The curse of ipc-a-610 and ipc-j-std-001

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IPC-A-610 and IPC-J-STD-001 have trolled industries for years as they apparently increase efficiency but actually, they drive up the costs giving less reliability to products. American companies are therefore hiring offshore labor where reworks and touchups increase the labor cost. Electronics production may stop in USA if the standard is not improved.

Over time, the reliability of companies producing electronics has increased on IPC-A-610 and IPC-J-STD-001 regarding the acceptable conditions for soldering which are testing, making and evaluating solder connections. The market shift from custom manufacturing to contract manufacturing has forced both the OEM clients and manufacturers to look away from compromised results of the inefficient production due to IPC-J-STD-001 and IPC-A-610.

IPC-A-610 and IPC-J-STD-001 are still diminishing the electronics industry in USA and are maintaining the need for offshore labor hiring. Their reason for failure lies in their origin dating back to 1960 when they were used in defense contracts. In 1961 The Martin Co. used them in their Zero Defects (ZD) initiative which aimed to make their missiles defect free. Though it did not happen right away and several checks and reworks were required to complete a task. The components which showed defects were reworked over and over.

The main goal of IPC-A-610 and IPC-J-STD-001 was to provide absolute quality control and find and repair regions of the system which would not comply with the requirements. There is no difference in doing massive rework to achieve a goal and in carrying out extreme process management to achieve a goal. The world of IPC still values rework and inspection as it did for achieving the Zero Defects ideology.

Not only reworking labor and inspection afterward ups the cost but the following factors also contribute.

  1. Mishandling
  2. Stacking of units
  3. Mechanical stress
  4. Static electricity
  5. Bad flux chemistry

One hidden factor which is the most responsible is the soldering iron.

MIL-STD-454 followed by DOD-STD-2000 and MIL-STD-2000 are the military standards of soldering which they got from their suppliers for IPC-J-STD-001 and IPC-A-610. When the contractors determined how low the military could accept the standards, they made it a custom for their product and it continued when the customers became civilians. The deception of rework and touchup is basically to repair defected units and sell them again. Just like a license of ship defects reworking, the contractors use the license of IPC-A-610 and IPC-J-STD-001 for commercial contract assemblies.

Many manufacturers put their employees through IPC training because of their demanding clients like aerospace industries and defense department. Many deals have been canceled by clients just because the staff of a company is not IPC certified regardless of their perfect result and meeting the demands of the client. This practice is happening only in USA and the rational clients should think over it. Do they want a good result needing no certificates or a novice with a document saying that he is IPC certified and damage his property?

It is a fact that reliability decreases with the increase of handling. It means that any kind of test would degrade the product’s reliability. Topping such handling is the soldering iron heat. It is even worse than the electrostatic discharge.

30 years ago, Juran, Crosby and Deming marked results as the standards of reliability. Unfortunately, our companies (which are no longer producers) are relying on tricky paperwork to assure a client of the quality of its products. The customer quality engineer and purchase agent who would personally inspect the quality are now replaced by document traps like ISO. IPC-J-STD-001 and IPC-A-610 are such traps.

IPC-J-STD-001 and IPC-A-610 are facing a lack of research education budget as well. Companies are not investing enough in educating their employees to study and find the root cause of the problem. In fact, they are only investing in enabling their employees to solve the problem. Such strategy will never improve the chances of betterment for IPC-J-STD-001 and IPC-A-610.

In fact, we can’t trust the current standards at all. “Principles of Standardization” at IPC clearly mentions in their front document that “Standards shout not Contain anything that cannot be defended with data”. But this only seems to be a statement and not the truth at all. The criteria are never met as no data standard can be verified with respect to its date because there is none. For instance, 75% and 50% perfection is required in products of class 3 and 2 respectively but it is never met and just documented.

Perfect soldering is possible if scientific principles are applied wetting forces, solderability management, surface tension, and flux. This knowledge is required by both clients and producers. Producers can use to improve their quality and understanding their product. But unfortunately, IPC-J-STD-001 and IPC-A-610 are not provided with such knowledge at all.

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