Here’s What You Need to Know About Soldering Your Broken Electronics

Solder the Right Way, The First Time

One way to avoid junking your favorite electronic devices, guitars, audio equipment, power supplies, power cords, cables, and more is by learning how to solder them back to life. Fixing a shorted wire, bad connection, or entirely defunct electronic device is often simple with a quality soldering iron, well-picked accessories, some safety precautions, and a few YouTube tutorials.

Investing in a Quality Soldering Iron Saves Countless Hours and Headaches

Higher-end soldering irons heat up quickly, repeatably, and use digital temperature displays for predictable function. When a soldering iron tip comes into a contact with another material, the thermal energy which was stored in the tip is dissipated into the joint. With cheap soldering irons, the temperature output isn’t adjustable and the tip of the iron often waivers drastically between too hot or too cool. Unlike adjustable temperature soldering stations, fixed temperature soldering irons struggle in practical use for novice and experienced users alike.

“The key to the problem lies with the fact that fixed temperature soldering irons are philosophically not designed to manage thermal energy. Instead, the heater, which is usually ceramic, is turned on if the embedded temperature sensor reads too high and off if the sensor reads too low. In practice, when the heater controller receives the signal to turn on, the tip temperature will have already fallen below its set point. The heater is then run at its maximum power to increase the tip temperature and will invariably cause the temperature to overshoot.” — Brazing & Soldering Today

The Winning Tip

Optimizing the mass and dimension of the tip facilitates the proper amount of heat transfer for the given job. For electronics, overly large tips store excessive energy and limit precision for tight placements. Soldering irons with interchangeable tips improve cross-functional use for any project and ensure easy replacement for life-long use. “Tinning” the tip of a new soldering iron is critical for lasting function and effective heat transfer. Working on small devices with limited access and the wrong sized tip leads to twisting and moving the iron around to achieve heat transfer. The result is errors, inadequate joints, and long hold times which compromise the final results.

“The best possible tip shape is not excessively long, is smoothly tapered, has a chisel-shaped face that should be matched in size to the joint, and does not have excessive plating thickness. It should have sufficient mass to help deliver the necessary energy into the thermal load to raise the solder alloy above its melting point within an acceptable time.” — Brazing & Soldering Today

Is the Wattage of the Soldering Iron Important?

More wattage doesn’t imply more heat, but instead, that power is more available. Premium soldering irons with higher wattage ratings heat solder more quickly to achieve a molten state without long holding periods and excessive heat. Holding periods of more than five seconds easily melt surrounding plastics, wire insulation, other joints, and can destroy circuitry. Higher wattage also ensures that the operating temperature remains consistent as the tip will experience a smaller drop when applied to joints. Low-end soldering irons usually feature 15W – 20W power supplies without temperature adjustment, whereas 40W – 60W irons with adjustable temperature output accommodate most projects.

Spending the extra money on quality components with a higher wattage rating gets you the most productivity with the least amount of headaches. Likewise, using the right solder is key to efficient processes and protecting delicate components from damage.

What’s the Best Type of Solder to Use?

Before getting started, note the fundamental properties of fusible metal alloys (solder) and ensure you’ve found the proper material for the job. Do not buy acid flux solder; it’s used for plumbing and destroys electronics! The material composition of traditional solder is 60% tin and 40% lead surrounding a rosin flux core. The rosin flux facilitates adhesion of the tin and lead by cleaning and lubricating metal wires or surfaces before attachment. Fine 0.020” (0.5mm) solder is often used for delicate electronics with small components, while general applications often use 0.032” (0.8128mm) solder. Lead-free solder is readily available, but it’s harder to work with, more expensive, and melts at higher temperatures. Lead and tin based solder is far more forgiving and heats and cools almost instantly, which is ideal for novices. This post does not cover the scope of soldering printed circuit boards (PCB’s) which may require “no-clean flux” which eliminates the potential of flux residue to damage sensitive circuits.

Is Lead-Based Solder Safe?

Lead is toxic, but its high boiling temperature of 3,182°F (1,750°C) minimizes exposure to fumes. The smoke created during the soldering process is almost entirely produced by the rosin flux, which is toxic when inhaled. Solder with caution and never in poorly ventilated areas, as the side effects could be instantaneous or develop long-term with repeated exposure. Smoke absorbing fans and air flow help mitigate exposure to nasty chemicals for hobbyist projects, whereas commercial users opt for fume extractors.

Is There Anything Else I Need for Soldering?

When working with electronic components the risk of electrostatic discharge (ESD) is constant.  The root cause of ESD stems from the friction of insulators like rubber and plastic which don’t conduct electricity well. Sparks created when this electricity finds a pathway to the ground through an electronic component can destroy or damage sensitive devices and even cause explosions when fumes are abundant. Antistatic devices such as wrist straps and grounding mats reduce, dampen, and inhibit the buildup and discharge of static electricity.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the important of a quality (and sharp) wire stripper. Cleanly stripped and cut wires without loose or frayed ends ensure quality connections and desirable conductivity.

Investing in quality equipment ensures the function you need now, and the durability you’ll need for lasting use and future projects.

What’s the Best Automatic Shoe Cover Dispenser or Remover Machine?

Custom Shoe cover remover cc shoeinnPreviously, we wrote about the upsides in cost and time savings generated by the use of automatic shoe cover dispensers and removers. Additionally, automated processes help ensure consistency when completing repetitive tasks or functions. Businesses benefit the most when equipment is well fitted to their needs and budget. Finding the best automated shoe cover machine requires finding the right one for your cleanroom, manufacturing facility, or customized application. The most important factor is determining the best solution for automatic shoe cover removers is based on the volume of foot traffic the environment services.

Low-volume facilities and cleanrooms of 25 people or less can require hundreds of shoe covers per day, thus mid-volume shoe cover dispensers are well suited for the job. Easy-reload packs are user-friendly and swapped in just a few seconds, so even unexpected traffic is accommodatable. Operations of more than 50 people, which can require 500 or more shoe covers each day, rely on high-volume shoe cover dispensers for quick loading and labor free operation. The shoe covers arrive in 110 count refill packs — for high-volume dispensers the loading chamber accommodates two of these refill packs for up to 220 volume capacity.

Durable construction, foolproof design, and user-friendly operation provide an ideal solution for industrial applications which is why Production Automation (that’s us) wants you to know about CleanPro® automatic shoe cover dispensers and removers. Many automatic shoe cover removers use gimmicky mechanisms, don’t comply with standard regulation for cleanroom booties, or apply shoe covers inconsistently thus mitigating their utility. The stainless-steel construction of CleanPro® shoe cover removers and dispensers provides durability and easy sanitation with a reliable mechanism and simple breakdown and installation. The sturdy build and heavy-duty grab bars ensure safe, freestanding use in less than a second.

The use of an automatic shoe cover dispenser doesn’t require an automatic shoe cover remover, but the ease of disposal and reduction of cross-contamination improves sanitation and the bottom line.

This high-volume shoe cover remover uses a receptacle and 250’ vacuum tube to automatically remove, transport, and dispose of up to 600+ shoe covers into a remote storage container. Electric operation and sterile storage containers with an optional HEPA filter bag facilitate strict contamination control and minimal janitorial services.

Compatible shoe covers and medical booties with these systems are both affordable and easily interchanged. The available shoe cover designs feature waterproof, non-slip, slip resistant, plastic, nonwoven, and hybrid fabrics for any type of environment. Here’s what one user said about the process and product:

 “What a great product!!! Gone are the safety issues of balancing on one leg or the need to have benches stationed throughout the facility in order to apply shoe covers. Now as simple as 1…2…3, a person can apply shoe covers and get moving with no interruption to their schedule. We now have a total of three shoe covering stations, and are looking in the future at buying two more. Again, what great ingenuity and excellence in a product.”- Larry Ewen, QA Lead, Remington, INYour shoe cover

Learn more about CleanPro® automatic shoe cover dispensers and shoe cover removers with this PDF, or learn more about the undeniable time and cost savings of these shoe cover removal machines in our previous blog post. Browse the Production Automation website for more technical specs or contact one of our representatives for a quote or any immediate questions.

Are Automatic Shoe Cover and Medical Bootie Dispensers and Removers Worth the Cost?

Clean-room-for-Inplant-Office-subpageHigh-traffic cleanrooms use tightly controlled procedures with repeatable processes to maximize the passage of people in and out of sanitary environments. Cleanroom facilities of all sizes find advantages in using automatic shoe cover removers and dispensers to improve adherence to procedure, maximize throughput, cleanliness, and safety. The result is cost savings of up to $250+ per employee each year with cleaner operation and less maintenance.

The cost savings generated by automatic shoe cover dispensers is easily underestimated. On average, each employee enters and exits the cleanroom four times each day: twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. Each time, they walk to the shoe cover storage bin, walk to a designated area for application, find or wait for an open spot to sit down, put the booties on, and stand up.

