Infrared cameras are widely used in the electronics industry and have proved to be valuable in both production and diagnostic areas. The ability of thermography to view small, irregular shaped objects and to remotely determine thermal characteristics and temperatures has been a great asset to electrical engineers and technicians. Since many design and manufacturing flaws manifest themselves thermally, product design teams and quality assurance groups find it to their benefit to use infrared cameras to quickly identify electrical problems in their products before having to encounter more severe problems down the road. Whether it is designing circuit boards or satellites, infrared cameras can enable companies to maximize production efficiency, minimize time to market and to avoid costly recalls and warranty issues.
• PCB Production – Infrared cameras can play a major role during Printed Circuit Board production during the design as well as the testing phase. While designing circuits, engineers can use infrared equipment to monitor the thermal characteristics of certain components and make design modifications based on their findings.
During the testing phase, engineers use thermal imaging to locate problems such as improper soldering of circuitry, broken traces between components, power fluctuation from leads that have been lifted, missing or improperly soldered components, reversed polarity of a component and erroneous component placements that cause the circuitry to heat up. Visualizing and quantifying the heat patterns generated enables engineers to improve their product as well as the processes used to create it.
• Bare PCB production - Bare circuit boards, made of fiberglass and resin, have to be baked in hot air ovens. These boards that usually consist of multiple layers have to be heated several times in order to cure each layer. The temperature at which these layers are heated is extremely important and unless it is just right, the boards can end up unusable and have to be scrapped. Since board manufacturers have low margins, such waste can drastically affect profit. In order to prevent against scrap and to maximize profit, board manufacturers are well-advised to use infrared cameras to measure the board temperature while it is being cured in order to accurately control the temperature.
• Wire Bonding in Integrated Circuits – The wire bonding phase of the integrated circuit production process can act as a bottleneck. This is because a high number of welds are involved and controlled heating and cooling is required. The temperatures at which the wires are welded to the IC are based on the diameter and material of the wire. Manufacturers of ICs should monitor the thermal profile as well as the temperatures of the process right before and after the wires are welded to the IC. This allows them to increase throughput by adjusting the weld times based on data gathered from thermal monitoring of the process. In addition, it allows them to decrease scrap because fewer ICs fail from heat damage and fewer boards are lost due to poor welding.