The Plating Forum: Training for Plating Processes in the Electronics Industry

Wikipedia defines training as follows: “Training is teaching, or developing in oneself or others, any skills and knowledge or fitness that relate to specific useful competencies. Training has specific goals of improving one's capability, capacity, productivity, and performance. It forms the core of apprenticeships and provides the backbone of content at institutes of technology. In addition to the basic training required for a trade, occupation, or profession, training may continue beyond initial competence to maintain, upgrade, and update skills throughout working life.”

In the electronics industry, the role of the supplier in training their prospective customer on the ins and outs of a plating process is paramount to the success of any new installation. This is particularly important, as there are very few curriculums in formal educational institutions that directly address the specific skill set needed by our industry.

Plating is a very old industry and has been studied for many generations. Its basic principles are well understood and documented. However, when it comes to the intricate details of plating a circuit board, there is so much to learn and apply.

Most of the plating chemistries in use today in printed circuit shops are proprietary to the specialty chemical supplier. Supplier R&D departments specialize in finding solutions to meet the ever-changing requirements of new circuit board designs. The net result is a series of products that, when used in a specific way, would give the desired outcome. Suppliers do not divulge their trade secrets to their buyers—the circuit shops.

Instead, they describe the product and explain its capabilities to the buyer and supply a detailed data sheet that contains instructions for use, which includes makeup procedures for the electrolyte or the bath, as well as its operating ranges and the expected outcome. They also supply procedures to analyze and replenish the electrolyte during its use, as well as schedules for dump and remake of electrolytes. Electrolyte or bath life is mainly determined by the buildup of by-products that will eventually interfere with the functionality of the chemistry.

The supplier also specifies the type of equipment and any specific controllers or dosing peripherals that are needed for their proprietary system to work. With all this complexity, a well-trained user is a must for success and for achieving the desired end result.

Suppliers have training experts available to their customers. This begins with sales, and eventually, the burden of training falls on the shoulders of the technical service engineer in the lab (in-house) or in the field or at the site.

In-House Training
Most suppliers have laboratories and demonstrate chemical processes set up in their facility. In most cases, a lead person (plater, engineer, or manager) from the buyer would spend a day or two being trained by the application engineer. Training involves a hands-on demonstration of the process and may also entail training on the analytical methods used to control the chemistry of the electrolyte for replenishment and continuous successful operation. The trainer becomes an important resource to the user as different situations arise that may include product evolution, increased capacity, or the addition of new equipment or personnel.

Onsite Training
Onsite training is the other side of the coin. Here, the regional sales and technical service engineer conduct the training. In this setup, there is ample opportunity to train different individuals as needed. Onsite training involves adapting the user’s equipment and personnel to the process being installed.

Onsite training covers different individuals or groups in the shop. It starts with the process engineer who assumes the primary responsibility of overseeing the successful running of the process. In some of the smaller operations, the position of process engineer is absent. The duties of the process engineer are performed by the production manager, who is assisted by lab personnel, as well as the supplier tech service engineer.

Special training is also needed for the production floor personnel, like the platers, who run the process during their shifts. Training on inspection techniques is paramount to ensure that the parts meet in-house QC requirements. A competent, well-trained plater is the gatekeeper for the product coming off the line. They are always the first to recognize any deviance in product quality.

Training of lab personnel on specific analytical techniques is needed to ensure proper analysis and replenishment of the different components of the bath. This is particularly critical if a new analytical tool is introduced into the lab. Setting up the new tool becomes the responsibility of the supplier technical service team. Lab personnel are trained on the setup and maintenance of controllers that are installed on the line. The lab personnel are also trained in setting up dosing systems that may be needed to maintain a steady-state operation. The lab usually has the responsibility for determining the end of life of a bath and scheduling a dump and remake. The lab also oversees the makeup of the new bath.

Communicating the proper operation of any chemical process is critical to the success of the operation. This is achieved by the successful training of different personnel in the production shop by the supplier team. Continuous monitoring of the setup is equally important, and retraining is always needed as changes in equipment, product requirements, or personnel occur.

This column originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of PCB007 Magazine.

