALWAYS finish with a good DI Rinse

Greg York
Technical Sales Manager
BLT Circuit Services Ltd
Greg York has over thirty two years of service in Electronics industry. York has installed over 600 Lead Free Lines in Europe with Solder and flux systems as well as Technical Support on SMT lines and trouble shooting.

Rework flux not activating completely / Improper rework heating cycles can affect the robustness of the solder joint and cause thermal cycling issues In addition, the honey-like amber flux residue needs to be examined to make sure that there is no dendrite formation and electrical shorts - a lot of rework fluxes need the right amount of heat to activate completely and do its job - because of the nature of rework, complete flux activation may not happen always and this is a potential reliability concern. On a separate note, using rework fluxes (both tacky & liquid) that pass SIR unactivated makes sure that even if the flux were not activated, there are no electrical issues over time (due to dendrite growth).

Karthik Vijay
Technical Manager - Europe
Indium Corp.
Currently with Indium Corporation and responsible for technology programs and technical support for customers in Europe. Over 15 yrs experience in SMT, Power, Thermal & Semiconductor Applications. Masters Degree in Industrial Engg, State University of New York-Binghamton.

Typically what you are left with is the residual tacky flux that didn't evaporate off. If this is a no clean tacky flux then what is typically left over is different rosin materials. These materials are inert and no water soluble. To remove you will need to use a cleaner of some sort. Companies that make these are Kyzen and Zestron. If the material is water soluble then the tacky flux needs to be cleaned after rework. Typically you can use water but if the water can't get under the component then again I would suggest a cleaner to help reduce the surface tension and aid the removal of the flux residue. As for an alternative I would suggest a no clean tacky flux which leaves a clear residue. This should be cosmetically appealing and won't lead to any failures.

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.

Suggestion: use nitrogen in the reflow and rework process. This will reduce the flux residue.

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.

The best option in this case would be a spot cleaning with a rework /repair defluxing agent, as the observed residue is flux. It is no surprise that the parts are failing the thermal cycling. If the client doesn't want to send these boards through a second wash cycle, we would highly recommend using a pH-neutral solvent based cleaning agent that doesn't require rinsing and that dries fast. Such defluxing agents come in aerosol can with brush tip or in metal canister as they are solvent based. Please contact Zestron for product recommendation and sample.

Umut Tosun
Application Technology Manager
Zestron America
Mr. Tosun has published numerous technical articles. As an active member of the SMTA and IPC organizations, Mr. Tosun has presented a variety of papers and studies on topics such as "Lead-Free Cleaning" and "Climatic Reliability".

Sounds like you are applying too much tacky flux during the assembly operation. Try using a Flux Transfer Plate that is 1/3 the ball diameter in depth. This will apply a minimal and repeatable amount of flux that typically requires no cleaning.

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.
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