Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Engineering (Research)


Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. S. Cassidy


Electronic manufacturing is currently one of the fastest growing industrial areas. This is due to the rapid advances in the computer and telecommunications sectors. Due to these advances, new surface mount devices have been developed to achieve greater miniaturisation at lower costs. As a result, a new surface mount technology has been developed to mount these devices onto printed circuit boards. However, problems exist with aspects of this process, principally open solder joints which result from circuit board warpage. The aim of this thesis is to undertake a) both an experimental and theoretical investigation of the reflow solder process and b) to develop thermal and structural models to analyse circuit board warpage. This research should aid manufacturing engineers in understanding the influence of the solder reflow process parameters on board warpage. Extensive experimental testing of the circuit board materials during the process is also presented.

The thermal model detailed in this thesis simulates a) forced convective heat transfer through air impingement to the boards and b) the three dimensional temperature distribution within a composite laminate. The thermal model predicts the temperature distribution within a populated laminated composite circuit board to within 3% when compared to experimental data. The experimental results show that the convective heat transfer coefficient is primarily dependant on Reynolds number, and also the orifice to plate distance and orifice diameter. It was found that at high Reynolds number, the heat transfer coefficient increases significantly at low orifice to board distance. This heat transfer rate has to be balanced against the maximum speed of the air to prevent the components been blown off the boards. The 5mm diameter orifice provides the optimum balance between air speed and heat transfer rate.

The structural model simulates the influence of a) board support, b) reflow temperature profile, c) components on the board and d) board layup on circuit board deformation. The experimental appraisal and model predictions show that the warpage of the printed circuit boards is dependant on a) support of the board during the process, b) symmetry of the board layup, c) coefficients of thermal expansion of the board materials, d) temperature distribution in the boards i.e. symmetric or nonsymmetric about board centre and e) temperature applied to the board.

This research proves that if adequate support is applied to the boards during the reflow soldering process then, the warpage of the printed circuit boards may be kept within acceptable margins. Board warpage exists in current printed circuit boards because a) the boards cannot be manufactured truly symmetric in layup and b) Non-uniform temperature distributions are present in the board during the solder reflow process which leads to non-uniform expansion of the constituent laminate layers due to their varying coefficients of thermal expansion.

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