Ask the Experts
December 5, 2012 - Updated
November 28, 2012 - Originally Posted

White Legend Ink Turning Pink

We have PCB assemblies using white legend ink. The white ink has turned pink after the assembly process. Why has the ink turn pink?


Expert Panel Responses

Gold salts (e.g., from ENIG surface finish) left on the surface(typically from a dirty final rinse) will react with titanium dioxide used as apigment, yielding a tint ranging from pink to purple.This phenomenon is also possible with white solder mask (popular withLED PCBs).

Robert "Bob" Lazzara
Circuit Connect, Inc.
Bob has been in PCB design and fabrication since 1976. He has held elected positions with the SMTA, is a member of the MSD Council, has served as a committee member for various IPC standards and is a Certified IPC Trainer.

Let's think about the possible ways that a pink color could begenerated:
  1. Theink picked up traces of a red dye from an assembly process
  2. Apigment or component in the ink was affected chemically by the assembly processand changed color
Both are possible. If all the ink turned pink, look at processesthat expose all the ink to the process; one good possibility is a wash process.If only some of the ink turned pink, look at what the pink areas have incommon. Following are some questions that you may want to answer, either byresearch or experiment, that may shed light on your issue:
  • Is the color problem limited to a specific board supplier and/ordate code? If so, look into material or process changes that may have occurredat the supplier. Keep in mind that epoxy-based inks are less susceptible toabsorbing dyes, and that under-cure can raise permeability of all inks,including epoxies. So: * Did you change board suppliers? * Did a supplier change the material used? * Did a supplier have a process control problem that may haveaffected cure?
  • Is the color problem limited to boards that see a certainprocess, or does it show up at a certain point in the process? If so, look atprocesses immediately prior to the change.
  • If you put a relatively impermeable label over a portion of theink, such as a reflow-rated Kapton label, does the ink under the label remainwhite? If so, it's not likely to be a heat-related change.
There are other ways you can isolate process effects, such as taking sample bare boards of lots known to produce the problem (assuming theyare available and it is cost-effective) and subjecting them to varyingcombinations of processes using a designed experiment approach. This shouldhopefully not be necessary, and should only be considered if simpler means ofisolating the root cause do not succeed.

Fritz Byle
Process Engineer
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.

In almost 30 years in this industry I have never seen thathappen. I would suspect the flux vapors in the reflow oven environment reactingwith the legend ink. Perhaps exposing a defect in the ink cure, etc.Is this a new phenomenon is it seen on the whole lot? I would start myinvestigation upstream of the assembly process.

Charlie Pitarys
Technical Expert Sales Support
Kyzen Corporation
Charlie Pitarys has over thirty years of industry experience and has been with KYZEN for twenty-one years. Charlie is a former Marine and a retired Sargent First Class in the Army Reserves. His previous employers include Hollis and Electrovert. Charlie continues to use his expertise on cleaning processes and machine mechanics to help KYZEN customers and partners improve their cleaning operations.
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