Instant application and minimized movement offered by automatic shoe cover dispensers yield time savings of 29 – 39 seconds per application, totaling 116 – 156 seconds of time savings per day. Over the course of a year, at a pay rate of $25 per hour, the reduction of labor costs totals $180 –$252 per employee. This figure does not include the boost in production, increased manufacturing capacity, or reduction in potential workers’ compensation claims. Easily loaded refill packs for nearly any type of shoe cover type Most importantly, the effortless process encourages adherence to protocol while reducing contamination and safety hazards.



All entries and exits from gowning rooms, especially at high-volume, amplify the risks of contamination and accidents. Bending over and standing on one foot both create opportunities for loss of balance and falls. Furthermore, bacteria are easily spread from our feet to our hands by touching walls, the floor, or our shoes in the gowning process. Freestanding shoe cover machines maintain spatial barriers and streamline floor layouts by eliminating seating benches and the need to awkwardly balance on one foot or wait for an open seating bench. Open layouts also ease congestion and limit particle generation caused by shuffling feet in tight spaces. Decreased friction and reduced obstacles for personnel help maximize safety and minimize labor by removing trip hazards, and forgoing repeated sanitation of gowning room furniture.

Learn more about different models of shoe cover removal machines and the cost savings generated with high-volume and low-to-mid volume shoe cover removers and dispensers. Browse the PAC web store for exact specifications on CleanPro® models.

Should the Ban on a Specific Type of PPE Glove Worry Pharmaceutical, Electronic, and Packaging Manufacturers?


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acted upon long-standing evidence that surgical gloves with cornstarch coatings are not safe for use. Manufacturers of devices, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and consumer-facing products or packaging should heed the warning.

The new regulation effective January 19th, 2017 halts the sale, distribution, and manufacturing of all “powdered surgeon gloves, powdered patient examination gloves, and absorbable powders used to lubricate surgeon’s gloves.” These regulations impact the healthcare industry with maximum health benefits without reducing access to proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Despite pharmaceutical, food, packaging, and electronics industries being unaffected by these new regulations, ensuring the safety of employees and customers with proper PPE gear requires thoroughness.

The FDA determined that the risk of powdered surgeon and patient examination gloves is “unreasonable and substantial” for medical professionals, but the health risks don’t end in ultra-clean and sterile operation room environments. The negative impact of powder-based lubricants requires scrutiny in any environment is well documented, especially when combined with hyper-allergenic materials like latex.

The risks associated with the use of latex and cornstarch based gloves within distribution, manufacturing, and preparation facilities occur when natural latex proteins and cornstarch particulate become infused and airborne. Mucous membranes intercept the particles, thus inducing an allergic reaction for susceptible immune systems. Allergic reactions caused by latex include Type I (anaphylactic shock/airway closure), Type IV allergic reactions (hives, blistering) and irritant contact (rash and redness which does not involve the immune system). The delivery of products into homes or business extends the possibility for allergic reactions beyond the initial use of latex items at a production or distribution facility. Goods and packaging in direct contact with latex-infused cornstarch particles remain capable of provoking anaphylactic shock, swelling, hives, blistering rashes, and skin irritation for long periods after initial contact. Exposure to latex is also dangerous in the absence of an allergy. Latex allergies developed through regular exposure to natural rubber latex and other rubber materials is not uncommon.

The official ban on the application of cornstarch to natural rubber latex gloves arrives nearly 18 years after watch-dog groups and consistent research called for its immediate cease-and-desist in sanitary procedures. In the past, the FDA has faced tough scrutiny for failure to act on known dangers. All-out halts in production and removal of products deemed unsafe for the public require compelling evidence and concerns whereby product labeling or restrictions on use fail to mitigate risks. The FDA’s report addresses responses to opponents of the ban. Opposing viewpoints cited difficulty donning non-powdered gloves alongside lesser dexterity, durability, and performance. The claims were unsubstantiated by FDA findings which cite equal resistance to tearing and overall protection through nitrile and neoprene gloves.

The health effects of latex gloves in combination with cornstarch powders are the focus here, while the FDA’s ban encompasses all powdered gloves, but only for medical and surgical procedures or examinations. Regardless, these findings demonstrate that the use of latex and cornstarch PPE by manufacturers of devices, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and consumer-facing products or packaging is not safe for employees or final delivery.

See a breakdown of the different properties of various PPE gloves here including latex, vinyl, and nitrite.

Why Choose Desiccator Storage?

Desiccator storage has become critical in more and more manufacturing operations. A look at the costly effects of moisture exposure explains why.

As critical components become smaller and more sophisticated, their susceptibility to moisture damage increases.

Once absorbed by sensitive components, water creates a number of potentially disastrous conditions. The most notorious effect of moisture exposure is trace oxidation which degrades soldering and other manufacturing processes. Because water dissolves ionic contaminants, it also alters the conductivity of the material, which in turn can degrade electrical function. Water also combines with other materials, causing harmful chemical reactions that can degrade pharmaceutical samples and chemical mixtures.

“Popcorn Effect”: Moisture Damage in IC Production

One particularly costly example of moisture-related damage is the “popcorn” effect that occurs during reflow soldering of IC packages.

Although the vast majority of integrated circuits are packaged in plastic encapsulates (because they are cheaper than ceramic ones), manufacturers are often unaware of the consequences of using hygroscopic materials in a solder reflow process. Moisture absorbed into the package vaporizes during the rapid heating and generates pressure along the metal-to-plastic contact regions. Differences between coefficients of thermal expansion of the two materials can cause loss of adhesion, swelling, and cracking. An audible “pop” signals the problem, and testing confirms a deterioration of electrical function.

Because moisture absorption, and with it the likelihood of part failure, is directly related to the duration of exposure, dry storage is an obvious solution to this problem.


Dwell Effect: Deferred Causalities among the “Walking Wounded”

As bad as these problems are, the damage is worse when it’s not immediately detected.

IC’s for example, that have absorbed substantial amounts of water may not show signs of degradation until late in the manufacturing process. These “walking wounded” parts may not fail until the have been shipped to a customer or have been installed in increasingly more complex and expensive assemblies.

This deferred “dwell effect” of moisture exposure is perhaps the most economically compelling reason to provide a clean, dry storage environment at every stage of your manufacturing process.

Waterlogged Profits – In Many Industries!

Moisture related damage is also common in package bonding. If the integrated circuit packages have been in inventory for more than six months but inadequately protected against moisture, leads will oxidize, solder joints will fail, and board yields will drop.

Nitrogen-Purged Desiccators vs. The Alternatives

One common method of dealing with moisture contamination is to remove it prior to each manufacturing step.

Although vacuum processing and bake-and-bag methods of IC drying accomplish this end, these operations slow down production, particularly if they must be repeated several times in the course of circuit manufacturing. Further, these baking and sealing processes themselves expose parts to thermal extremes that can cause damage.

Desiccant-based dry storage avoids some of these drawbacks, but introduces others. These systems remove moisture from an incoming supply line of air (or other process gas) and often feature dual-tower designs that perform online drying and offline regeneration simultaneously for continuous operation. Such systems can be effective, but they require heating/drying components that may not be reliable. Further, they must be closely monitored to ensure that incoming gas flow remains below a critical humidity threshold. Their complexity and high operating costs makes them prohibitively expensive for long-term storage applications.

As an alternative to desiccant dryers, nitrogen-purged desiccator systems maintain dry conditions relatively cheap and conveniently.

Moisture Protection in Every Industry!

  • Semiconductors: Terra Universal manufactures desiccators specially configured for diced ICs, tote boxes, IC carrier reels, and other common microelectronics and electronics parts.
  • Biological Samples: The dry, inert environment inside a desiccator is ideal for storage of forensic materials, DNA samples, and biological cultures.
  • Chemical Samples: Desiccators provide an inert gas environment for storing volatile chemicals. They can also be used for slow, controlled drying, and are available with customized heating capabilities.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Dry storage inhibits growth of organic contaminants and retards other chemical reactions that degrade pharmaceuticals.
  • Many more! Clean, dry storage environments for everything from archival records to archaeological samples.

Find Desiccator Storage options at Production Automation, we are an authorized Terra Universal distributor, and we’re here to help you answer questions, solve problems, and find the perfect product for your application.

Contact us at 888-903-0333 or [email protected]. Visit us online at and chat with a live sales specialist anytime.




© Terra Universal 1999-2015



Metcal Announces Major Rebranding on Milestone 35th Anniversary

With the upcoming introduction of a game-changing technology, new investments in technology and engineering, and a deep product pipeline, Metcal announces a revitalization of its brand and further strengthens its position as the industry innovator.

