HASL Finish Process Guide

HASL, short for Hot Air Solder Leveling, is a widely used PCB surface finish. Essentially a combination of solder dipping and hot air leveling, it involves coating the metalized holes and traces of a PCB with eutectic solder. Compared to other technologies, HASL is not only cost-effective but also maintains a consistent coating composition, making it increasingly popular in recent years. However, as a post-manufacturing process in PCB fabrication, the quality of the HASL process directly impacts the appearance, performance, and customer trust of the boards. To address this, TechSparks provides a comprehensive HASL guide to help you understand the necessity of this technology and guide you on how to properly execute the process steps.

hasl finish

Table of Contents

Characteristics of HASL Surface Finish

Visually, a PCB treated with HASL finish appears as silver-white or bright silver, as this process forms a layer of tin on the PCB surface. The standard thickness of the tin layer typically ranges from 1 to 4 micrometers, depending on the manufacturer’s process level. While the coating is generally considered evenly applied, it may appear slightly rougher compared to immersion silver upon closer inspection. If you are hesitant about whether to use the HASL coating process in your project, it is advisable to understand its pros and cons:

Advantages:

  • Widely used with abundant supply, offered by almost all manufacturers.
  • Mature technology, simple process, and relatively low cost.
  • Suitable for lead-free soldering, compliant with ROHS.
  • Exposed solder pads are visible, facilitating inspection.
  • Applicable for large components and wider pitch traces.
  • Long storage time with reworkability.

Disadvantages:

  • Certain limitations for fine gaps and small components, not recommended for precision boards like HDI PCB.
  • Uneven distribution of solder balls during the process may result in inconsistent solder joint quality.
  • Requires high temperatures, potentially causing thermal stress on PCB.

HASL Process Steps

  1. Pre-treatment

The first step involves cleaning the PCB to remove surface impurities, contaminants, and oxides, thereby avoiding potential defects. Then, a molten flux is applied to the PCB to promote copper surface activation and improve the wetting of solder on the copper surface.

  1. Solder Bath

HASL Finish Process Steps

The PCB is immersed in a molten solder bath, typically consisting of a tin/lead alloy. The solder adheres to the exposed copper surface, and under the influence of gravity, the solder naturally sinks and flows to a level position. Tools may be used to slightly reshape the solder for a smoother finish.

  1. Cooling

After leveling is complete, the PCB is cooled to solidify the solder. The choice between natural cooling or cooling equipment depends on the properties of the solder.

Key Parameters in HASL Finish

Preheating:

Preheating is in the pre-treatment stage, aiming to enhance the reactivity of the flux for more effective action. Simultaneously, preheating imparts a certain adaptability to the PCB, reducing subsequent thermal shocks. Typically, the preheating temperature is set at 343°C, and a preheating time of 15 seconds is sufficient to raise the PCB surface temperature to around 80°C.

Tinning Time:

Directly related to the quality of the solder coating. Excessive tinning time may cause solder mask bubbling, while too short a time may result in incomplete tinning. Generally, a tinning time of 2-4 seconds is adequate for forming a good intermetallic compound.

Board Lifting Speed:

Refers to the speed at which the PCB is withdrawn from the solder bath. Excessive lifting speed may lead to ripples, affecting leveling, while too slow a speed may result in excessive solder thickness.

Air Knife:

The air knife is a critical tool used to remove excess solder from the PCB surface, preventing through-hole blockage. Properly setting air knife parameters is crucial for the flatness of the leveled surface. Typically, air knife pressure is maintained between 0.3-0.5 MPa, temperature between 300°C-400°C, and spacing around 4mm.

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