Author Topic: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?  (Read 47484 times)

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Offline John_ITICTopic starter

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PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« on: October 19, 2015, 11:09:10 pm »
I would be interested in purchasing an ultrasonic cleaner that absolutely removes all traces of flux residue off of my PCBs. I have found that at 5 Gigabit/second signaling rate, flux residue has a negative impact on signal integrity. Cleaning with flux remover, isopropyl alcohol and tooth brush improved the SI but I can still see under microscope that there are still traces of flux residue between vital IC pins. My USB 3.0 protocol analyzer showed packet error count go down from 1000 to 100 after the manual cleaning. It is very hard to get to the pins in question so I'm looking for "the best" solution (not necessarily the cheapest solution).

I have gone through earlier threads regarding ultrasonic cleaners but have not been able to figure out which one to get. My board is 120x100 mm so I don't need a large unit. I want a unit that works with IPA and that does not damage ICs via too much power.

Any recommendations? Links to relevant reviews etc. ?

Thanks.
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Online georges80

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2015, 11:52:20 pm »
Most inexpensive (ebay) ultrasonic cleaners seem to work just fine in my experience. They have stainless steel basins, so no issues with IPA.

More importantly you'll need to determine if the flux you have on the boards is water or IPA soluble - some of the no clean fluxes can be an issue to dissolve. I presume these are hand/home assembled boards?

I'd also suggest a source of compressed air to then blow-dry the boards after their wash.

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Offline rx8pilot

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2015, 12:32:27 am »
IPA or any other flammable liquid is NOT recommended. The ultrasonic action can ignite.

There are specific detergents for PCB cleaning from Alconox and others.

Only consider units with frequency sweeping the reduces standing waves. Not only does that clean more effectively, it prevents damage to the PCB. It is possible to make very small scale damage to semi-conductors so the power and time should be considered.

There is a lot of subtlety in the process....temperature, power, frequency, detergents, etc. You should heat the system and de-gas each day and after adding fluid.

I used a single system with detergent followed by an aux tank with DI water. The PCBs were completely resudue free and it was easy.

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Offline John_ITICTopic starter

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2015, 02:09:02 am »
Yes, these are hand-assembled / reflow assembled prototype boards. I'm using various fluxes for various use:

1) Sticky rosin-based flux for BGA reballing (Zephyrtronics). Very gunky stuff. Cleans up well with regular flux remover.
2) MG Chemicals no-clean 8341 flux paste. Not actually using but has a tube.
3) Leaded, no-clean MG chemicals 4860p, solder paste. For general board reflow.
4) Amtech NC-559-ASM flux paste, for BGA reflow (rework).

I also have a no-clean flux pen, not sure what it is but use it for general hand soldering. "Water soluble".

Regarding damage due to ultrasonic cleaning; is there any scientific study made on this? I have heard such rumors but not actually seen any proof of damage. Various YouTube videos say such IC damage is a myth.

Are there any entry-level professional units with the mentioned frequency sweep functionality, that are intended for PCB cleaning? I suppose jewelry units may work but may have side-effects such as component damage...
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Offline jwm_

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2015, 04:13:03 am »
This reminds me of something silly I did once.

I got an ultrasonic cleaner made for jewlery and decided to use it to clean some PCBs. Distilled water seemed to work well, and it had a stainless lining, so I decided to try something stronger. So i load it up with acetone (you see where this is going) and turned it on.

I came back a few hours later and reached for it to open the lid and the thing was basically taffy. my fingers poked through the lid like it was soft rubber. As you can guess, the ultrasonic vibrations atomized the acetone so that it infused into every plastic part of the machine. It was actually kind of odd. It wasn't pure ABS or it would have disolved into a mush pile, it more became like soft latex or something so there was some component of the plastic left with very different properties.

