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.
*Note that the software is free, but you will need to provide a working email address.
Some time ago I wrote a post, “Questions on Tin Whiskers.” Reader Michael responds below. He makes some good points.
Dr. Ron, I’m responding to your blog regarding tin whiskers. I actually have a failure analysis report I did a couple of years ago in which failure of our product was due to this issue and occurred on a part that came into RoHS compliance only 3 months prior.
I’m not sure that your question of identifying whisker issues in product that proper steps have been taken to mitigate the problem is a constructive one. The fact is that many of the component manufacturers from overseas jumped into compliance without any thought or regard to this issue thereby flooding the industry with components such as plagued my company. We have not had this issue since we’ve specified an alternate finish.
These whiskers are so delicate that most problems disappear when the technician starts to work on the failed unit and the problem never re-appears so it is written off as an anomaly, loose/bad connection and not investigated any further. It was only my own curiosity as to the number of “no problem found” failures of our keypads we had suddenly encountered that caused me to dig deeper and when I looked into the connector I was amazed at the crystal city staring back at me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing after all of these years.
After seeing this problem first hand I became, and am, quite convinced that there were and are people who will be losing life, limb, and property because this forced compliance with its risk was not given proper worldwide attention.
A popular topic on my blog is solder density calculations. Rhonda writes
Hi Dr. Lasky,
I am a precious metals recycler and would very much appreciate your verifying the validity of an equation that approximates the Karat Value of various alloys of gold based on S.G. which I will call density or “D,” and the Karat Value is “K.” The equation is seems to hold relatively true even when the exact composition of the alloy is unknown, although the percent of error obviously will increase as density decreases. I would also appreciate not only verification but also more specific information on percent of error for densities below about 14 or 15 g/cc. Here is the equation:
K = 0.0089D^3 – 0.550D^2 + 12.5299D – 77.06
Thank you so much for whatever assistance you can provide.
These types of equations can only work for one alloying metal with the gold. This one is only for copper. It is also calibrated in Rhonda’s favor as it reads the karat level about 10% low. I was able to determine this by using the Excel Solder Density worksheet that I developed. If the alloy was gold and lead, a 50% by weight gold (12 karat) would show as 15.7 karat with this equation and Rhonda would lose her shirt.
In response to my blog post on copper as the precursor to civilization, Harvey writes about pollution from early mining operation.
Also interesting, early copper mining and processing led to the first examples of human induced environmental damage. There are documented sites in the Alps where copper processing by prehistoric peoples has left areas treeless to this day, due to heavy metal contamination.
Mining and smelting were very tough businesses in ancient days. In addition to pollution, many workers died from toxic fumes.
I continue to get much interest in the solder alloy density calculator I developed. It is now online here. It assumes no chemical interaction between the metals and no formation of interstitials. It works well for solder alloys.
Many people have an incorrect idea of how to perform this calculation. The most common incorrect concept is to multiply the % by weight of each alloy times its density and add them together. Using this incorrect approach one would calculate the density of tin-lead eutectic solder as 8.79 g/cc (0.63 x 7.29 + 0.37 x 11.34) vs the correct 8.4 g/cc. The correct derivation follows.
We want to find the density of an alloy composed of three metals. Assume the mass of the alloy is M. Metal A has a mass ma and a density da, Metal B has a mass mb and a density db and Metal C has a mass mc and a density dc. The total volume, V, of the three metals is va + vb+ vc.
However, since v = m/d, the total volume can be expressed:
V = ma/da + mb/db +mc/dc (Eq. 1)
The density of the resulting alloy is D = M/V, hence 1/D = V/M, therefore:
1/D = V/M = (ma/M)/da + (mb/M)/db +(mc/M)/dc (Eq. 2)
Now ma/M is the mass fraction of a, which we will call Xa, and similarly Xb and Xc for metals B and C.
Eq. 2 then becomes:
1/D = Xa/da + Xb/db +Xc/dc
which is our solution.
This principle also can be applied to alloys of more than three metals.