PRESS RELEASE

iNEMI Releases Guidelines to Reduce Risk of Creep Corrosion

Recommendations cover airborne contaminants, temperature, humidity and dew point

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HERNDON, Virginia USA — June 6, 2012 — The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) today published a position paper outlining limits of temperature, humidity and gaseous contamination in data centers and telecommunication rooms to avoid creep corrosion on printed circuit boards. These recommendations were developed by the consortium’s Creep Corrosion Project, which has been investigating factors that influence creep corrosion since 2009.

“Corrosion of electronics is a significant issue,” said Bill Bader, CEO of iNEMI. “However, there is very little agreement on the test methods and conditions that should be used to simulate the environmental conditions and to predict potential failures. This project team has surveyed the electronics manufacturing industry to identify leading factors in creep corrosion and is working to understand the sensitivities of those factors. They have conducted, and are continuing to conduct, very valuable testing to help extend industry’s understanding of the issues surrounding creep corrosion.”

Creep corrosion is a process in which solid corrosion products (typically sulfide and chloride) migrate over a surface without the influence of an electric field. Creep corrosion is highly surface specific and a given corrosion product can only migrate on a specific type of surface. Commonly seen in polluted environments rich in sulfur, this kind of corrosion has predominantly been observed on printed circuit boards with lead-free surface finishes such as ImAg and OSP. In these cases, the corrosion product (typically copper sulfide) creeps onto the solder mask surface and causes short circuits between adjacent pads and traces. Creep corrosion on printed circuit boards is promoted by the residue of certain types of fluxes, and is also affected by temperature and humidity in the environment.

iNEMI’s position statement defines the temperature, humidity and copper and silver corrosion rate limits within which PCBs will perform reliably in the field with respect to creep corrosion.  Existing studies indicate that the most effective way to protect electronic hardware from creep corrosion is to ensure that environmental conditions are within the modified severity level G1 of ANSI/ISA-71.04-1985, Environmental Conditions for Process Measurement and Control Systems: Airborne Contaminants (ISA 1985):

  • A copper reactivity rate of less than 30 nm /month
  • A silver reactivity rate of less than 20 nm /month

The recommended ranges for temperature and humidity are based on whitepapers from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE):

  • Temperature within 18° to 27°C
  • Relative humidity less than 60%
  • Dew point within the range of 5.5° to 15°C

“The penetration of electronics into emerging markets, coupled with shrinking interconnect packaging densities, pose increased risk for creep corrosion-based reliability failures,” said Anil Kurella, senior failure analysis engineer with Intel Corporation and a member of the Creep Corrosion Project team.  “These guidelines, which define the environmental envelope for electronic hardware usage, will enable customers to proactively monitor their use conditions and help mitigate corrosion-related product marginality issues.”

“Environmental corrosion of electronics is a complex area of research,” continued Kurella. “iNEMI should be credited for bringing together scientists and engineers at various companies to focus on this issue, share their findings and identify the biggest technical gaps that need to be addressed. The exploration of modified MFG test methods plus the evaluation of key factors contributing to corrosion are some of the important findings of this work.”

iNEMI members supporting this position statement are:

Agilent Technologies
Alcatel-Lucent
Cisco Systems
Dell
DfR Solutions
Dow Chemical
HP
Huawei Technologies
IBM
Intel Corporation
IST-Integrated Service Technology Inc.

Phase 3 of iNEMI’s Creep Corrosion Project is currently performing laboratory-based experiments to further investigate the sensitivities of the influencing factors, including surface finish, flux, solder mask geometry, solder paste coverage, reflow and wave soldering, and mixed flowing gas (MFG) test conditions (corrosive gas concentration, humidity, temperature). To download a copy of the iNEMI position statement, click here.

For more information about the Creep Corrosion Project, click here.

About iNEMI
The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative’s mission is to forecast and accelerate improvements in the electronics manufacturing industry for a sustainable future.  This industry-led consortium is made up of approximately 100 manufacturers, suppliers, industry associations and consortia, government agencies and universities.  iNEMI roadmaps the needs of the electronics industry, identifies gaps in the technology infrastructure, establishes implementation projects to eliminate these gaps (both business and technical), and stimulates standards activities to speed the introduction of new technologies.  The consortium also works with government agencies, universities and other funding agencies to set priorities for future industry needs and R&D initiatives.  iNEMI is based in Herndon, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.), with regional offices in Shanghai, China; Limerick, Ireland; and Tokyo, Japan.  For additional information about iNEMI, go to http://www.inemi.org.

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