The Metcal innovation story began 35 years ago in Silicon Valley: the company was a scientific startup creating better soldering stations for electronics manufacturing and repair. Since that time, it has become a driving force in the industry, providing leading-edge electronics assembly products to its customers.
“Metcal has a very deep history of delivering innovative technology advancements to the market. Over the past several years, we have increased our investment in research and development to ensure that we continue delivering breakthrough products to the industry,” said Christopher Larocca, President of OK International, which acquired Metcal in 1996. “Today, we’re excited to announce the launch of a revitalized Metcal brand and a key advancement in Metcal’s soldering technology.”

The recent investments in R&D are already paying off, according to Metcal’s Chief Technology Officer, Hoa Nguyen. “Metcal has a deep product development pipeline for 2017 and several years beyond. At the IPC APEX Show in mid-February, we’ll introduce another product breakthrough: our patented CV-5200 Connection Validation™ Soldering Station. It’s the world’s first soldering station capable of evaluating the quality of the solder joint by calculating the intermetallic compound formation and providing real-time, closed loop feedback to the operator.”

“Like SmartHeat®, Connection Validation™ sets the stage for a major advancement in machine intelligence,” added Mr. Larocca.  “It fundamentally mitigates the risk of product failures, imperiled user safety, recalls, and unrecoverable costs—which can result in significant damage to a company and its brand. Manufacturers can now confidently develop faster, more advanced devices, while boosting performance and cost efficiency.”

Find Metcal products at Production Automation!

Chemical Compatibility – Metals

Only primary ones are shown. For example, chlorine is not shown as an asphyxiant because its toxicity will kill you first.

  • A = Asphxiant
  • = Corrosive
  • F = Flammable
  • O = Oxidizer
  • T = Toxic

Ο = No Effect
♦ = Minor effect or slight change in appearance or properties. Test before repeated exposure.
Δ = No noticeable effects at low concentration and room temperature. Moderate to severe effects at high concentration and/or high temperature. Test before using.
⊗ = Severe effect or degradation, exposure not recommended.

Chemical Hazards Aluminum Brass Bronze Copper 304 Stainless Steel 316 Stainless Steel
Acetic C Δ
Aqua Regia C
Chromic C
Hydrochloric C
Hydrofluoric C
Nitric C Ο Ο Ο
Phosphoric C
Sulfuric C
Ammonium Hydroxide C Ο Ο
Potassium Hydroxide C Ο
Sodium Hydroxide C
Air O Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Ammonia C,F,T Ο Ο Ο
Argon A Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Carbon Dioxide A Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Carbon Monoxide F,T Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Chlorine C,T Ο Ο
Flourine C,O,T Δ Δ Δ Ο Ο
Helium A Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Hydrogen A,F Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Hydrogen Sulfide C,F,T Ο Ο Ο Ο
Methane A,F Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Nitrogen A Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Nitrous Oxide O Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Ozone O Ο Ο
Propane A,F Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Hydrogen Peroxide O Ο Ο
Sodium Hydrochlorite O Δ Δ
Ammonium Nitrate Ο Ο
Ammonium Persulfate
Sodium Carbonate Ο Ο Ο Ο
Acetone F Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Carbon Tetrachloride T Ο Ο
DI Water Ο Ο Ο Ο
Ethyl Alcohol F Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Ethylene Glycol Ο Ο Ο
Glycerine Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Isopropyl Alcohol F Ο
Kerosene F Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Methyl Alcohol F,T Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Methyl Ethyl Ketone F Ο Ο Ο Ο
Toulene F Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο
Trichloroethane A Ο

FS209E and ISO Cleanroom Standards

acrylic_hardwall_modular_cleanroom_2_galBefore global cleanroom classifications and standards were adopted by the International Standards Organization (ISO), the U.S. General Service Administration’s standards (known as FS209E) were applied virtually worldwide. However, as the need for international standards grew, the ISO established a technical committee and several working groups to delineate its own set of standards.

FS209E contains six classes, while the ISO 14644-1 classification system adds two cleaner standards and one dirtier standard (see chart below). The “cleanest” cleanroom in FS209E is referred to as Class 1; the “dirtiest” cleanroom is a class 100,000. ISO cleanroom classifications are rated according to how much particulate of specific sizes exist per cubic meter (see second chart). The “cleanest” cleanroom is a class 1 and the “dirtiest” a class 9. ISO class 3 is approximately equal to FS209E class 1, while ISO class 8 approximately equals FS209E class 100,000.

In November 2001, Federal Standard 209E was superseded by the new ISO 14644-1 international standards. References to FS209E are still used; the comparison chart below illustrates the relationship between the two standards.

Airborne Particulate Cleanliness Class Comparison:

ISO Class English Metric
ISO 3 1 M1.5
ISO 4 10 M2.5
ISO 5 100 M3.5
ISO 6 1,000 M4.5
ISO 7 10,000 M5.5
ISO 8 100,000 M6.5

Airborne Particulate Cleanliness (by cubic meter):

CLASS Number of Particles per Cubic Meter by Micrometer Size
0.1 micron 0.2 micron 0.3 micron 0.5 micron 1 micron 5 microns
ISO1 10 2
ISO2 100 24 10 4
ISO3 1,000 237 102 35 8
ISO4 10,000 2,370 1,020 352 83
ISO5 100,000 23,700 10,200 3,520 832 29
ISO6 1,000,000 237,000 102,000 35,200 8,320 293
ISO7 352,000 83,200 2,930
ISO8 3,520,000 832,000 29,300
ISO9 35,200,000 8,320,000 293,000

In cleanrooms, particulate concentration changes over time — from the construction and installation of equipment to its operational status. ISO delineates three cleanroom classification standards: as-built, at-rest and operational. As instruments and equipment are introduced and particulates rise, an “as-built” cleanroom becomes an “at-rest” cleanroom. When people are added to the matrix, particulate levels rise still further in the “operational” cleanroom.

ISO 14644-2 describes the type and frequency of testing required to conform to certain standards. The following tables indicate mandatory and optional tests.

Required Testing (ISO 14644-2):

Schedule of Tests to Demonstrate Continuing Compliance
Test Parameter Class Maximum Time Interval Test Procedure
Particle Count Test <= ISO 5 6 Months ISO 14644-1 Annex A
> ISO 5 12 Months
Air Pressure Difference All Classes 12 Months ISO 14644-1 Annex B5
Airflow All Classes 12 Months ISO 14644-1 Annex B4

Optional Testing (ISO 14644-2):

Schedule of Additional Optional Tests
Test Parameter Class Maximum Time Interval Test Procedure
Installed Filter Leakage All Classes 24 Months ISO 14644-1 Annex B6
Containment Leakage All Classes 24 Months ISO 14644-1 Annex B4
Recovery All Classes 24 Months ISO 14644-1 Annex B13
Airflow Visualization All Classes 24 Months ISO 14644-1 Annex B7

In addition to ISO 14644-1 and ISO 14644-2, eight other cleanroom standards documents exist, as well as three specific to biocomtamination applications.

ISO Document Title
ISO 14644-1 Classification of Air Cleanliness
ISO 14644-2 Cleanroom Testing for Compliance
ISO 14644-3 Methods for Evaluating and Measuring Cleanrooms and Associated Controlled Environments
ISO 14644-4 Cleanroom Design and Construction
ISO 14644-5 Cleanroom Operations
ISO 14644-6 Terms, Definitions and Units
ISO 14644-7 Enhanced Clean Devices
ISO 14644-8 Molecular Contamination
ISO 14644-9 Surface Cleanliness by Particle Concentration
ISO 14644-10 Surface Cleanliness by Chemical Concentration
ISO 14698-1 Biocontamination: Control General Principles
ISO 14698-2 Biocontamination: Evaluation and Interpretation of Data
ISO 14698-3 Biocontamination: Methodology for Measuring Efficiency of Cleaning Inert Surfaces

The USA source of ISO documents is:

Institute of Environmental Sciences & Technology (IEST)
5005 Newport Drive, Suite 506
Rolling Meadows, IL 60008-3841
Phone: (847) 255-1561
Fax: (847) 255-1699

The source for FS209E documents at the General Services Administration is:

Standards Order Desk
Naval Publications and Forms Center
700 Robbins Avenue
Section D BLD4
Philadelphia, PA 19111
Phone: (215) 697-2667
Fax: (215) 697-2978

ISO and Federal Air Change Rates for Cleanrooms

A critical factor in cleanroom design is controlling air-change per hour (ACH), also known as the air-change rate, or ACR. This refers to the number of times each hour that filtered outside air replaces the existing volume in a building or chamber. In a normal home, an air-conditioner changes room air 0.5 to 2 times per hour. In a cleanroom, depending on classification and usage, air change occurs anywhere from 10 to more than 600 times an hour.

ACR is a prime variable in determining ISO and Federal cleanliness standards. To meet optimal standards, ACR must be painstakingly measured and controlled. And there is some controversy. In an appendix to its ISO 14644-1 cleanliness standard, the International Standards Organization addressed applications for microelectronic facilities only. (ISO classes 6 to 8; Federal Standards 1,000, 10,000 and 100,000.) The appendix contained no ACR standards for pharmaceutical, healthcare or biotech applications, which may require higher ACR regulations.

