Types of soldering fluxes

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Types of soldering fluxes
Solder fluxes clean off surfaces and prepare them for soldering. (circuit board with capacitors 1 image by Mograph from Fotolia.com)

Soldering flux is a solution used to clean metal surfaces before they are soldered together. Its essential function is to deoxidize the surface of the metal without decomposing, because any oxides allowed to remain on the surface of the metal might cause poor solder connections. Solder flux is an extremely important part of any repair or building process involving electronic. Several major types of soldering flux are available.

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Rosin Fluxes

Rosin fluxes are named for their primary ingredient, rosin, which is extracted from the oleoresin, or sap, of pine trees. Rosin has an active ingredient called abietic acid, as well as some other types of natural acid that may be present in the rosin. Three main types of rosin flux are used: rosin (R) flux, rosin mildly activated (RMA) flux and rosin activated (RA) flux. Each of these have a different level of activators, which are the agents that allow the flux to deoxidize and clean.

R flux is only used to clean surfaces that are already extremely clean. Its main advantage is that it leaves no residue behind.

RMA flux is used on slightly dirtier surfaces, but it also leaves a little more residue than R flux. After use, the surfaces must be cleaned with a flux cleaner.

RA fluxes have the highest level of cleaning ability but also leave behind the most residue and are therefore rarely used.

Water Soluble Fluxes

Water soluble fluxes are also called Organic Acid, or OA, fluxes. They are usually made from glycol bases. The biggest shortcoming of OA fluxes is that they tend to bond with either the circuit board or other metal surface and therefore require cleaning. They can also be more aggressive deoxidizers than necessary. However, organic fluxes are more active than RA rosin and are therefore more potent cleaners overall.

Inorganic water soluble fluxes are also available; they are usually even more powerful than OA fluxes.

No-clean Fluxes

No-clean fluxes are made from a mixture of organic resins (other than rosin) mixed with inorganic agents. The properties and behaviours of these kinds of fluxes vary considerably based upon their specific chemical composition. For instance, some will leave an enormous amount of residue that, while posing no threat to the surface, is unattractive. No-clean fluxes that leave no residue are also available. The biggest advantage of no-clean fluxes is that they do not need to be cleaned off the surface after soldering, as they will not affect electrical conductivity.

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