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Old 18th August 2014, 03:12 AM   #1
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Default Ultrasonic Cleaning

Does anyone here have any experience with small ultrasonic cleaning tanks for removing flux from circuit boards? http://www.amazon.ca/2-5L-Ultrasonic.../dp/B005CFSAOQ Are these thing powerful enough to actually remove flux or will the just leave nice clean flux?
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Old 18th August 2014, 04:30 AM   #2
WSJ is offline WSJ  United States
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Use a vapor degreaser.

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Old 18th August 2014, 05:04 AM   #3
gec is offline gec  United States
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The first step would be to check with your solder / flux manufacturer for the recommended cleaning chemistry, then explore what kind of system is suitable. Ultrasonics are effective but some people avoid them because of potential damage to wirebonds inside ICs. Others say that newer systems don't have that problem. I guess you have to decide if that $120 benchtop unit from Amazon will cause you problems down the road.

Cleaning can be a challenge. Sometimes its better to leave the flux on (no clean or RMA) than to risk doing an incomplete job of cleaning and leaving a nastier residue or activator behind. Some plastics/insulation or will not tolerate some of the newer chemistries that are effective on no-clean fluxes. Some components shouldn't be immersed, period.

If you are using water soluble (organic) flux there is no question - you must clean it off (hot DI water is best) or it will cause problems. For the average hobbyist, RMA flux and brushing/rinsing with isopropyl alcohol is cheap and easy.
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Old 18th August 2014, 05:38 AM   #4
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I suggest isopropanol and an old teeth-brush.
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Old 18th August 2014, 10:19 AM   #5
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I've been using the ultrasound tank at the engine shop a block away for years to clean up circuit boards. They moved away now so I'm back to manual cleaning. I use Kester 44. On bigger solder joints I find the only way to remove the flux is to chip it away which leads to scratchs in solder mask and access problems between components. And isopropyl stinks. I've never heard of problems with with ics being damaged. I haven't had any problems but I'll keep that in mind. I've never seen a vapour degreaser. What does it use for a solvent?
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Old 18th August 2014, 11:20 AM   #6
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Ultrasound cleaning devices can indeed damage integrated circuits, particularly older ones. My advice for removing flux and general cleaning of grease, smoke and dust deposits on PCB is 3-step manual method:

1. Use isoproyl or 96% ethanol alcohol and scrub both sides of PCB with soft and narrow painting brush rather than with toothbrush and apply alcohol generously; this will dissolve virtually everything which is not your PCB and components
2. Flush the still wet PCB with cold tap water, then repeat step 1 with dishwashing detergent and brush
3. Flush well with tap water and do the final rinse with distilled or demineralized water to prevent stains and residues
Allow to dry for 24 hours in a warm place. Your PCBs will look mint.

Last edited by Willi Studer; 18th August 2014 at 11:22 AM.
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Old 18th August 2014, 05:10 PM   #7
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Basically if you are using flux of basic chemistry? cleaning is easy with just Isopropyl Alcohol.

But modern and more complex in chemistry flux, that is specialized for rework has sticky residue and needs a more strong cleaning agent.

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Old 18th August 2014, 10:40 PM   #8
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I did a little research into the ultrasonic cleaner problems. Circuit boards should be cleaned at around 37khz. Cleaning above 40 khz can cause damage to electronics. Unfortunately all these cheap little tanks run at 42khz.
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Old 22nd August 2014, 12:11 PM   #9
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If your PCBA consists off ceramic/quartz crystals or oscillators - NEVER use ultrasonic cleaning! It can damage these components completely!
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Old 22nd August 2014, 03:12 PM   #10
WSJ is offline WSJ  United States
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When I worked at AMPEX, they used water soluble flux and cleaned boards in a dish washer.

Lead Free Wire Solder - Kester Water Soluble Cored Wire Solder - Circuit Boards - Electronics Assembly | PCB Unlimited
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