Offline rx8pilot

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2015, 07:00:22 am »
As for scientific evidence...I am not sure. It sounds plausible and I don't have the resources to truly understand or test the long term effects of ultrasonic cleaning. Shortly after using the ultrasonic process, we had an unusually large number of failures that we could not figure out. I stopped using the ultrasonic cleaner and by chance the circuits were totally re-designed at the same time. I never went back to look for the origin of the problem which could have been any number of things. I won't blame the ultrasonic since I have no actionable data. If I felt the need to go back to it, I would allocate some time to make sure I was not creating a long term reliability problem from mechanically stressing the brittle materials IC are made from. One thing for sure is that aqueous ultrasonic cleaning is a molecularly violent process. A LOT of energy is focused on a very small area. It was a short lived experiment that was abandoned without a final conclusion.


I use the Crest 2600D for most stuff. It has been reliable and primarily used on small machined parts as part of the surface prep for plating. Not too expensive, heater, de-gas, varbiable power, digital timer. I don't know of any off the shelf unit that is specifically for PCB's.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-Crest-CP2600D-27-Liters-Benchtop-Ultrasonic-Cleaner-Heat-Timer-Degas-/121579544579?hash=item1c4eb4a003:m:mVTmLkYMSrHTEWd4Hnz2b1Q

I used a few of the detergents from Alconox http://www.alconox.com/ and they seemed to do a great job. Hot DI water rinse is usually needed.
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Offline crispy_tofu

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2015, 10:08:31 am »
The ultrasonic vibrations atomized the acetone so that it infused into every plastic part of the machine. It was actually kind of odd. It wasn't pure ABS or it would have disolved into a mush pile, it more became like soft latex or something so there was some component of the plastic left with very different properties.

That's amazing.  :o Must have been quite surprising, too!  :D
 

Offline Shock

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2015, 11:53:47 am »
Crest Ultrasonic Cleaners are the go to brand in the industry. Branson EC (Electronic Cleaner Concentrated
Cleaning Formula) is the detergent designed for cleaning PCBs (flux, rosin etc).

It's a good idea to get the tray with it, you need to suspend your PCBs in the middle of the cleaner not resting on the bottom.

You use distilled water and a tiny amount of Branson EC. Then flush with clean distilled water or IPA if you want to speed up drying time and/or displace water under components prior to drying.

A heated ultrasonic cleaner gives best results and you should avoid ones that have complex controls as all you need to do is turn it on, set the temp, monitor the time and perhaps flip your pcb half way through. A cooking timing or your smart phone etc means you can leave it unattended in the next room and not worry about noise or chemical issues and just come back to it when it's finished.



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Offline dave_k

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2015, 12:11:50 pm »
I have had excellent results cleaning PCBs with Electrolube Safewash SWAS, both manually and in a ultrasonic cleaner. Best of all it's biodegradable and if diluted sufficiently can be tipped down the sink (read the MSDS).

http://www.electrolube.com/products/cleaning/swas/safewash_range_-_aqueous_cleaning/
 

Offline rx8pilot

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2015, 09:43:28 pm »
It's a good idea to get the tray with it, you need to suspend your PCBs in the middle of the cleaner not resting on the bottom.

Very true. For mechanical parts I have a wire basket. The goal is that the parts to be cleaned should be touching only the fluid as much as possible. I made a wire hanger that allowed me to hang a number of PCB's and dip them in the solution where they are suspended right in the middle.

Heat, in my opinion, is critical. The effectiveness of the process diminishes rapidly in cool water. Do not discount the benefit of the de-gas cycle either. It works to get rid of the tiny bubbles that are in suspension. The bubbles are too small to rise to the surface on their own and the de-gas cycle essentially pulses the transducers which causes the small bubbles to combine and rise out of the solution. The 'denser' fluid has a better effectiveness since the bubbles will stick to the surface and isolate that area from any ultrasonic action. Some people think that when you dip the part into the solution, it will get wet. That is not true. If the parts enters quickly, the cavitation will create bubbles that stick to the dirty surfaces and stay there during the cleaning cycle. The areas where the bubbles were will be untouched. Gently place the parts in the tank and gently remove them. Good detergents help this as well.

