Electronics manufacturing involves the handling and assembly of several delicate, moisture-sensitive components. Maintaining optimal humidity levels during the manufacturing process is key for protecting these components from electrostatic discharge, de-soldering, and other occurrences that can decrease the quality of the final product. This article highlights the importance of effective humidity control for avoiding product damage and maintaining a safe work environment in electronics manufacturing facilities.
Reducing Electronic Damage with Humidity Control
In electronics manufacturing, both low and high humidity levels can have negative impacts on product quality as well as the safety of the work environment. Three major risks associated with incorrect humidity control are as follows:
Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) – Electrostatic discharge describes the sudden release of static electricity when two electrically charged objects meet. In addition to damaging electronic components, ESD events can create significant safety hazards such as fires or explosions. Since low humidity levels increase the risk of ESD, it is important to maintain a humidity level of at least 30% when working with electronic components.
De-Soldering – Low humidity levels can cause solder paste to dry too quickly, compromising the strength of the solder joint and reducing the quality of the final product. Conversely, elevated humidity levels can cause condensation to form within the components and facilitate short-circuiting. Proper humidity control minimizes these risks by maintaining a consistent relative humidity level that meets the facility’s specific process requirements.
Brittle components – When a facility’s humidity levels are too low, components are prone to becoming brittle and weak. Keeping humidity levels in the appropriate range is key for maintaining the desired material properties.
The Benefits of Humidity Control in Electronics Manufacturing
Effective humidity control in electronics manufacturing is essential for the following:
Maximizing production output – Proper humidity control ensures a more consistent product output, leading to greater production yields.
Creating a safe work environment – Maintaining optimal humidity levels is critical for reducing electrostatic energy and minimizing the risk of explosions or fires.
Prolonging the lifespan of components and devices – Tight humidity control ensures longer-lasting and higher-quality products by preventing corrosion, eliminating ESD, and keeping materials from becoming brittle.
Maintaining compliance – Implementing an effective humidity control strategy is important for maintaining compliance with the electronics manufacturing industry’s strict requirements regarding the production environment.
The Optimal Humidity Level for Electronics Manufacturing
The ideal humidity range for an electronics manufacturing environment will depend on the following:
Components – A facility’s humidity levels should be optimized according to the individual specifications and sensitivities of the components being manufactured and assembled.
Location – The physical location of the application and the ambient environment will also influence the optimal humidity range. For example, applications in drier environments tend to require slightly higher humidity levels to avoid static discharge, brittle materials, and other issues caused by insufficient humidity.
For most electronics manufacturing environments, optimal humidity levels tend to range from 30% to 70%. The ideal humidity level typically depends on factors such as the ambient environment and the specifications of the electrical components and devices being manufactured. For example, maintaining a consistent relative humidity of 50% may be ideal for some manufacturing environments, whereas others may require slightly lower levels to avoid condensation and corrosion in highly moisture-sensitive components.
Contact Air Innovations for Premium Humidity Control Solutions
Maintaining the proper humidity levels in electronics manufacturing facilities is critical for preserving component quality and minimizing the risk of safety hazards. At Air Innovations, we provide state-of-the-art humidity control solutions that optimize humidity levels for a range of sensitive electronics manufacturing environments. Designed, manufactured, and tested in-house, our systems are capable of meeting even the most challenging process parameters.
Semiconductors are in almost every electronic device, from everyday items like smartphones and coffee makers to complex automobiles, defense equipment, and spaceships. Manufacturers make semiconductors in special semiconductor cleanrooms because the wafers are extremely sensitive to environmental contaminants.
Here we explore semiconductor cleanrooms in more detail, including all their design requirements.
Semiconductor Cleanroom Design: Meet Air Quality Standards
Semiconductor cleanrooms are enclosed environments located within semiconductor foundries or fabs, that have tight control over the following:
Temperature change over time
Semiconductor facilities must precisely regulate these parameters to maintain the highest air quality standards, all while optimizing productivity. Following these standards is paramount as even a particle of dust can render a chip useless.
A proper cleanroom design must have a well designed HVAC system that focuses on temperature, humidity, filtration, and the attributes noted above to treat and circulate air within acceptable limits. Each machine may have individual exhaust systems for removing contaminated air and particulates. Every cleanroom must be able to control particulate matter, static, outgassing, and equipment failure, which can lead to contamination events. These failures can include power glitches, pressure malfunctions, fan motor failure, and wafer handling machine breakdowns.
Controlling Temperature, Humidity, and Airflow
Semiconductors have an inverse relationship between temperature coefficient and resistance. When heated, semiconductor conductance increases and resistance decreases. The outermost electrons separate from the material compound’s atomic nucleus. As free electrons multiply, resistance drops accordingly. When manufacturing semiconductors, it is vital to keep temperatures within a certain range so the finished chips perform properly in their application.
Relative humidity in semiconductor cleanrooms should fall between 30-50%. This range is optimal for both inhibiting bacterial growth and the comfort of cleanroom personnel. Airflow should follow vertical laminar flow, where air blows from the ceiling to the floor. The air should enter vents in the floor, be purified by HEPA filters and regulated for temperature and humidity, and then recirculate into the room.
Cleanroom Classifications for Semiconductor Manufacturing
Semiconductor cleanrooms are required to meet ISO 14644-1 Class 5 or lower, which mandates a maximum of 3,520 particles at 0.5µm or smaller per cubic meter of air. They must also comply with ISO 14644-2, which requires the implementation of a quality control system that meets rigorous classification criteria.
Depending on the application, a semiconductor fabrication plant may also have industry-specific regulations from the EPA, the SEMI Standards Program, a variety of industry task forces and technical committees, and other regulatory bodies. There is further variation based on the type of fabrication process, wafer size, and line width. All these standards are followed in conjunction with ISO to ensure the cleanroom environment is under control 24/7 and that the products produced are of consistent and long-lasting quality.
Custom Environmental Control Solutions for Semiconductors
Air Innovations’ custom environmental control units (ECUs) provide precise temperature and humidity tolerances to meet even the most exacting requirements. Minor temperature differences in the environment during semiconductor scanning can result in false readings. Our semiconductor ECUs control for temperature variations within 0.02 °C, resulting in more accurate readings. Other tolerances include the following:
Airflow: up to 4000 CFM
Humidity: ± 0.5% relative humidity
Setpoint temperature: 19 °C – 23 °C
Temperature change: max of 1°C/5 minutes
Humidity change: max of 1% relative humidity/3 minutes
Our skilled team of engineer can design and develop a custom ECU to satisfy nearly any semiconductor manufacturing application or customer specification. We design our ECUs to fit inside or next to the fabrication environment, and they are available in vertical or horizontal configurations.
Contact Us for Your Semiconductor Cleanroom Air Conditioning Needs
To meet and maintain stringent quality standards, your semiconductor cleanrooms require a custom ECU. At Air Innovations, we are experts in specialized HVAC, environmental control, and cleanroom systems. We test and validate all our engineered solutions through a dedicated R&D department. Our products are certified to meet ETL, CSA, UL, CE, ANSI, SEMI, or MIL-STD safety and performance standards. Contact us today for more information.