Ask the Experts
August 1, 2018 - Updated
May 2, 2011 - Originally Posted

Is Rework Unacceptable?

We have a customer who insists that circuit board assemblies should not be reworked in any way. They will not accept boards which have been reworked. Is this practical?

D. V. M.

Expert Panel Responses

Rework unfortunately is a necessary evil. However rework can be minimized in the following ways. * An optimized print process can eliminate 80% of SMT defects -- this becomes even more important for smaller apertures with sub-0.6 area ratios
  • Use an optimized solder paste to maximize paste transfer efficiency (from the stencil to the board) and minimize deviation
  • Optimize the print parameters (print speed, separation speed, board support, clamping...)
* If a pin-in-paste process is used and incomplete hole fill is being observed, post-rework can be avoided by using solder preforms in conjunction with solder paste and achieving 100% hole fill * Also during rework, fluxes that pass SIR unactivated should be used thus eliminating corrosion concerns with unactivated flux. Rework operators typically like to use a lot of flux and given the short heat cycle of a solder iron, the flux may not get activated and therefore pose a corrosion concern.

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.

In my opinion, rework can be acceptable for products which perform non-critical functions, or are part of a non-critical system. Would you want a pacemaker implanted inside yourself, to be one which exceeds all test standards flawlessly or one which was reworked and then "passed" the tests? Reworked parts for an office printer connote less potential risk than those used in the NASA space shuttle. Clearly cost is also an issue. One is reluctant to discard an assembly which costs thousands of dollars...yet, is a reworked system "the same as" one which was qualified initially, flawlessly. Does the rework operation run the risk of introducing other flaws, or affect other performance criteria, by the very act of reworking outside of the standard process flow? Again, in my view, it comes down to risk assessment. As my mother used to say, "New is new...patched isn't new." Risk should be factored explicitly into the practicality calculus.

Jim Williams
Polyonics, Inc.
Jim Willimas is a PhD Chemist in Polymers and Materials Science. He specialize in printing, cleaning, inks, and coatings used in electronics manufacturng operations. Williams has more than 30 years experience.

In case rework is required this also means a deviation from standard SMT assembly technology. Consider for example removing defective components (local heating of PCB), preparing the mounting position (cleaning, paste dispensing or fluxing), manual assembly of the component to be replaced (chance of misplacement), local heating again (selective soldering). All these processes will disturb the regular SMT process and will be potential future risk areas on the board assembly. So your customers requirement is quite acceptable in case of manufacturing a premium brand OEM product! To avoid rework I would recommend a pick & place machine based on the parallel placement principle. These machines will give you typical DPM figures below 10 DPM!

Sjef van Gastel
Manager Advanced Development
Sjef van Gastel is manager of advanced development at Assembleon Netherlands B.V. He is responsible for technology roadmapping, technology investigations leading towards new machine concepts and for competitive dynamics. He is principal author of the book 'Fundamentals of SMD assembly.'

Rework technology (equipment, processes, and materials) have come a long way in the last two decades. There are significant data showing fantastic reliability for all types of rework, including high performance devices in aerospace, harsh environments, and mission critical applications. I believe the only easy answer as to when rework should be avoided is when it is not cost effective (i.e., when the cost of rework exceeds the cost of replacement). Done properly, a reworked assembly should have nearly identical performance and reliability to a new assembly. That said, I am sure your customer has considered the potential downside to rework. Performing rework requires exposing the assembly to additional thermal cycles. It is very difficult to predict what adverse affect these cycles will have on the integrity of laminates, solder joints, and active components. It all comes down to managing the risk, no matter how small.If you are building pacemakers or satellites, your customer may be right. If you are building computers or engine controllers, you may want to present your case.

Don Naugler
General Manager
VJ Technologies, Inc.
Don is the General Manager of VJ Technologies, Inc., a leading manufacturer of X-ray Inspection and Rework equipment for the electronics manufacturing industry. He has more than 20 years experience in development, manufacturing, and support of a wide range of capital equipment.

This is a little unrealistic given the nature of the processes involved and the variables that we work with every day. The only time it would be possible to completely exclude any degree of rework would be a low cost consumer product where the cost of reworking a pcb is as high or exceeds the profit margin of the product. It is often held that a reworked part has less integrity than a non reworked part -- an argument with camps on both sides, the reality is that stuff that does not work properly can be repaired and reworked with exceptionally high levels of success and exceed the criteria laid out by industry bodies for quality.

