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AQUEOUS ELECTRONIC CIRCUIT ASSEMBLY
CLEANER AND METHOD
This is a continuation-in-part application of U.S. Ser. 5 No. 07/731,512, filed Jul. 17, 1991 and now abandoned.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to environmentally safe aqueous flux removing compositions for cleaning elec- 10 tronic circuit assemblies, such as printed circuit or printed wiring boards, during their fabrication. Alkali metal carbonate and bicarbonate salts are utilized preferably with various adjuvants, including a specified anti-corrosion and brightening agent, to achieve a vari- ^ ety of objectives, among which are the removal of solder flux, oils, waxes and greasy substances and adhesive and other residues.
The cleanliness of electronic circuit assemblies (ECA), such as printed circuit boards (PCB) or printed wiring boards (PWB), is generally regarded as being critical to their functional reliability. Ionic and nonionic contamination on circuit assemblies is believed to contribute to premature failures of the circuit assemblies by allowing short circuits to develop.
In the manufacture of electronic circuit assemblies, ionic and nonionic contamination can accumulate after one or more steps of the process. Circuit assembly materials are plated, etched, handled by operators in assembly, coated with corrosive or potentially corrosive fluxes and finally soldered.
In the fabrication of electronic circuit assemblies, e.g., printed circuit boards, soldering fluxes are first applied to the substrate board material to ensure firm, uniform bonding of the solder. These soldering fluxes fall into two broad categories: rosin and non-rosin, or water soluble, fluxes. The rosin fluxes, which are generally only moderately corrosive and have a much longer history of use, are still widely used throughout the electronics industry. The water soluble fluxes, which are a more recent development, are being used increasingly in consumer products applications. Because water solu- 45 ble fluxes contain strong acids and/or amine hydrohalides, such fluxes are very corrosive. Unfortunately, residues of any flux can cause circuit failure if residual traces of the material are not carefully removed following soldering and thus remain on an electronic circuit so assembly.
While water soluble fluxes can be easily removed with warm, soapy water, the removal of rosin flux from printed circuit boards is more difficult and has therefore traditionally been carried out with the use of chlori- 55 nated hydrocarbon solvents such as 1,1,1,-trichlorethane, trichloroethylene, trichloromonofluoromethane, methylene chloride, trichlorotrifluoroethane (CFC113), tetrachlorodifluoroethane (CFC112) or mixtures or azeotropes of these and/or other solvents. These sol- 60 vents are undesirable, however, because they are toxic and when released into the environment deplete the ozone layer and/or contribute to the greenhouse global warming effect. Thus, use of such solvents is subject to close scrutiny by the Occupational Safety and Health 65 Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and stringent containment equipment must be used. Moreover, if released into the
environment these solvents are not readily biodegradable and are thus hazardous for long periods of time.
Alkaline cleaning compounds known as the alkanolamines, usually in the form of monoethanolamine, have been used for rosin flux removal as an alternative to the toxic chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents. These high pH compounds (e.g., about 12 pH), chemically react with rosin flux to form a rosin soap through the process of saponification. Other organic substances such as surfactants or alcohol derivatives may be added to these alkaline cleaning compounds to facilitate the removal of such rosin soap. Unfortunately, these compounds, as well as the water soluble soldering fluxes, have a tendency to cause corrosion on the surfaces and interfaces of printed wiring boards if such compounds and fluxes are not completely and rapidly removed during the fabrication process.
In other approaches, Daley et al., U.S. Pat. No. 4,635,666 utilize a highly caustic solution having a pH of 13 in a batch cleaning process. This method severely oxidizes the solder applied to the circuit board. In Hayes et al., U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,640,719 and 4,740,247 rosin soldering flux and other residues are removed from electronic assemblies by means of terpene compounds in combination with terpene emulsifying surfactants by rinsing in water.
The complete removal of adhesive and other residues also poses a problem. During the manufacture of electronic circuit assemblies the components are mounted on the upper surface of the board with leads protruding downwardly through holes in the board and are secured to the bottom surface of the board by means of an adhesive. Further, it is sometimes necessary to temporarily protect certain portions of the board from processing steps such as the process of creating corrosion resistant gold connecting tabs at the board edges. This transient protection of portions of the circuit board can be achieved by the application of special adhesive tape to susceptible areas. Once such protection is no longer needed, the adhesive tape must be removed. In both instances, a residue of adhesive generally remains which, if not thoroughly removed, can cause premature board failure. Removal of this adhesive residue has traditionally been carried out by the use of chlorinated solvents which, as already described, are toxic and environmentally undesirable.
Thus, the residual contaminants which are likely to be found on electronic circuit assemblies and which can be removed by the compositions and method of the present invention include, but are not limited to, for example, rosin flux, photoresist, solder masks, adhesives, machine oils, greases, silicones, lanolin, mold release, polyglycols and plasticizers.
In copending, commonly assigned U.S. Ser. No. 731,512, filed Jul. 17,1991, improved cleaning compositions characterized by non-corrosiveness and low environmental impact, unlike the prior art chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents and alkaline cleaners, are employed for printed wiring board and printed circuit board cleaning. As disclosed therein, printed circuit/wiring board cleaning compositions are provided comprising alkali metal carbonate and bicarbonate salts so combined that they have, when used in concentrations of about 1 to 15 percent by weight, a Ph of from about 10, or less, to 12 and an adequate reserve of titratable alkalinity, at least equivalent to from about 0.2 to 4.5 percent caustic potash (potassium hydroxide), when titrated to the colorless phenolphthalein end point. At