According to current research, case studies and experiments, using an ACR range (rather than one set standard) is a better guideline for cleanliness classification. This is true because the optimal ACR varies from cleanroom to cleanroom, depending on factors such as internal equipment, staffing and operational purpose. Everything depends on the level of outside contaminants trying to enter the facility versus the level of contaminants being generated on the inside.

The breadth of these ranges reflects how dramatically people and processes affect cleanliness. Low-end figures within each contamination class generally indicate air velocity and air change requirements for an as-built or at-rest facility—where no people are present and no contaminating processes under way. When there are people and processes producing contaminants, more air changes are required to maintain optimal cleanliness standards. For instance, some manufacturers insist on as many as 720 air changes per hour to meet Class 10 standards.

Determining the appropriate number of air changes for a particular application requires careful evaluation of factors such as the number of personnel, effectiveness of garbing protocol, frequency of access, and cleanliness of process equipment.

Rajan Jaisinghani, in his paper “Energy Efficient Low Operating Cost Cleanroom Airflow Design,” presented at ESTECH 2003, recommended the following ranges based on FS209E classifications:

FS Cleanroom Class ISO Equivalent Class Air Change Rate
1 ISO 3 360-540
10 ISO 4 300-540
100 ISO 5 240-480
1,000 ISO 6 150-240
10,000 ISO 7 60-90
100,000 ISO 8 5-48

Jaisinghani’s recommendations concur with other recent studies of ACR, which criticize some existing air rate standards (developed in the 1990s) as being unscientific because they are based on fans and filters inferior to today’s models. So when these older standards are applied, the resulting ACR is often too high. In fact, some studies have found that reducing the ACR (and its attendant air turbulence) can result in a cleaner atmosphere.

This was demonstrated in a study conducted by Pacific Gas and Electric (San Francisco) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley). The study measured air change rates in several ISO Class-5 cleanrooms and came to the conclusion that there is “no consistent design strategy for air change rate, even for cleanrooms of the same cleanliness classification.”

ACR rates have critical design implications, especially when considering desired cleanliness, fan size and lower energy costs. The PG&E/Berkeley study caused many designers to reduce fan sizes. In short, a lower ACR often resulted in cleaner air.

The study revealed three abiding principles:

  • Lower air change rates result in smaller fans, which reduce both initial investment and construction cost.
  • Fan power is proportional to the cube of air change rates or airflow. A 30-percent reduction in air change rate results in a power reduction of approximately 66 percent.
  • By minimizing turbulence, lower airflow may improve cleanliness.

The study focused on Class-5 cleanrooms, concluding that an ACR range of from 250 to 700 air changes per hour is standard, but that “actual operating ACRs ranged from 90 to 625.” It added that all of these optimized cleanrooms were certified and performing at ISO Class-5 conditions with these lower ACRs. Finally, the study concluded that rarely does a Class-5 facility require an ACR of more than 300.

The study also found that the “[b]est practice for ACRs is to design new facilities at the lower end of the recommended ACR range,” with variable speed drives (VSDs) built in so that air flow adjustments can be made under actual operating conditions. Control can be performed manually or automatically.

In his report “An examination of ACRs: An opportunity to reduce energy and construction costs,” Peter Rumsey, PE, CEM, essentially concurred with the PG&E-commissioned study by Berkeley. Rumsey issued a caveat, then brushed it aside by citing research subsequent to Berkeley’s: “Air cleanliness is a critical component of any cleanroom, far outweighing energy saving priorities. Designers and operators need evidence from others who have tried similar strategies in order to address the perceived risks of lowering air change rates.”

Rumsey then went on to cite studies done by International Sematech (Austin, Texas); the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Mass.); Intel (Santa Clara, Calif.); and Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, N.M.), which echoed the Berkeley study.

In summary, current research and thinking on air change rates indicate that some existing standards are too high and can be lowered while still meeting all ACR criteria.

Federal ISO Ceiling Fan Coverage Specifications

Achieving the optimal air change rate requires proper ceiling
fan coverage. The cleanest modular cleanroom
incorporates filter/fan units (FFUs) in every 2’ x 4’ (610 mm x 1219 mm) ceiling bay. This near-100% coverage provides a laminar flow of filtered air to quickly remove contaminants from the room, thus meeting FS209E standards for Class 10 and ISO Class 1 standards.

Such coverage, especially in a large cleanroom, can lead to higher energy consumption, thus increasing costs for both initial construction and ongoing operation. In most cases, a smaller percentage of ceiling coverage produces adequate cleanliness. See the FFU-coverage formula below to help calculate the quantity of necessary ceiling modules.

This table illustrates the percentage of ceiling coverage recommended for each cleanliness class, again as a range:

Class Ceiling Coverage (Percentage)
ISO 8 (Class 100,000) 5 – 15%
ISO 7 (Class 10,000) 15 – 20%
ISO 6 (Class 1,000) 25 – 40%
ISO 5 (Class 100) 35 – 70 %
ISO 4 (Class 10) 50 – 90%
ISO 3 (Class 1) 60 – 100%
ISO 1-2 80 – 100%

Federal and ISO Airflow Velocity Standards

In addition to ACR and ceiling coverage, the third factor integral to maintaining cleanliness is fan-generated air speed. Again, higher airflow velocity results in a “cleaner” cleanroom. The term “ventilation efficiency” refers to the speed of filtered air passing through the cleanroom in addition to the number of air changes per hour (ACH or ACR).

An earlier chart showed a range of recommended air change rates (ACRs) for different classes of cleanrooms. Ranges are given because as-built and at-rest facilities require a smaller ACR than an operational cleanroom, where both people and equipment are actively engaged. Non-operational cleanrooms are found in the lower range; operational cleanrooms higher.

Combining all three factors—ACR, ceiling coverage and airflow velocity—results in the following table:

Class ISO 146144-1 (Federal Standard 209E) Average Airflow Velocity
m/s (ft/min)
Air Changes Per Hour Ceiling Coverage
ISO 8 (Class 100,000) 0.005 – 0.041 (1 – 8) 5 – 48 5 – 15%
ISO 7 (Class 10,000) 0.051 – 0.076 (10 -15) 60 – 90 15 – 20%
ISO 6 (Class 1,000) 0.127 – 0.203 (25 – 40) 150 – 240 25 – 40%
ISO 5 (Class 100) 0.203 – 0.406 (40 – 80) 240 – 480 35 – 70%
ISO 4 (Class 10) 0.254 – 0.457 (50 – 90) 300 – 540 50 – 90%
ISO 3 (Class 1) 0.305 – 0.457 (60 – 90) 360 – 540 60 – 100%
ISO 1 – 2 0.305 – 0.508 (60 – 100) 360 – 600 80 – 100%

Before deciding on the appropriate velocity and air changes for your application, we recommend careful evaluation of factors such as number of personnel, effectiveness of garbing protocol, access frequency and cleanliness of process equipment.

Once the required air change figure is established, the number of required FFUs can be determined using this formula:

No. of FFUs = (Air Changes/Hour ÷60) x (Cubic ft. in room÷ 650*)
*CFM output of a loaded FFU

Meeting Class 100 standards using the low-end air change recommendation (240/hour) inside a 12’ x 12’ x 7’ (3302 mm x 3302 mm x 2134 mm) cleanroom, with 1008 cu. ft. of volume, requires 6 FFUs. To meet the same standard using the high-end air change recommendation (480/hour) requires 12 FFUs.

Positive Pressure

Cleanrooms are designed to maintain positive pressure, preventing “unclean” (contaminated) air from flowing inside and less-clean air from flowing into clean areas. The idea is to ensure that filtered air always flows from cleanest to less-clean spaces. In a multi-chambered cleanroom, for instance, the cleanest room is kept at the highest pressure. Pressure levels are set so that the cleanest air flows into spaces with less-clean air. Thus, multiple pressure levels may need to be maintained.

A differential air pressure of 0.03 to 0.05 inches water gauge is recommended between spaces. In order to ensure that pressure differentials remain constant when doors are opened, or other events occur, control systems must be in place.

Laminar and Turbulent Air Flow

ISO 5 (Class 100) and cleaner facilities rely on unidirectional, or laminar, airflow. Laminar airflow means that filtered air is uniformly supplied in one direction (at a fixed velocity) in parallel streams, usually vertically. Air is generally recirculated from the base of the walls back up to the filtering system.

ISO 6 (Class 1,000) and above cleanrooms generally utilize a non-unidirectional, or turbulent, airflow. This means the air is not regulated for direction and speed. The advantage of laminar over turbulent airflow is that it provides a uniform environment and prevents air pockets where contaminants might congregate.



© Terra Universal


Hand Dryers or Germ Incubators?

terra-hand-dryerWe’re used to seeing standard hand dryers in a host of locations, from restaurants to research labs. The question is: Do they provide clean performance?

