Air Products has revealed the signing of two contracts with Nokia, to supply nitrogen to its Beijing and Dongguan plants in China for use in the company’s electronics assembly and packaging process.

Nokia has recently converted its printed circuit board assembly to a lead-free solder process, and nitrogen is needed in reflow soldering, a widely used method in surface mount technology (SMT) for packaging components on electronics printed circuit boards.

Lead-free soldering is part of the global movement in the electronics industry to eliminate lead contamination, ultimately contributing to greener manufacturing in compliance with the internationally recognised Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) policy.

Air Products has completed several research programmes and conducted production trials with its customers in the area of lead-free solder processes over the past five years.

Speaking of the contracts secured with Nokia and their reflection of the company’s efforts in this field, Saw Choon Seong, General Manager of China Merchant Gases for Air Products, said, “It is an honour to be selected as Nokia’s nitrogen supplier to their two plants in China. We have been working very closely with Nokia during its conversion process and supporting them in applying the technology to produce higher quality products with better environmental performance.”

“These two contracts are significant for us. They demonstrate our technological capabilities to help customers in meeting their increasing requirements.”

Reflecting on the deal from Nokia’s point of view, Xie Jiwei, Process Engineering Manager of Nokia Beijing, commented, “China is one of Nokia’s biggest markets and an important technical, as well as manufacturing, base. When we were transforming to the lead-free solder process, we had high requirements from and expectations of our supplier. Air Products has shown its technological know-how and commitment during the whole process.”

Nitrogen processing atmospheres have an important role in reducing incidents of manufacturing defects―such as poor wetting to small footprint packages as seen in Ball Grid Arrays (BGA)and Chip Scale Package (CSP)―that will lead to open joints and failures, which may happen in the final product if reflow is conducted in ambient air.

When using lead-free solders in an air atmosphere, the wetting of the solder may be poor, resulting in a weaker solder joint and increased failure rate and scrap cost. With the use of a nitrogen atmosphere, solder wetting is improved, and the reflow process window is increased.