IEEE Transactions on Electronics Packaging Manufacturing, Vol. 32, No. 4, pp. 272-280, October 2009

Effect of Lead-Free Soldering on Key Material Properties of FR-4 Printed Circuit Board Laminates

Ravikumar Sanapala, Member, IEEE
Bhanu Sood, Member, IEEE
Diganta Das, Member, IEEE
Michael Pecht, Fellow, IEEE
Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering(CALCE)
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Maryland,
College Park, MD 20742 USA.


The transition to lead-free soldering of printed circuit boards (PCBs) using solder alloys such as SnAgCu has resulted in higher temperature exposures during assembly compared with eutectic SnPb solders. The knowledge of PCB laminate material properties and their dependence on the material constituents, combined with their possible variations due to lead-free soldering temperature exposures, is an essential input in the laminate selection process. This paper provides laminate selection guidelines that were arrived at by assessing key material properties (glass transition temperature, coefficient of thermal expansion, decomposition temperature, and water absorption), and their responses to lead-free soldering assembly conditions. A range of commercially available FR-4 PCB laminate materials, classified on the basis of glass transition temperature (high, mid, and low), curing agents (dicyandiamide and phenolic), flame retardants (halogenated and halogen-free), and fillers (presence or absence) were studied. The laminate material properties under investigation were measured as per the IPC-TM-650 test methods before and after exposure to multiple lead-free soldering cycles. Combinatorial property analysis was conducted to investigate the causes behind variations in material properties.

Keywords: FR-4, glass transition temperature, halogen-free, lead-free soldering, printed circuit board (PCB).

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