In most cases, the answer is no. In fact, they’re often more prolific sources of contamination, including microbial exposure, than paper towels. A Wall Street Journal article, “Paper or Power: Nothing Cut and Dried About Hand Washing in Restrooms“, details the germ-laden issues common with most commercial hand-dryers.

The reason? Non-filtered, high-capacity hand dryers concentrate contaminants inside the motor, impeller, and heating components. Potentially dirty room air is being drawn into the dryer to blow directly onto hands or gloves. Although heat may kill some germs, it is rarely hot enough, and exposure time is rarely long enough, to do the job effectively. In fact, the combination or heat and moisture inside the component housing often creates ideal conditions for incubation, turning standard hand dryers into germ factories.

Particulate or germicidal contaminants commonly exit the dryer in higher concentrations than they exist in ambient air. Worse, because hands or gloves are wet when they enter the airstream, contaminants may cling to surfaces, leaving them dirtier than they were before washing.

All things considered, a micro-filtered hand dryer is the only drying equipment that makes sense, particularly in a cleanroom, medical facility, or laboratory.

Terra International’s Hand Dryers incorporate Ultra-Low Penetration Air (ULPA) filters, rated 99.999% efficient at removing particles ≥ 0.12 microns in diameter. Effective micro-filtration, along with clean component selection and airflow engineering, makes these the ideal systems for cleanrooms rated ISO 4 – 8.

Here is a list of the most common human pathogens that ULPA filters can capture and remove from circulation, including bacteria, mold spores and some viruses: View Pathogen List.

Brushless motor eliminates carbon contaminants for ultra-clean operation.

Brushless motor eliminates carbon contaminants for ultra-clean operation.

The PureDry hand/glove dryers offer contamination control features for the most rigorous gowning protocols and critical cleanroom applications, at a price that’s right almost anywhere.

The gowning area of a cleanroom is also subject to testing and monitoring for cleanliness, so what is the ideal design for your lab’s hand drying equipment? A maintenance-free, germ-free recirculating hand dryer that never needs filter replacement.

Fast, Safe Drying Where Tiny Particles Create Big Problems

In a particle-sensitive environment, PureDry helps to eliminate contamination problems by reducing the number of airborne particles and germs that can settle on PC boards, chemical solutions, biological cultures, and other sensitive materials.

Unlike conventional drying towels, it ensures fast, thorough drying without contact with foreign media that can shed particles and harbor germs. A brushless motor eliminates carbon contaminants for ultra-clean operation. Its upstream heater warms the air stream before it passes through an ULPA filter and on to the drying area. This noncontaminating operation is especially crucial in cleanrooms and bio-cleanrooms that call for strict environmental controls. The PureDry also eliminates waste disposal and/or laundering costs associated with towel drying.

Select the germ-free recirculating air design to minimize turbulence that can adversely affect cleanroom air circulation and contain particles that may fall from hands or gloves. As the heated, filtered air stream passes downward, it is captured in a collection area (along with moisture and contaminants) and routed back through the heater/filter/blower module. This model thus has almost no impact on the cleanliness, moisture level, or air flow of the surrounding area. And outside air—a potential source of contaminants—is not drawn into the PureDry’s filtered airstream. As such, the filter lasts the lifetime of the dryer.

The wall-mount, single-pass design offers the same ULPA filtration and advanced clean motor technology at lower cost. It also eliminates the chance of water droplets that fall from hands to be drawn into the make-up air flow, minimizing the risk of fouling the filter. Filter replacement is suggested every six months to maintain cleanliness.

On both units a photo cell allows hands-free operation, and the extended exposure area of the PureDry provides ample space to dry elbow-length gloves. The all-stainless steel housing is compatible with cleanroom requirements. Its space-efficient design and low cost make it ideal for many applications, from pharmaceutical laboratories to semiconductor manufacturing plants to hospitals.


Specifications No. 3333-33 No. 3333-00
Dimensions: 15″W x 11″D x 23″
(381 mm x 279 mm x 584 mm)
14″W x 12″D x 9.5″
(356 mm x 305 mm x 241 mm)
Shipping Weight: 32 lbs. (14.5 kg) 26 lbs. (11.8 kg)
dBA 85 79 (73 w/out hands in air stream)
Filter: ULPA filter rated 99.999% effective @ 0.12µm particles ULPA filter rated 99.999% effective @ 0.12µm particles
Heater: 1600W
Power: 115VAC/60Hz or 220VAC/50Hz




© Terra Universal

Electropolishing Standards and Guidelines

Reprinted with permission by Terra Universal, Inc.

This document provides a description of the electropolishing (EP) procedures performed by Terra Universal. It also specifies a series of criteria for evaluating the integrity and cleanliness of the electropolished surfaces. Because these electropolishing procedures are followed on all work performed by Terra, the results may be understood as indicative of standard Terra electropolishing, and the specified evaluation criteria may be used as acceptance standards for work performed by Terra.

Electropolishing is a reverse plating procedure that entails the electrochemical removal of metal impurities (including carbon, silica, and free iron) from a stainless steel surface. The goal is a smooth surface, devoid of burrs or crevices that attract and trap contaminants.

Prior to electropolishing, parts are mechanically prepared to ensure optimal results. All welds are ground, deburred, and inspected to ensure that all seams are free of pockets or gaps. Finally, selected surfaces are mechanically buffed to a smooth finish.

Next, the part is fitted with electrodes, immersed in an electrolyte solution, and subjected to a direct electrical current. During this electrolytic process, the metallic surface of the anodic part (in this case, stainless steel) is preferentially dissolved ion by ion, yielding a nickel- and chromium-rich surface that protects against metal fatigue or contamination. Optimal results depend on careful control over the current density, the precise chemical composition of the electrolytic solution, the temperature and agitation of the bath, and the duration of current exposure.

Unlike mechanically finished stainless steel, electropolished surfaces feature no fine directional lines and hence offer less friction and surface drag. The chromium-rich surface results in excellent light reflection, yielding a bright, smooth and uniform polish. The images below illustrate the visual difference between EP and non-EP stainless steel surfaces:


EP waste dispenser showing highly reflective, smooth stainless steel.


While shiny, a “grain,” visible on this non-EP stainless steel surface, creates an environment where microparticles are trapped and accumulate.

A Few Words About Stainless Steel
Steel is an iron metal alloy containing other elements that typically include manganese, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, carbon, and silicon. Stainless steel contains a minimum of 50% iron. Some of these other elements influence the hardness and formability of the steel (carbon and silicon, for example), while others have an effect on corrosion resistance (such as chromium).

The amount of chromium present differentiates “regular” steel from “stainless” steel. Chromium that is exposed to oxygen forms a strongly-bonded film of chromium oxide on the stainless steel, blocking the oxygen from damaging the surface, as well as infiltrating the internal structure. Electropolishing increases the surface chromium, thereby promoting formation of this protective film. Non-stainless-steel, with lower levels of chromium, will eventually rust when exposed to moisture and air.

The difference between 304 and 316 stainless steels, the two types that Terra uses, is the ratio of some of the elements present, such as chromium and nickel. 316 stainless steel is a “cleaner” grade of steel, even less susceptible to corrosion than 304.

Lastly, steel comes in mill finishes. Terra uses types 2B or 4, which simply refers to polishing or brushing steps that give the steel a polished aesthetic “finish.” Electropolishing is the last treatment step after the 304 or 316 steel has been manufactured into its final functional form.

Electropolishing Procedures
Terra’s electropolishing is carefully controlled in each of the following areas to ensure the finest results possible:

A. Material Selection
Electropolishing is performed on 304 or 316 stainless steel that has either a 2B or 4 mill finish. This material standard minimizes the presence of sulfide inclusions and other subsurface contaminants and end-grain or large-grain surfaces that can produce a frosty appearance following electropolishing. Incoming material is also inspected for improper annealing (a heat treatment to increase ductility), over-pickling (chemical treatment to remove oxidation), heat scale, and directional roll marks, all of which are accentuated by electropolishing.

B. Precleaning and Post-cleaning
For optimal results, it is important that all surfaces be uniformly exposed to the electrolyte solution, but also that provisions be made to remove all traces of the solution following electropolishing. Failure to remove the solution can result in subsequent outgassing, unacceptable in a clean room environment.

Stainless steel parts intended for electropolishing are designed with these requirements in mind. All welds are carefully inspected to ensure continuous seams, free of pits or gaps where the solution could collect, and all hollow members are drilled to permit effective flushing of the chemical solution after electropolishing.

Because the electropolishing process removes only a very thin surface layer (typically between 0.001″ and 0.0001″), selected surfaces are mechanically buffed, using progressively finer grits to produce the smoothest possible finish.

Following electropolishing, all traces of the electrolyte solution are thoroughly removed from the part, and any hollow cavities are flushed to eliminate the chance of subsequent outgassing. Surfaces are dried and buffed with a soft, non-particulating cloth. Parts are then immediately wrapped in non-shedding material to guard against fingerprints and other surface contaminants while on their journey to the end-user.

