Why Is X-Ray Needed In Electronic Manufacturing?

Technology has evolved at a rapid pace over the last 20 to 30 years, forcing the electronics industry to be constantly innovating in a bid to keep up.

As each new device becomes even more compact and far more complex, manufacturers are under increasing pressure to keep producing the highest-quality electrical goods.

As a result, X-ray inspection has become an indispensable tool in the industry. In fact, it has become a cornerstone of modern electronics manufacturing for a number of reasons primarily related to quality control, inspection and failure analysis.

In the article below, we’re going to dive a little deeper into how and why X-ray plays such a pivotal role in electronic manufacturing.

Inspecting of solder joints

One of the reasons that using an X-ray is so effective is that it can penetrate materials without damaging them. This allows manufacturers to inspect solder joints in various electronic components without the need to disassemble the device and without the risk of damaging it.

In particular, this is crucial for verifying the quality of solder connections on components such as integrated circuits, ball grid arrays (BGAs) and other surface-mounted devices.

Even just one weak connection or failed solder joint can compromise the entire function of a circuit board. This can lead to faulty devices that don’t work.

And even those that are still able to work with faulty connections will have a drastically shorter lifespan than required of them. All of which is bad news for business.

Detecting defects

Following on from this, X-rays can reveal other internal defects and inconsistencies within electronic components and assemblies.

As well as identifying issues like insufficient solder paste, X-rays can also be used to spot misalignments and voids in the joints. All of which could once again lead to faulty connections and malfunctioning devices.

Verifying component placement

As devices get smaller, so do the circuit boards and components within them and this can make aligning every part far more intricate, even when done by machine. The good news is that X-ray inspection can be used to verify the correct placement of miniaturised and complex components.

Again, this is important for ensuring that all the components are aligned and soldered correctly, preventing issues like short circuits or open connections.

It is also a non-destructive way to inspect and ensure that these devices meet the agreed design specifications and quality standards.

Analysing hidden structures within devices

As if it wasn’t complicated enough making sure that each circuit board and the relevant components are connected and soldered correctly, some devices come with hidden structures. What this means is that within electronic devices, you may have other small electronic components or even multilayered circuit boards.

X-rays are capable of reaching and imaging these hidden structures. This allows manufacturers to inspect these internal layers and identify any potential issues like de-lamination, cracks or other defects that may impact the reliability and performance of the electronic assembly.

Product failure analysis

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to ensure a 100% success rate in pretty much every industry and manufacturing is no exception. In the event of a product failure, X-ray analysis can be instrumental in identifying the root cause.

By carefully examining the internal structures and connections of a faulty device, manufacturers can use X-rays to pinpoint any defects or weaknesses that contributed to the failure. They can then take corrective actions to stop this from happening again and improve all future production.

And that’s not the only way that X-ray inspection is changing manufacturing for the better, but we’ll look at this in more detail in the final few sections of this guide.

Accelerating research and development

Believe it or not, it’s not just about quality control. Industrial X-rays can also play a big role in accelerating research and development within the industry.

This is because researchers are able to use X-ray analysis to study the internal structures of any new and emerging materials, components and devices.

By doing this, they can gain valuable insights into how these different materials and components behave under certain conditions, looking at which work best and which don’t.

This, in turn, allows them to identify potential weaknesses and refine designs for new electronic devices. By accelerating research and development in this way, the X-ray contributes to the advancement and creation of reliable new electronic products.

Moving to lead-free soldering processes

Further to this, lots of organisations are trying to make the transition to lead-free soldering in their electronic manufacturing.

The problem is, the lead-free soldering process presents its own unique challenges and X-ray inspection can play a key role in ensuring that the solder joints meet the required standards for strength and reliability despite these challenges.

Complying with industry standards

Finally, something we’ve briefly touched on above, X-rays can play a key part in complying with industry standards.

Understandably, the electronics industry is subject to stringent regulatory standards and requirements, such as health and safety, quality control and environmental impact.

With so much to think about all manufacturers must ensure they are adhering to these strict standards set out for them and that their products are safe and compliant.

That is why X-ray inspection is used, providing documented evidence of the different quality control processes and proving that goods are made to the highest standard. It also helps to demonstrate compliance with industry standards and regulatory bodies.

Essentially X-ray is used not just to produce top-quality products but also to safeguard the manufacturers and assure customers that they are getting safe and reliable products.

X-ray is an integral part of electronic manufacturing

There you have it, these are just several of the key reasons that X-ray inspection plays such a crucial role in electronic manufacturing.

It is used to ensure the quality, reliability and functionality of electronic devices, as well as to help with research, development and innovation. Plus, it allows manufacturers to identify and address issues that may not be visible through traditional inspection methods.

This is certainly one tool that no manufacturer should be without.