IPC – The Standard for Cleanliness and Reliability in the Electronics Industry

The IPC, the benchmark of quality in the manufacture and assembly of electronic products, has established a new standard. This standard is designed to address issues surrounding the cleanliness of unpopulated printed circuit boards. The new standard is the IPC-TM-650 and it is intended to regulate the levels of cleanliness of PCB. For general and sodium chloride applications, the acceptable standard is 0.65 µg/in2 while the standard for military applications is set at 0.1 µg/in2. While these standards are intended to prevent failures, these are also meant to establish standard cleaning methods. To be able to comply with these standards, companies need to make these a part of their electronic manufacturing training program.


What can IPC-TM-650 Do?


The cleanliness standards are made to ensure that all bare boards come clean before they are made ready for the assembly process. While most people in the electronics manufacturing industry believe that all bare boards and components are clean and free from contamination during delivery, this is not really the case in the present electronics manufacturing scene. Another myth the IPC wants to rectify is that flux is not a thing to worry about because it can be poured onto the board without affecting quality. This is also far from the truth.


Residual flux can really affect the quality of a board especially if it is used in an environment with high humidity and frequent temperature changes. The condensation that results from these situations causes the residual flux to grow and cause leakage which eventually leads to failure. Even if it passes QC, a board that is contaminated with residual flux can fail.


Will Washing Help?


Washing can make a printed circuit board really clean and ready for shipment. But behind its shine and sparkle are areas that can only be made clean with the right combination of chemicals, correct temperature, adequate timing and sufficient wash cycles.


The cleanliness of the printed circuit board is a critical factor in the assembly process. It has a direct impact on the quality of the product. The soldering process produces residues that can affect the board’s function. These residues can actually increase the risk of failures even if they remain unseen during QC inspections. It is important to establish acceptance criteria for PCB cleanliness. This will really work to ensure that the products come out clean and free from contamination when they reach the end user.  




With the implementation of IPC standards of PCB cleanliness, board contamination which is the primary cause of failure can be prevented. This reduces the need and frequency of repairs. This can lead to savings on the end-user and increased reliability on the part of the manufacturer. With its clear and useful intentions, every company in the electronics manufacturing company should make IPC-TM-650 an integral part of the IPC certification process.


photo credit for featured image: Creativity103 (flickr.com)

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