C. Process Controls
The more rigorously the electropolishing process variables are controlled, the higher the quality that can be expected in the finished product.
Some of these variables are relatively easy to quantify and monitor, although some variation must be exercised in response to a given sample in order to produce the optimal results.

Electrolyte Bath:
The chemistry of the bath must be constantly monitored, with special attention to the specific gravity (an indicator of water content), the acid concentration, and the metals content.

A supply of clean, ripple-free DC power must be available to drive the process, as well as appropriately-sized cables and connectors to the anodes and cathodes. Current density (amperes/square foot) must be carefully monitored and regulated.

For other variables, effective control depends on significant experience. Attention to these considerations, combined with close adherence to the procedures mentioned above, results in a truly superior electropolished finish that combines artistry and technology.

Electrode Positioning:
Electrode placement is critical to the success of the electropolishing process. Although electrode clamping of objects with a uniform geometrical shape is generally a straightforward task, irregularly shaped objects, which often contain inaccessible cavities or areas exposed to low current densities, present special challenges. Only an experienced technician, equipped with versatile electrode fittings, can ensure optimal results in these situations.

Electrolyte Temperature:
Varying situations may call for varying temperatures, and heating and/or cooling during the electropolishing process may be required.

Electrolyte Agitation:
Only an experienced technician possesses the knowledge of where, when and how to agitate either the electrolyte or the part in order to prevent gassing streaks, flow marks, and similar unacceptable surface anomalies.

Current Duration:
The optimal duration of current exposure depends on the part size and shape. Again, only an experienced electropolisher can control this variable to produce the best results.

Performance Evaluation Parameters

A. Visual Inspection
The first and most obvious test of the effectiveness of the electropolishing is a close visual inspection. In a closely controlled process performed on high-quality material that is adequately prepared for electropolishing, the surface will appear uniformly brilliant, with no detectable pits, streaks, erosion, “frosting,” or other anomalies.

Unlike mechanical buffing, which distorts the surface of the metal and may conceal the material’s true characteristics, electropolishing reveals the imperfections in the structure of the stainless steel. Electropolishing will accentuate any welding flaws, and a non-uniform appearance indicates a high volume of inclusions or a large-grained grade of stainless steel.

B. Micrographs
A better test of the integrity of the surface is provided by photomicrographs of the surface. Although a highly buffed sample (such as a No. 8 mill mirror finish,) and an electropolished sample may appear equally brilliant to the unaided eye, the differences between the two are apparent when they are viewed under very high magnifications. The sample micrographs below, taken at 1,000X, dramatically illustrate the smooth, featureless surface that results from electropolishing.


Before Electropolishing

This photomicrograph represents the surface of 304 stainless steel with a No. 2B mill finish before Electropolishing. Note that the etched boundaries between the grains are only partially sealed, resulting in a network of sub-surface crevices. Contaminants that lodge in these crevices are protected from contact with cleaning agents leading to subsequent migration of trapped contaminants onto the cleaned surface.


After Electropolishing

This photomicrograph represents the same No. 2B surface after Electropolishing. Note that the surface is now completely featureless on a microscopic level and has the desired non-contaminating, non-particulating and non-sticking properties.


Before Electropolishing

This photomicrograph represents a 304 stainless steel surface with a mechanically polished No. 4 mill finish before Electropolishing. Note the deep grooves, cavities, torn metal and other microscopic imperfections that entrap and retain contaminants.


After Electropolishing

This photomicrograph represents the same No. 4 finish after Electropolishing. The surface may still show some of the abrasive-produced topography to the naked eye, but will now be microscopically featureless with the desired non-contaminating, non-particulating and non-sticking properties.

BenchPro™ stainless steel frame workbenches added to PAC product line

Production Automation Corporation is excited to announce that we are now offering BenchPro™ K, D, and A Series workbenches with stainless steel frames. High-quality, durable materials allow you to design and build just the right bench for your needs based on customizable options and hundreds of accessories.


Since 1987 BenchPro™ has been producing long-lasting workbenches, and the stainless steel frames are no exception. Largely used in cleanroom or food industry settings, stainless steel is easily maintained and versatile while providing a clean, professional look. It doesn’t stain, rust, or corrode like regular steel, and the non-porous nature of stainless steel does not allow for the absorption of odors.


BenchPro™ uses Cinch-Tite™ corner fastening and extensive welding for heavier loads. The K Series 4-leg workbench handles up to 6,600 lbs., while the D Series cantilevered bench, with recessed legs for more leg room, holds as much as 5,000 lbs. The 4-leg A Series supports 1,000 lb. loads and features an electric or manual hydraulic system.

All models come with optional work surfaces including cleanroom laminate, ESD laminate, chemical resistant laminate, phenolic resin, and stainless steel. Custom laminate colors are available for applicable surfaces. All stainless steel work surfaces are solid stainless steel throughout and are supported by a heavy-duty stainless steel hat channel.kennedy-with-stainless-steel-top-bottom-6

Stainless steel accessory options include single- and double-sided uprights, 45° and 90° light frames, bottom shelves and adjustable top shelves, drawers, bin box rails, power strips, and footrests. Other accessories include overhead and under shelf lights and heavy duty locking casters.

dewey-stainless-series-workbenches2BenchPro™ workbenches meet ISO cleanroom class 1 standards and come with a 2- to 5-day shipping promise. Like all BenchPro™ workbenches, these are backed by a 25-year warranty.

Contact one of our knowledgeable salespersons today and begin designing your custom stainless steel frame BenchPro™ workbench.

Pros and Cons of Solder Paste Stencils — Alpha Assembly Solutions

All electronic devices have a printed circuit board fit into them. It is the most basic component, needed for all electronics to function the way they are meant to. Printed circuit boards are manufactured with high precision, which today, is made possible through the usage of solder paste stencils. A stencil is a device which […]

via Pros and Cons of Solder Paste Stencils — Alpha Assembly Solutions

The Importance of Receiving and Putaway

Reprinted with permission by Newcastle Systems, Inc.

You could argue that all areas of the warehouse are equally important but the bottom line is if we receive things poorly the odds of us picking them and shipping them properly are pretty close to zero.

When it comes to world-class receiving and put away one of the general principles is to try to minimize the number of handling steps throughout the process.

It can’t be emphasized enough just how important receiving and put away is in the whole process of warehousing. Maybe you’ve heard the expression garbage in garbage out. It’s important to understand how receiving and put away are linked with all of the other activities not just in the warehouse but in the supply chain as a whole. There’s a very direct link between receiving and put away and the suppliers that we’ve chosen and the practices that we’ve chosen to use to integrate with those suppliers.

Five Key Principles to Keep in Mind When Optimizing Receiving and Putaway

1. Proactive Activity

The general idea in receiving is that all of the resources to accomplish this they need to be scheduled so it’s a proactive activity it’s not something that is reactive.

2. Minimal Flow Path

There’re all kinds of different flow paths that receipts can take. It’s key to make sure that for each product coming from each type of supplier you have chosen the minimum cost flow path.

3. Minimize delay

It’s crucial to do all that you can to put away immediately so there’s no delay between the receiving and the putaway process. It’s important to make sure that you chose the optimal location for the put away. It’s useful to combine put away and retrieval activity to maximize the labor utilization the equipment utilization.

4. Quality Control

Maintain a quality control group in the warehouse to monitor put away accuracy – just like they would be monitoring picking accuracy, shipping accuracy, and inventory accuracy. This way mistakes are caught early in the process instead of late in the process when it’s difficult to do something about it. Another opportunity for quality control is to monitor the damage rate and put away. Oftentimes, as a result of the excess handling or sorting that may be required a good portion of the damage may occur in the putaway process.

5. The Ability to Assign Receiving Docks

If you utilize a concept called pre-receiving (assigning a product of location in transit) then you will know where exactly the inbound pallets will be located in your warehouse. Take the time to assign each inbound truck to the dock door that minimizes the processing time for that inbound truck. That little simple step may be worth an increase of receiving productivity of fifty percent.

The Receiving Revolution

Did you know most warehouse inventory errors start in receiving? If you make a mistake in the receiving area, it can have a 10-fold effect on the rest of the warehouse process. The number one piece of advice experts have when it comes to warehouse optimization is that optimizing receiving is the first most important step to optimizing the warehouse.

Many warehouse layouts diminish the size and importance of receiving at a great detriment to their entire operation. Think of all the activities receiving does. They add labels, count the items and reconcile them with the manufacturer’s packing list. They break down pallets. They accommodate back orders, they report manufacturers shipping errors. All this activity needs to be supported and optimized. By focusing on reducing receiving errors and inefficiencies you will improve the flow of your entire warehouse.

Optimize Your Wireless Facility: The Top Three Reasons to Implement Mobile Workstations

Reprinted with permission by Newcastle Systems, Inc.


