A European Union ban on lead in most electrical and electronic equipment will be imposed as of July 1st 2006. The ban, along with market pressures, means that manufacturers must transfer from a tin-lead soldering process to a lead-free process. In this paper the implications on the surface mount (SMT) soldering process are presented. A set of experiments was conducted to investigate the screen-printing and reflow steps of the SMT process using a tin-silver-copper (95.5Sn3.8Ag0.7Cu) solder and a baseline of standard tin-lead (63Sn37Pb). 10×10 arrays of micro Ball Grid Array (micro-BGA) components mounted on 8-layer FR4 printed wiring boards (PWBs) were used. The screen-printing experiment addressed the deposition of the solder paste on the board. The parameters used in the investigation were print speed, squeegee pressure, snap-off distance, separation speed and cleaning interval, with the responses being measurements of paste height and volume. Optimum screen-printer settings were determined which give adequate paste volume and height and a good print definition. The reflow experiment investigated the following parameters of the temperature profile: preheat, soak, peak and cool down temperatures, and conveyor speed. The resulting solder joints were evaluated using cross-section analysis and x-ray techniques in order to determine the presence of defects. A mechanical fatigue test was also carried out in order to compare the strength of the solder joints. The overall quality of the lead-free solder joints was determined from these tests and compared to that of tin-lead. The outcome is a set of manufacturing guidelines for transferring to lead-free solder including optimum screen-printer and reflow oven settings for use with an SnAgCu solder.

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