SAFE – A New Approach to Custom Printed Circuit Board Manufacturing?

For custom printed circuit board manufacturers who specialize in electronic assemblies, soldering is undoubtedly the most practical technology for PCB production. While this is a widely acknowledged fact, many global health organizations and even Governments in some instances are pushing towards banning electronic solders. A number of health reasons have been cited as the cause for the ban.

It is true that mismanagement of materials, and dreadful soldering techniques can result in physical illnesses and negative environmental results. If you look at credible printed circuit board manufacturers, you will find little evidence that lead or tin solder has actually harm to end-users. So the question that comes up is which perspective is right?

Impact of the Solder on the PCB

The answer to the aforementioned question can only be found by looking into the details of the soldering process. On closer inspection, one can find a variety of defects in a printed circuit board assembly that can occur due to the soldering technique. A few examples of these are:

  • Delamination: The layers within a multi-layer circuit separate when resin transition temperature has been exceeded.
  • Corner cracking: Soldering can cause a crack between the hole and the surrounding board area.
  • Hole-Wall Pull Away: This is basically a bulge in a plated through hole.
  • Decomposition: PCB decomposition occurs when lead free soldering has been used, and in high temperature applications.

It is clear that soldering technologies does create vulnerabilities in a PCB.

Is there a New Approach?

One solution that has been put forward is a technology called Solderless Assembly for Electronics (SAFE). This approach entails building the assemblies in reverse rather than following the traditional placement and joining of components with solder paste. Copper plating is used to circumvent the soldering process.

By using this approach, custom printed circuit board manufacturers can hope to reap immense benefits in terms of expenditure, design security, performance, stability, and environmental impact.