Allen W. Duck
ATEK llc
Allen Duck is a 20-year Electronics Industry veteran with Global experience in multiple fields of technology and management. He started A-Tek in 2006 to provide a sales and service channel for international equipment companies wishing to offer value based solutions to USA companies.

Without knowing the end use application, I would suggest that this is quite unusual and impractical. Reworked boards can be just as reliable as non-reworked boards, assuming that the rework processes are appropriate and well-controlled. It sounds like your customer has been "burned" by reworked boards in the past, and therefore has a predisposition against any sort of repair operation. However, when processed correctly, repaired boards pose absolutely no risk. So my suggestion to you would be to investigate the reasons behind this (irrational?) fear on the part of your customer, and demonstrate that your company has manufacturing practices and controls in place to mitigate those potential risks. I will also add that improperly repaired boards (too much flux, flux running underneath components, not enough heat, etc.) CAN cause reliability issues. The "over-apply & under-heat" issue has real reliability ramifications. Additionally, the selection of appropriate materials for the operation (cored wire, liquid assist flux) is also important. The use of tacky fluxes (or "gel fluxes") is generally not recommended for most applications but may be appropriate for some components and heating processes (such as a BGA repair machine). I would suggest to speak to your supplier to make sure that you have selected the proper materials for rework applications.

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.

At Fuji Machine we have customers that build to the "0" Defect standard. Using great equipment and tools like electrical set-up confirmation, Auto Back-up Support, Intelligent Part Sensing and strict process controls, quality levels of well under 1 DPM are attainable.

Scott Wischoffer
Marketing Manager
Fuji America Corporation
Scott Wischoffer has been in the SMT industry since 1986 with experience in service, training, sales & applications, and marketing.

The answer to this is depends, they are after all the customer and so it is their choice, you just need to make sure that you can both agree on the cost of not reworking and scraping the boards that they will not accept. There will always be boards that do not function for one reason or another some components arrive broken and so you will never achieve 100% first time pass unless your process is relatively simple or you have really good incoming inspection and test 100% of all incoming parts. So some level of failure is to be expected There is a risk associated with rework, when you heat up a local area of PWB to remove, repair or replace a damaged component, damage could occur to surrounding components by heat or by physically disrupting the component during rework. These can be minimized with good training, but a risk will remain. If there are any potentially delicate components present, then a rework ban can occur. This is normal for some safety critical devices on automotive or aerospace parts where long term reliability is essential and any potential damage caused by rework cannot be accounted for during standard design and test as the rework process puts different stresses on the finished product. So the answer is that it may not be practical, but if the customers wants it, then you both need to agree on the cost that this will generate.

Doug Dixon
Douglass Dixon is the Chief Marketing Officer for 360 BC Group, a marketing agency with offices throughout the US. 360 BC specializes in consulting and implementing successful marketing programs that utilize the latest in marketing, sales and technology strategies. As an electronics veteran, Dixon has worked in the industry for over 30 years for companies like Henkel, Universal Instruments, Camelot Systems, and Raytheon. Dixon's electronics industry experience includes a broad skill set that includes engineering, field service, applications, product management and marketing communications expertise.

Well sure, if the assembly does not have any components, or else you have perfect processes and perfect operators. If you do, you could sell tickets for a lot of money, and folks from all over the world would come in droves to see it. Realistically, it depends on a couple of things. The number of components on the board and the type of parts. Is touch-up allowed, or do they mean only no hot gas rework? Is the board a low-dollar item? It could be that the cost of the assembly is so low that the customer may not wish to have literally any rework done, but to scrap anything not deemed perfect. If so, you would need to factor in a higher estimated scrap cost than you normally would in your bid.

Richard D. Stadem
Advanced Engineer/Scientist
General Dynamics
Richard D. Stadem is an advanced engineer/scientist for General Dynamics and is also a consulting engineer for other companies. He has 38 years of engineering experience having worked for Honeywell, ADC, Pemstar (now Benchmark), Analog Technologies, and General Dynamics.

Without knowing if there is a particular reason for your customer's position, it is impossible to say if it is practical. Inexpensive assemblies can often cost more to rework or process as returns than if they are simply scrapped. If the boards are more costly, there should be some other logic behind the decision. If your customer has a problem with soldering irons in particular as opposed to all rework, that is understandable but could be better defined as to why. Some board materials and components are vulnerable to inappropriate heat cycling, and rework processes are the most likely sources of such problems. If it were my customer, I would initiate a more detailed discussion to understand the whole situation.