My thinking was that if all the parameters are optimized, it will reduce the cycle time, improve the end result, and minimize risk of damage to the the PCB/components.

Note on disposal: Even if your detergent is biodegradable, the stuff you cleaned off the PCB is probably not.
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Offline John_ITICTopic starter

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2015, 11:55:21 pm »
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Offline Shock

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2015, 05:40:14 am »
Think about ordering one with the wire tray as well.

Make sure what you're cleaning fits in the tray at least at a 45 degree angle comfortably and will be totally submerged. You need to think of future needs as well. The 45 degrees helps get the agitating action get up around components.

If you buy the gallon of detergent its about 25% cheaper but you need to work it out yourself (if you need that much).


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Offline Spikee

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2015, 08:53:18 am »
When you have something lIke the ti hdc1008 ( with an hole in the bottom) how would you clean that?
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Offline Shock

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2015, 10:59:50 am »
When you have something like the ti hdc1008 ( with an hole in the bottom) how would you clean that?

BGA with an ultrasonic cleaner setup for cleaning electronics as well. If it's sensitive to cleaning then you best read up or contact the manufacturer. You are submerging at temperature and it's a mildly abrasive cleaning method (results depend how long you clean). So writing on labels, adhesives and rubber and that kind of material can be affected especially if you leave it in too long. Some labels may wear straight away, the ones on components are normally hard wearing though.

If you read the Branson EC specs it says it can slightly tarnish polished aluminum.
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Offline jwm_

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #14 on: October 22, 2015, 01:44:19 am »
I use acetone, works better than ipa, and unlike ipa, there is no law prohibiting its use in any concentration.

There are laws prohibiting IPA where you are? I can understand methanol having some restrictions, but IPA is not really more dangerous than a lot of household things.

In any case, you can turn any percentage IPA into 100% IPA just by adding salt. salt water and isopropyl are not miscible, so when you add a bunch of salt to a water IPA mix, it seperates out into a salt water and pure alcohol layer, you then just siphon off the pure alcohol layer.
 
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Offline helius

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #15 on: October 22, 2015, 02:39:08 am »
The "air quality" rules in Southern California are imbecilic. Volatile Organic Chemicals are the enemy, and you can't have them! Except for acetone, that doesn't count because... um... because we need it to do our nails. Please don't tell us that watering down cleaners will lead to more waste and pollution, that's somebody else's problem.

Acetone is not great for PCB cleaning. Not only is the smell overpowering, but it attacks ABS resins and destroys switches and capacitor seals.
Asahiklin AK-225 was close to ideal, and you could buy it until last January. Some of us have stockpiles...
Now that it is no longer available, there are new mixtures on the market that claim to dissolve stubborn no-clean fluxes. Reading the MSDS for cleaners can be interesting (remember that ingredients judged non-hazardous do not need to be listed). Many of the "heavy duty" cleaners contain DuPont's Vertrel, a series of decafluoropentanes. Some use even more exotic solvents, like Honeywell's "Solstice", a chlorofluoroalkene that is evidently not yet banned.
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« Last Edit: October 22, 2015, 02:53:39 am by helius »
 

Offline rx8pilot

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #16 on: October 22, 2015, 06:24:29 am »
Acetone? WTF? Seriously?

That is a horrible solution.
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Offline KL27x

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #17 on: October 22, 2015, 09:17:27 am »
Quote
Acetone? WTF? Seriously?

That is a horrible solution.
I'm surprised at this. I have stored many pulled components in pure acetone to clean them up (no electrolytic caps, to be sure), and I have yet to break/melt anything. I actually came to suspect there was an unspoken rule that board-level electrical component plastics must be resistant to acetone. For a short exposure (not necessarily ultrasonic cleaning), I would have thought acetone would be far from a WTF-level of horrible.