Thanks to wireless technology, mobile powered workstations (MPWs) are opening up new frontiers of efficiency and productivity. These workstations with integrated power supplies can maneuver computers, printers, scales, barcode scanners, etc., to wherever they are needed. For some facilities, multiple MPWs can bring about a “system solution” — a whole new way of doing business. Capitalizing on the benefits of auto-ID technologies, they integrate the facility’s software with devices on the workstations to establish mobile on-demand label printing stations, mobile shipping/receiving stations, and so on.


1. Time and Labor Savings

By significantly reducing foot travel and paperwork, an MPW can have a very favorable impact on your bottom line [see table below]. In so many enterprises, countless hours are wasted as employees walk back and forth, chatting with co-workers en route, between sites where work is taking place (loading docks, storage racks, assembly lines, inspection/testing areas, etc.) and a desk-bound computer and printer where they log information into a database, print labels/orders, etc. Often, these employees are merely keying in data they have previously written on paper at the work site – a classic redundancy of effort. Or worse, they just rely on their memory, which leads to mistakes. In contrast, an employee operating an MPW has continual, paperless, real-time access to information via warehouse management systems (WMS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), or automated data collection (ADC) software from anywhere in the facility, since the workstation’s computer is always at hand.

Sample ROI Calculation

Enter # of minutes (per hour) spent walking to a static printer or computer desk 6 minutes
Enter average labor rate (w/benefits) per hour $22
Enter # of work hours per week 40
Enter # of mobile stations you want to implement throughout your facility 5
Average cost per Mobile Powered Workstation:(excluding optional accessories):(Costs range from $1,300 – $2,900) $2,200

Yearly Savings

$$ saved per year when walking is eliminated $22,880
Hours saved per year 1,040
# of months to pay back initial workstation purchase 5.77

Because an MPW can carry a computer and relatively heavy peripherals such as a high-volume label printer and can supply them all with adequate on-board power, it is far more useful than a tiny portable/handheld thermal printer or scanner.

This “on-demand” high-volume label printing/PC station (when compared to a portable printer), would enable the use of thermal transfer labels, large labels, a full computer screen to toggle between different software programs, and more. In essence, you have a fully functioning packaging/labeling/processing/inspection station that can be moved to wherever it is needed. Although a large facility might need more than one, a single MPW can often do the job of two or three stationary desks, which means fewer computers and peripherals will be needed overall. For example, a workstation can be used all morning at a receiving dock and then wheeled to the shipping department for the afternoon.


The opportunities to save time and labor through “on-the-spot” data entry, “on-the-fly” scanning, “on-demand” label printing, and other tasks are numerous and impressive. As you can imagine, an MPW can be an asset in a multitude of applications, including the following:

Warehousing / Distribution:

In this area, an MPW can increase the number of packages processed per day by facilitating order picking, put-away, packaging, labeling, shipping, receiving, cross-docking, etc. In a receiving department, for example, the MPW operator can quickly scan barcodes or read radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to identify an incoming shipment and then inspect, re-label, and re-route it, all at the same workstation. Shipping accuracy improves when the operator can quickly scan outgoing shipments to verify that the order is correct and scheduled for the proper shipping method. For breakbulk and mixed-unit orders, MPWs allow quick and easy pickings with on-site high-volume printing of labels, packing slips, delivery receipts, refund receipts, etc. The operator can track previously shipped parcels and keep track of multiple stock-keeping units (SKUs). He or she can even take and file digital photos to provide proof of the condition of a returned shipment and then credit the customer immediately.


Labeling received components before stocking, labeling samples picked from assembly lines for quality control, etc.


Ideal for inventory management, shelf and product labeling, and “line-busting.” Used as a mobile checkout or point of sale (POS) station where the operator can check prices, process credit cards, and print receipts and coupons, it also comes in handy at garden centers, sidewalk sales, concerts, carnivals, etc.

Airports/Bus Depots/Train Stations:

Mobile printing of tickets, boarding passes, and receipts; processing checked baggage; etc.

Airport Security:

“On-Demand” screening for detection of explosives or drugs.

Hotels/Conference Centers:

Printing forms, baggage tags, receipts, etc., during conventions and other busy times.


Speeding up service through electronic tableside orders and payments.

Case in Point

In Virginia, Care-A-Lot Pet Supply tested an MPW in their distribution center, scanning products in their receiving and shipping departments and printing labels for pallets and general organization. “It saved time,” says Supervisor Brad Voorhes. “[We could] print out a label while standing in front of it instead of walking across the warehouse to a [stationary] desk, printing it out, and walking back.” Management was so pleased with the improved efficiency that they purchased several MPWs for the center and more for the company’s retail stores.

Care-A-Lot reports that since the workstations were introduced, productivity has increased by 40%.

2. Improved Employee Morale


Mentally and physically, consciously and subconsciously, employees know when their precious time is being wasted. They feel better about their jobs (and their lives in general) when they instead know they are doing work that needs to be done, and doing it efficiently. The efficiency gains provided by an MPW, as outlined on page 3, are not only for management ledger sheets but also for employees’ direct, day-to-day experience — greater productivity benefits everyone.

Good MPWs provide specific ergonomic advantages. For starters, the MPW you choose should have adjustable shelves and large, stable work surfaces. Some MPWs allow the shelves to be easily raised and lowered, and some do not. A tall employee should be able to quickly raise a shelf to the most convenient height, and a shorter worker on the next shift should be able to lower it just as quickly. Your workstation should have a compact footprint and should be easy to push, with large, easy-to-grip handles and top-quality swivel casters. Casters should provide years of smooth, quiet rolling and positioning, yet must be lockable for stability and safety at the work site. The size, weight, and capacity of the on-board power package (battery/inverter/ charger) are also ergonomic considerations; some packages are bulkier and heavier than others. Because the workstation is wireless, there are no cords long enough to trip over, but for cables connecting the devices on the workstation to each other, the best-designed MPWs have cable-management components that keep cabling neat and tangle-free.

Case in Point

Shipping accuracy was a major concern at the Magneti Marelli Powertrain USA plant in North Carolina. Management was determined to reduce the number of mislabeled outgoing pallets loaded with fuel-pump modules, electronic throttles, and other component systems bound for automakers, boat builders, and other customers. A typical shipment consisted of multiple pallets, each of which required at least two labels. The weak point in the shipping department turned out to be the 30-40 steps each inspector would have to take to the label printer. Sometimes, after an inspector had retraced his/her steps, labels in hand, the labels would end up on the wrong pallets. The number of errors was significantly reduced once the company purchased some MPWs. Now, every inspector can scan and print labels right beside the pallet that needs them. Thanks to swivel casters, the workstation can be easily maneuvered to the next pallet in seconds.

3. Improved Versatility

The more your workstation can do, the more your business can accomplish, in ways you might not yet envision. That’s why you’ll want your new MPW to be versatile. Check the weight capacity of individual shelves and of the unit overall. The MPW you buy should definitely be powerful enough to run various devices simultaneously — look for one that can hold and power four devices for at least eight hours and can be recharged in five to eight hours. It’s important that the MPW manufacturer offers multiple options for the workstation’s power package, and choosing the best one for your business can be difficult on your own. Some MPW manufacturers have technicians who will make sure your package is fully integrated with the devices you intend to run, and some even have software tools on their websites that help the customer choose the most appropriate power package by calculating the total wattage of the equipment to be supported.

Last but not least, your MPW should be modular — designed to accept many different accessories for your specific application. Accessories include additional shelves, drawers, keyboard trays, laptop holders, flat-screen holders, and scanner holders. Like your business, your MPW will be what you make of it.

Shop Around

Obviously, different needs require different MPW configurations, so shop around until you find the model that fits your facility. Some basic attributes, such as sturdiness and durability, trump all other characteristics. Because further technological advances will undoubtedly give us new gizmos that will once again require us to reorder our thinking as well as our equipment, versatility and ergonomics should also be at the forefront. Some careful research will lead you to a well-built yet reasonably priced model. You should expect to pay $1,300 to $2,900 for a good MPW, but when you consider the potential for productivity improvement, it should pay for itself many times over.

Case in Point

Capitalizing on the versatility of MPWs, Hol-Mac Corporation uses 18 of them in different ways to improve efficiency, productivity, and accuracy at its Mississippi plants. Hol-Mac itself is a versatile contract manufacturer, custom-designing, fabricating, machining, finishing and assembling parts for hydraulic cylinders, tanks and related products. “We’ve eliminated a lot of footsteps,” says John Larrabee, Hol- Mac’s information technology manager. “We’re now able to bring our thin clients and other equipment directly to the job anywhere within our four facilities.” Machinists have MPWs next to their machining centers, where they use them to access their database of detailed part dimensions and to check inventory for the next job. For quality assurance, inspectors of large weldments have MPWs equipped with test devices as well as thin clients. In shipping and receiving, other Hol-Mac employees use MPWs that carry label printers.