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2020

The Plating Forum: Training for Plating Processes in the Electronics Industry

12-24-2020

Plating is a very old industry and has been studied for many generations. Its basic principles are well understood and documented. However, when it comes to the intricate details of plating a circuit board, there is so much to learn and apply. George Milad explains.

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The Plating Forum: Via Plating for PWBs

11-19-2020

Vias are an integral part of PWB design and manufacturing. They are the means by which different layers of a board are connected. George Milad addresses the electroplating of vias, including the three main types of vias: through-hole vias, buried vias, and blind vias.

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The Plating Forum: The Critical Role of Pretreatment for Plating

10-22-2020

Pretreatment is usually customized to the incoming substrate and the plated metal. George Milad explains how it is a critical step and must be completed before plating to achieve the desired adhesion and to enhance the quality of the deposited metal.

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The Plating Forum: Immersion Plating Reaction in Electronics Manufacturing

09-16-2020

Plating or metal deposition is a key component in the manufacturing of electronic packages (circuit boards and integrated circuits). Plating occurs when a metal ion in solution (electrolyte) is reduced to the metal. The reduction takes place when electrons are supplied to the ion. George Milad dedicates this column to the immersion reaction.

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The Plating Forum: Minimizing Signal Transmission Loss in High-Frequency Circuits

07-06-2020

All PCB materials have both conduction and dielectric RF signal losses. In this column, George Milad highlights resistive conduction losses by the copper layer used in the board.

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The Plating Forum: Can ‘Nickel Corrosion’ Occur in ENEPIG?

05-25-2020

Nickel palladium gold (ENEPIG) surface finish is being referred to as the “universal finish.” ENEPIG was also the answer to the nickel corrosion “black pad” encountered occasionally with electroless nickel/immersion gold (ENIG) deposits. In this column, George Milad answers the question, "Can 'nickel corrosion' occur in ENEPIG?"

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The Plating Forum: Eliminating Waste From Electrolytic Acid Copper Plating

03-15-2020

Acid copper plating in most shops is done in vertical plating tanks. Acid copper solutions are not dumped but are continuously used with occasional carbon treatment to remove organic build-up from the additives and from dry film leaching. George Milad explains.

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The Plating Forum: EPIG—A Nickel-free Surface Finish for Next-generation Products

01-11-2020

In recent years, electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablet PCs, have been miniaturized. Chip-size package (CSP) used inside the electronic devices have been miniaturized as well, and the spacing between the lines continues to diminish every year. Some of the latest packages have spacing as little as 15 µm or less. If electroless nickel electroless palladium immersion gold (ENEPIG) is used with an EN thickness of 5–6 µm, only 5 µm of spacing would be left, increasing the risk of shorts between the traces. George Milad explains.

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2019

The Plating Forum: New Developments in ENIG

12-08-2019

ENIG has been around the printed circuit industry for more than 25 years. George Milad provides an update and explains how although the occurrence of corrosion was recognized, a better understanding of the defect has led to a series of improvements over time.

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The Plating Forum: Update on IPC-4552 ENIG Specification Revisions

10-20-2019

George Milad's columns will cover PCB plating, IPC specifications, and more. In this debut installment, he gives us an update on the IPC-4552 ENIG specification, including Revision A and B.

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2014

The Plating Forum: Wire Bonding to ENIG

03-05-2014

The IPC-4552 ENIG specification was written in 2002, but the committee is currently updating and revising the document. The thickness of the immersion gold layer is being revised with the intent of reducing the minimum thickness from 2.0 µin to 1.6 µin. A series of studies were conducted to find out if this reduction is possible.

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The Plating Forum: ENIG and the Plating Process

01-07-2014

ENIG continues to gain market share due to its versatility in a wide range of component assembly methods including solder fusing, wave soldering, and wire bonding. The plating of ENIG is a complex multi-step process. Each process step is carefully designed and must be well understood and controlled to produce the desired end product. George Milad reports.

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2013

Acid Copper Plating for High Aspect Ratio and Via Fill

07-16-2013

To meet new specification requirements, board shops are forced to seek new and advanced processes in every department. Acid copper plating comes under heavy scrutiny, as it is the process that forms the traces and the through-hole connectivity that conveys the signal from end-to-end of the final device. George Milad, a new columnist for The PCB Magazine, explains.

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