I rarely bother to clean rosin residue, but I have noticed that acetone works much better on it (i.e. great) than alcohol. No cleans, different story.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2015, 09:26:34 am by KL27x »
 

Offline Shock

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #18 on: October 23, 2015, 08:11:56 am »
IPA will work with Rosin it just takes a while and it doesn't seem to dissolve off, it's more like it saturates very slowly with alcohol. So unless your scrubbing it, whats not been loosen off or washed away will stay in place, at least that is what I experienced when I tried it.
Soldering/Rework: Pace ADS200, Pace MBT350
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Offline John_ITICTopic starter

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2015, 12:15:14 am »
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Crest-0-5-Gal-Benchtop-Ultrasonic-Cleaner-w-Heater-and-Mechanical-Timer-CP200HT-/181079242250?hash=item2a2929f60a:m:mdH2iiZCWuvulWDvmfXHKjQ

http://www.all-spec.com/products/635-028.html?gclid=CPfd_bCd0sgCFQiNaQod5V8LrA
/John.

Thanks Everyone, I just placed an order for the above equipment. For a while, I was eying the cheap Ebay clones but eventually figured I'd buy a unit that will last some 10 years. Also, It would be silly to put my $3,000 prototype PCB into the cheap $50 cleaner, trying to save a few bucks...
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Offline AccountRemovedPerUsersRequest

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #20 on: October 08, 2021, 05:16:15 am »
Hello,

Saving nature and reusing an old thread.
Paintbrush and IPA work just fine for surface cleaning, but would like to have deeper cleaning using ultrasonic. There are several liquids to choose from, but all the products I have found requires rinsing with water. Anyone using alcoholic based cleaner with ultrasonic? (something that is meant to use use that way and is non-flammable)

A

 

Online coppercone2

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #21 on: October 08, 2021, 03:48:33 pm »
I would not put solvent into an ultrasonic cleaner without a gas flood box to operate it in, if you have a friend that welds aerospace titanium he might have a chamber you can use

That is considered mad dangerous. What you can do though, that is much less dangerous, so long you work outside, is put the alcohol in a bag (limited amount), then put the board in the bag. Not sure if you can use a ESD bag. It will hold up for a little while and if it leaks the alcohol will immediatly go into the water and so long you have alot of water, the mixture is never flammable, so you only need to manage small possible vapor problems... but if you poured 1/2 a gallon of ipa into a stock ultrasonic I would be real scared of that setup.. I highly recommend investing in a flux cleaning solution that is not flammable for this job.
 

Offline SteveyG

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #22 on: October 08, 2021, 08:35:03 pm »
Hello,

Saving nature and reusing an old thread.
Paintbrush and IPA work just fine for surface cleaning, but would like to have deeper cleaning using ultrasonic. There are several liquids to choose from, but all the products I have found requires rinsing with water. Anyone using alcoholic based cleaner with ultrasonic? (something that is meant to use use that way and is non-flammable)

A

I use an ultrasonic cleaning solution then afterwards use compressed air on the PCB. If the surface finish is not acceptable, spray down with inexpensive brake cleaner.
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Offline AccountRemovedPerUsersRequest

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #23 on: October 09, 2021, 06:40:19 am »
"SteveyG"
The cleaner you are using is meant to be rinsed after ultrasonic processing? All the ultrasonic cleaners I have found are like that. If there is a cleaner that does not require anything but one-step ultrasonic processing I would be appreciated to know what is that product.

A
 

Offline chronos42

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Re: PCB Ultrasonic Cleaner Recommendation?
« Reply #24 on: October 30, 2021, 06:52:07 pm »
Hi,
in this thread was mentioned, that ultrasonic cleaning can destroy electronic components. I did not believe this, until today.
I am currently repairing an Instrument from a seller from Israel, which was extremely dirty inside. (No complain about the seller, I was aware about the state of this instrument)
The dirt (desert sand?) was extremely hard to remove, so I used an ultrasonic cleaner. For some of the modules I needed three cleanings from about 20 minutes to remove all the mess.
Now everything is clean, BUT two modules, that worked before the cleaning, have stopped working now.
The reasons are 9 defective RF Transistors (2N5179) which have an interrupted collector now. |O
So, be careful, not every semiconductor likes ultrasonic cleaning.
 


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