Alleviate fatigue with ErgoLux ergonomic stools from Bevco now available from PAC

s3300b-front-backrestErgoLux stools from Bevco provide the ultimate in comfort and durability, and Production Automation Corporation carries a variety for you to choose from. Designed specifically to provide ergonomic support, these stools work with your body’s shape, weight, and even temperature for reduced fatigue and maximum efficiency.

According to the U.S Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, ergonomic seating provides many benefits, such as increased comfort and productivity, improved safety, reduced fatigue, and improved morale.

These stools feature 3.5″ thick soft polyurethane seats that are 14.5″ in diameter and are resistant to water, oil, punctures, and most chemicals. Pneumatic adjustable seats, which j3300-stool-crop-u33094support up to 300 lbs. and are easy to clean, make it easy for you to select the optimum height. Several stools feature optional backrests and foot rings, and all styles feature a choice of a nylon or aluminum base. The ErgoLux Jr. features an all-around height adjustment ring. All come with dual-wheel hard floor casters.

PAC sales staff is ready to help you recognize your specific needs, identify potential problems and suggest solutions. Call (888) 903-0333 or shop online and request a quote.

Solve your moisture problems with a StatPro CPDC Series dry cabinet

StatPro CPDC Series Desiccator Dry Cabinets are widely used and trusted by professionals in the high-tech, R&D, electronic manufacturing, laboratory, cleanroom, and warehouse industries. These utilize self-regenerating desiccant dehumidifiers to provide an ultra-low humidity environment. With no N2/dry-air purging, these provide automatic control of <5% RH with very fast recovery times at NTP conditions. Because these rely on the moisture absorbing properties inherent in the desiccant material, they require no calibration. Moreover, these cabinets increase product quality, reliability, and yield rates.
These dry cabinets fix moisture problems with ultra-low humidity storage that adheres to industry standards for MSDs and PCBs. These cabinets dehumidify during storage and provide an alternative drying method that is optimal for removing moisture in SMT production, which eliminates damage during the reflow process. Nitrogen only displaces water vapor in the air and cannot aid in removing moisture already absorbed by sensitive devices.

StatPro dry cabinets avoid thermal and moisture re-trapping effects, which protects against breakdowns of protective coatings, lead oxidation, and intermetallic buildup while reducing solderability of circuit boards. Moisture is expelled from the cabinets with desiccant dehumidifiers that automatically regenerate. No fans are required to ventilate, and dual-hydrometer sensors with independent monitoring allow for gauging RH levels inside the cabinets.
The 6-door cabinet center stiles are removable to accommodate long tubes, feeders, or trays up to 43″ in length. All cabinets are painted with anti-static paint and include anti-static glass windows, shelves, stands with casters, and a ground wire with 1MO for your storage protection meeting IEC-61340-5-1 (ESD) standards. These cabinets require no calibration and use the fewest moving parts, which means less can go wrong – all while using the least possible amount of energy.

Shape Memory Alloy Technology vs. TE Cooling Chip Technology:

StatPro CPDC Series Desiccator Dry Cabinets contain exclusive and innovative adsorption technology – desiccant dryers with Shape Memory Alloy control valves. This technology distinguishes StatPro’s performance from those using TE Cooling Chip technology. The multi-porous molecular sieves trap moisture by way of van der Waals forces using multiple capillary channels, while SMA control valves expel moisture from the cabinets and prevent moisture from reemerging if power is interrupted.

When power is supplied to cabinets using TE Cooling Chip technology, the external side of the unit warms while the inside cools. As a result, moisture condenses on the inside where your valuables are stored. The condensed moisture naturally drips down toward the warm side of the core where it is then vaporized.

Desiccant dryer technology is not affected by ambient temperatures, so even low temperatures are not an issue for StatPro dry cabinets. The SMA technology utilized by the cabinets also features a dehumidification capability of <5% RH with a recovery time of

TE Cooling Chip technology is adversely affected in lower temperatures. The result is a reduced desiccation rate and a less stable dehumidification process. Dehumidification levels that are below 20% RH are not only unattainable with TE Cooling Chip technology, but they are also unreliable.

Power Outage Protection

In the event of a power outage, the Shape Memory Alloy unit’s outer valves automatically shut and remain closed to prevent moisture from entering the box. Meanwhile, the inner valves remain open and allow continuous adsorption via the multi-porous molecular sieves.

TE Cooling Chip technology is not capable of keeping out moisture. The dehumidification process stops, which allows frost to collect on the inside. The frost melts and allows moisture to circulate back into the cabinet. Also, the valves may remain open and allow outside moisture to enter, depending on the desiccating cycle.

Easy Repair Services

In the rare event a core unit or hygrometer malfunctions, the StatPro cabinets allow you to simply remove the SMA unit from the cabinet for easy in-house replacement. Based on user needs, these core units and hygrometers are also user upgradable, which is in keeping with StatPro’s concept of long-term use and environmental friendliness.

TE Cooling Chip technology cabinets can be costly and time consuming to repair. When a TE Cooling Chip unit malfunctions, the entire unit must be shipped back to the manufacturer to be repaired, which adversely affects protection from humidity in addition to accumulating costs.

Silent, Reliable Operation

StatPro dry cabinets with desiccant dryer technology are fully automatic with silent operation cycles, while the TE Cooling Chip cabinets utilize noisy fans and transformers that can malfunction easily.

The low power consumption, no calibration, and plug and play operation make StatPro CPDC Series Desiccator Dry Cabinets a viable option for long-term storage of all production components. Using StatPro results in the ultimate production goal – higher yields.

Issues associated with moisture problems

An Alternative Drying Solution Replaces Traditional Methods

As the industry utilizes a high-temperature reflow process, moisture sensitivity in SMT remains a constant problem. Serious manufacturing defects and failures are much more likely to occur later when products are in the field, which can be traced to improper storage and handling of components and PCBs during the assembly process.

StatPro dry cabinets with desiccant dryer technology employ an alternative drying solution as opposed to traditional methods because field failures will occur without proper moisture control. These are important factors to consider when product reliability must be tightly controlled by manufacturing industries such as automotive, defense, medical device, aeronautic, and aviation.

Why You Need StatPro CPDC Series Desiccator Dry Cabinets

With decreased time in development cycles, invention of ever-smaller devices, innovative use of new materials, and larger wafer chip development, there is a rapid increase of MSDs and higher levels of trace moisture sensitivity during the reflow process. As a result, internal component damage due to trace moisture expansion will occur in MSDs.

By storing MSDs and other valuable components in StatPro dry cabinets, you will be ensured of extended floor life. This will also prevent moisture expansion, popcorning, intermetallic growth, oxidation, solderability, and other moisture-related problems from occurring.

How Trace Moisture Affects SMT Production

Trace moisture causes component and PCB failure during the high-temperature reflow process. When absorbed moisture rapidly expands from high temperatures, internal component damage and failure such as micro-cracking, blistering, and popcorning will occur in MSDs, packages, and components. Because PCBs are hygroscopic, absorbed moisture will lead to delamination when moisture inside the layers expands during the process.

StatPro CPDC Series Desiccator Dry Cabinets Applications

When components are removed from moisture barrier bags, StatPro’s ultra-low humidity dry cabinets will stop the floor-life clock for all IC packages:

  • Dual-in-line – Flatpack, SOIC, SOJ, TSOP, SSOP, TSSOP, QSOP, VSOP, and DFN
  • Quad-in-line – PLCC, QFP, LQFP, PQFP, CQFP, MQFP, TQFP, QFN, LCC, MLP, and PQFN
  • Grid arrays – PGA, BGA, LGA, FBGA, LFBGA, TFBGA, CGA, CCGA, µBGA, and LLP.

Other applications:

  • Drying and storage of multi-layer PCBs and PWBs before and after mounting, including dual-side boards awaiting second-side reflow
  • Moisture controlled storage with desiccating capabilities for PCB pattern film/prepreg, quartz, fiber optics, CCDs, etc.
  • PP plate, prepreg, solder paste, semi-mounted PCB, mounted PCB, die cast and mold compounds, bonding materials, fluorescence powder, LCG board, wafer, CCD, condenser, oscillators, etc.

New Techcon TS8100 Series PC Pump now available from PAC

Production Automation Corporation now carries the newly introduced Techcon Systems TS8100 Series positive displacement progressive cavity (PC) pump. A continuously volumetric dispense pump based on PC technology, it is designed to dispense a wide range of fluids from low-viscosity coatings to high-viscosity greases.


The pump is ideal for use in a variety of applications, such as encapsulating and underfilling, and across many industries that include but are not limited to optical bonding and conformal coating. It comes with a syringe bracket, mounting bracket kit, luer lock fitting, cleaning kit, and dispensing tip selection pack.

PAC sales staff is ready to help you recognize your specific needs while identifying potential problems and suggesting solutions. Call (888) 903-0333 or visit us online and request a quote. Our sales staff members look forward to helping you get the right products to best suit your needs.