Pin-in-Paste Aperture Calculations Using Solder Preforms


The pin-in-paste (PIP) process is often the best choice when the PCBA is a mixed SMT and through-hole board with a small number of through-hole components. However, ensuring that the correct volume of solder paste is printed to ensure an adequate amount of solder for a reliable thorough-hole solder joint can be a challenge. One tool to help in this regard is the Pin-in-Paste Aperture Calculator. This calculator is now online at The solder volume equations were developed by good friend Jim McLenaghan of Creyr Innovation.

To estimate the right amount of solder paste, we need to calculate the volume of the plated though-hole, subtract the volume of the component pin, and add the volume of the solder fillet. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Solder volumes in the pin-in-paste process.

Let’s assume we have the PCB and component pin metrics, as seen in the left hand column of Figure 2, under the header “Input.” Blue cells are inputs, green cells are calculations by StencilCoach. Notice that, if you have a rectangular pin, the software will calculate the equivalent pin diameter for entry into the “Input” cells. The “paste reduction factor” is the fraction of the paste volume that is solder. Most pastes are about 50% by volume flux, so, typically, this metric would be about 50% or 0.50.

Figure 2. PIP metrics.

The “Output” calculations are not really necessary for the task at hand, which is determining the stencil aperture dimensions, but may be of interest. The important stencil dimensions are shown in the “Stencil Metrics” section. Note that in our example, even though we have a 7-mil thick stencil, we would need a square aperture with a side dimension of 93-mils to get enough solder paste. With a circular aperture the radius must be >50-mils, if the pin spacings were 100-mils, there would not be enough spacing between the printed deposits, they would overlap. So we must use square apertures.

As in this case, it is a common problem with the PIP process to deliver adequate solder volume. If the PCB and component metrics are such that obtaining enough solder paste is an issue, it can be helpful to use solder preforms to increase the solder volume. The next post will cover this topic.


Dr. Ron

Weibull Part III


Our discussion of Weibull Analysis continues…. Let’s say you have worked hard and assembled some SMT lead-free PCBs for thermal cycle testing. You used the best lead-free solder paste and some lead-free solder preforms as you assembled several through-hole components with the pin-in paste process.  You were a little concerned with the assembly process as the board was thermally and physically massive and the reflow process needed to be a bit above the recommended temperature and time.

The results of the thermal cycle testing are shown in Figure 1 below. You dutifully report the characteristic life (or scale) as 2,387 cycles and the first fail at 300 cycles. You were quite disappointed, as in the past similar, but slightly smaller boards, had a slightly higher scale, but more importantly, the first fail was about 1,000 cycles. Anyway, you write up your report and file it away.

Figure 1. A Weibull plot of the thermal cycle data.

Hold on! The data are screaming at you the something is going on. Look at the same data in Figure 2. Note two distinct lines shown in green. These two separate lines suggest very strongly that there are multiple failure modes. The line furthest to the right is likely the typical failure mode observed in the past. The line to the left is a new early failure mode. It could be due to something like oxidized pads or some other phenomena not seen when testing similar but smaller boards. Root cause failure analysis should be performed to try and understand to new failure mode.

Figure 2. A Weibull plot of the thermal cycle data with multiple failure modes noted.

Now for a human interest note: One of the rewarding aspects of being a professor at Dartmouth is the outstanding nature of many of the students. They are not just good academically, but often are talented artistically, athletically, etc. This point was brought home to me recently.  In a class I teach, ENGS 1: The Technology of Everyday Things, we were recently discussing the conservation of angular momentum (CoAM). One of the most striking ways to demonstrate CoAM is an ice skater’s spin. I went on the internet and could not find a good video of a spin. I then remembered that one of my former students, Julia Zaskorski, was on Dartmouth’s figure skating team. I asked her if she had a video she could share. It appears here. She is a materials science and physics major. Who knows, maybe we will see her at APEX or SMTAI in a few years.

Here is a little bio in her own words:

My name is Julia Zaskorski, and I’m a junior from Wellesley College taking part in the 12 College Exchange Program at Dartmouth. At Wellesley I am majoring in physics with the intent to pursue mechanical engineering. Despite Wellesley’s relationship with nearby MIT, Wellesley does not have its own engineering program, so I sought out the more self-contained curriculum and atmosphere at the Thayer School of Engineering.  In addition to the draw of the Thayer School, the Dartmouth Figure Skating team was also a hugely motivating factor for my exchange, as Wellesley does not have a team, let alone a rink.  I have known the coach of the Dartmouth team for several years now, and to finally see my name on the roster for the team is a dream come true.  The engineers, as well as the winter activities here in Hanover, pulled my heart to Dartmouth long before I’d ever set foot on campus. 


Dr .Ron


Solder/Flux Density


It is hard to believe that I have been blogging for over 7 years now. In all this time it has surprised me how much interest there has been in the solder density calculator that I developed. At the suggestion of Tim Jensen, I have added a feature that can calculate the volume of solder paste and flux if given their masses or vice versus. The densities of the solder paste alloy and flux are also needed.  Most fluxes have a density of about 1 g/cm3. If you are interested in this updated software tool, download it here.*

Knowing the volume of the solder and flux in a solder paste is critical if you are using the pin-in-paste process, with or without solder preforms. I have also developed a software package called StencilCoach that can calculate stencil parameters and the special parameters needed for the pin-in-paste process. I will also send this free software tool to those that are interested.

The image shows the schematic for the solder volume calculations for the pin-in-paste process. The equations were developed by Creyr Innovation’s Jim McLenaghan.


Dr. Ron

*Note that the software is free, but you will need to provide a working email address.