John Vivari
Application Engineering Supervisor
Nordson EFD
Mr. Vivari has more than 15 years of electronic engineering design and assembly experience. His expertise in fluid dispensing and solder paste technology assists others in identifying the most cost effective method for assembling products.

Reader Comment
I love hearing these equipment guys saying "Well, if you use MY machine, you won't need to rework." Moving on... in the end you have to respect the customer's requirements, but the customer may have to be willing to pay a higher price per piece. You remove one cost (rework) and supplant it with another (scrap and waste). Which costs more? And then there is the whole 'green' argument associated with a zero-rework policy. Certainly costs and all issues must be taken into consideration, but in the end, the customer's wishes must be honored.
Mike Martel, Speedline Technologies, USA

Reader Comment
The discussion is interesting but one would needto have a better understanding of the complexity, opportunity count, materialscost, batch size, and reasons behind the need for rework. A well tuned PCBA mfgprocess that has been properly matched with DFM parameters should achieve anacceptably low level of defects that the no rework allowed makes economicsense. If this is set up as a continuousprocess then the process metrics will make the determination a lot clearer. If thisa random batch mode process, one should push back on the ability to work outthe defects. There should be some element of the customer reasoning for notwanting to accept the risks associated with a reworked PCBA.
Geoffrey Thayer, Axsun Technologies, USA

Reader Comment
As a consumer of contract manufacturing services for PCBAs, we specify that rework cannot be performed without our approval. In that way we have control over where rework is permissible and work with our CMs to manage costs and reliability concerns. In some circumstances we elect to perform the rework in-house and in others rework is not allowed.
Jim Wagner, Microline Technology Corp, USA

Reader Comment
I have been involved in THT and SMT PCBA Manufacturing Engineering for a span of over 30 years. Our products are considered "Fail-Safe." First comment regards mixing the terms Rework and Repair. Rework is a process to restore the product to the original state required by the engineering design. i.e. R1 is required to be 1K by design and a 10K part was mistakenly installed.

Repair is a process to restore something that no longer can meet the original design requirement to a functional state. i.e. restoring a lifted land or putting down new track. In my company "Repair" is not allowed. (Exception - can be allowed with customer approval on service and repair items where manufacturing new is no longer an option) "Rework" is allowed and for many of the reasons already stated above... costs, low quantity, high mix nature of the products etc. Process control is key including utilizing IPC 7711 trained and certified technicians.
Needham R. Williamson Jr., Ansaldo-STS USA

The short answer is no, it's not practical but remains the customer's prerogative. As the service provider, this atypical requirement needs upfront consideration in your commercial proposal.

For a customer to impose this requirement after the fact necessitates discussion. It's unrealistic to adopt the notion of a zero-defect process, touche Mike. Rework continues to be successfully performed on a wide variety of applications ranging from high-reliability products that have left this planet's atmosphere to low value products that your 8 year old is playing with at home, e.g. remember the X-Box fiasco.

Rework is common industry practice and can be very successful when properly performed under controlled conditions, this doesn't include using a Vidal Sassoon hairdryer and a pair of needle-nose pliers. The decision to "rework or not to rework" is primarily economic ...

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.

Reader Comment
Impractical? Yes in most cases. Contractual agreements need to be honored, but many CM's do all sorts of things "technically" not allowed. My personal view though is that a skilled tech can rework most items to "good as new" or better. Some thirty years ago I was approached by a fellow engineer who needed an IC replaced with "no evidence" for a demo on a side job he was doing. After replacing the IC, we submitted it to our QA for inspection. We even told them "One IC has been replaced. Can you spot it?" They could not identify it. Ability and pride in one's work, be it an individual or a company, might be more important than arbitrary requirements.
Allan Knox II, Knox Associates Design

Reader Comment
I have a customer like that. I negotiated what was considered rework and what was considered touch-up (an acceptable process for them). Sorted things out nicely to where we could proceed with minimal impact.
Scott McKee, Golden West Technology

I don't understand your customers concerns in this case, but I believe it is an unusual position. I've heard of companies having restrictions or concerns with repair, but not rework. The definition of rework "Rework - the act of reprocessing noncomplying articles, through the use of original or equivalent processing, in a manner that assures full compliance of the article with applicable drawings or specifications" speaks for itself.

Andy Price
Sales Engineer
Circuit Technology Center
Mr. Price has been a key member of the team at Circuit Technology Center since 1985. He has vast expertise, experience and understanding of complex circuit board rework, repair and modification operations. He is one of the most knowledgeable experts in this area across the globe.
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