As many people know, in the electronics industry, specifically in producing Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), applying the appropriate PCB Surface Finish is highly necessary since it can significantly affect the solderability, quality, and performance of the output.
Introduction to ENIG vs. ENEPIG
ENIG and ENEPIG are two popular surface finishes used in the electronics industry. ENIG, or Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold, is a two-layer finish consisting of a layer of nickel and gold. While ENEPIG, or Electroless Nickel Electroless Palladium Immersion Gold, is a three-layer finish that adds a layer of palladium between the nickel and gold layers.
Although both coatings have good uniformity and solderability, ENEPIG is often pricier than ENIG. Also, while choosing a surface treatment for their PCBs, creators, and producers should consider their unique application needs, including dependability and cost.
What is ENIG in Printed Circuit Boards?
A standard surface treatment for PCBs is ENIG or Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold. A slight coating of nickel is deposited into the copper lines of the PCB. Then a coating of gold immersion is applied as the second layer of the two-layer finish.
By distributing nickel onto the copper regions of the PCB without an electrical charge, the nickel layer is generally placed using an electroless technique. This procedure ensures the nickel layer is level and well-covered, even on intricate PCB designs.
Following the application of the nickel layer, the PCB is submerged in a gold-ion solution. Above the nickel coating, the gold ions are diminished to produce a thin coating of gold, which gives the PCB outstanding smoothness and weldability.
Due to the constant and dependable surface, it offers for soldering components, ENIG is a well-liked Surface Finish for PCBs. It may provide a superior wire bonding surface and strong oxidation resistance. Moreover, ENIG is inexpensive compared to other finishes, making it a desirable choice for PCB producers.
Advantages of Using ENIG Surface Finish
ENIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold) is a popular Surface Finish used in PCBs. Some benefits of using ENIG surface finish include the ones stated below.
- Excellent Solderability: ENIG provides a consistent and uniform surface for soldering components, which helps to ensure reliable solder joints. The gold layer of ENIG offers a flat, non-oxidizing surface that is ideal for soldering.
- Corrosion Resistance: The nickel layer of ENIG provides excellent corrosion resistance, which helps to prevent the PCB from deteriorating over time. This makes ENIG a good choice for applications that require long-term reliability.
- Flatness: The gold layer of ENIG is typically very flat, which is essential for applications that require precise component placement. This helps to ensure that components are mounted accurately, which can help to improve overall product performance.
- Wire Bondability: The gold layer of ENIG also provides a good surface for wire bonding, which is vital for applications that require high-density packaging or fine-pitch components.
- Cost-Effective: ENIG is a relatively inexpensive Surface Finish compared to other finishes, such as electroplated gold. This makes it an attractive option for PCB manufacturers who need a reliable and consistent surface finish that is also cost-effective.
Generally, ENIG is a well-liked option for PCB surface finishing because it offers several advantages, including great solderability, strong corrosion resistance, high flatness, strong wire bondability, and affordability.
Disadvantages of Using ENIG Surface Finish
Even though ENIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold) is a frequently applied treatment used in PCBs and has several benefits, there are a few drawbacks to contemplate. They consist of the items listed below.
- Thickness: The nickel layer of ENIG is typically very thin, which can limit the protection it provides against corrosion. This can concern applications where the PCB will be exposed to harsh environments or long-term storage.
- Nickel Corrosion: While the nickel layer of ENIG provides some corrosion resistance, it can still corrode under certain conditions. For example, suppose the PCB is exposed to high temperatures or high humidity. In that case, the nickel layer can rust, which can affect the performance of the PCB.
- Shelf Life: ENIG has a little shelf life, which means it can deteriorate over time if not used quickly. This can concern PCB manufacturers, who must store PCBs for an extended period before they are assembled.
- Thermal Cycling Resistance: ENIG may not be suitable for applications that require high thermal cycling resistance. Since the nickel and gold layers have different coefficients of thermal expansion, rapid temperature fluctuations may cause the finish to break or polymerize.
- Surface Defects: ENIG can be prone to surface defects such as “black pad” and “white rust” due to improper process control, which can affect the reliability and performance of the PCB.
Consequently, even though ENIG provides several benefits, it’s essential to consider any potential drawbacks when choosing a Surface Finish for a PCB. In order to decide if ENIG is the best solution or whether another Surface Finish could be more appropriate, manufacturers need to assess the application’s requirements thoroughly.
Applications Using ENIG Finish
A typical Surface Finish used in PCBs called ENIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold) is appropriate for various applications. The following are some examples of industries where ENIG is often utilized.
- Consumer Electronics: ENIG is widely used in consumer electronics, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, due to its excellent solderability and flatness.
- Automotive: ENIG is also used in automotive electronics, such as engine control modules and navigation systems, due to its good corrosion resistance and reliability.
- Aerospace: ENIG is used in aerospace applications, such as avionics and navigation systems, due to its high reliability and resistance to environmental factors, such as humidity and temperature.
- Medical Devices: ENIG is used in medical devices, such as pacemakers and diagnostic equipment, due to its good wire bondability and high reliability.
- Industrial Control Systems: ENIG is used in industrial control systems, such as PLCs (programmable logic controllers), due to its excellent solderability and corrosion resistance.
All things considered, ENIG is a flexible Surface Finish ideal for various operations, especially those that demand high reliability, outstanding oxidation resistance, and exceptional solderability.
How to Apply the ENIG Finish?
Applying ENIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold) Surface Finish involves several phases.
An outline of the procedure is provided below:
- Cleaning: The first step is to clean the PCB to remove any contaminants, such as oil, dirt, and fingerprints. This can be done using a cleaning solution, such as an alkaline cleaner, followed by a deionized water rinse.
- Micro-Etching: The PCB is then micro-etched using an acid solution, such as sulfuric acid, to remove any oxide layers and to provide a clean surface for plating.
- Activation: The PCB is activated using a palladium-based activator solution. This solution promotes the deposition of nickel onto the surface of the PCB.
- Electroless Nickel Deposition: The PCB is then immersed in an electroless nickel bath containing a reducing agent and nickel ions. The nickel ions are deposited onto the activated surface of the PCB to form a uniform nickel layer.
- Immersion Gold Deposition: The PCB is then immersed in a gold bath containing a reducing agent and gold ions. The gold ions are deposited onto the surface of the nickel layer to form a uniform gold layer.
- Final Rinsing and Drying: The PCB is then dried with deionized water.
It is crucial to remember that the ENIG method necessitates careful management of the plating composition and process variables to guarantee reliable and consistent coating. In order to ensure adhesion and get rid of any leftover chemicals from the PCB surface, the procedure can additionally need post-treatment, including baking.
In general, the ENIG Surface Finish procedure is intricate and demands specific tools and knowledge. To guarantee the most significant outcomes, PCB producers should collaborate with vendors with a wealth of process knowledge.
What is in ENEPIG in Printed Circuit Boards?
A surface finish called ENEPIG (Electroless Nickel Electroless Palladium Immersion Gold) is employed in PCBs. ENEPIG consists of three layers:
- A layer of electroless nickel
- A layer of electroless palladium
- A layer of immersion gold
Between foundation copper lines and the remaining tiers of the surface, the electroless nickel layer is an obstacle to prohibiting copper from diffusing into those layers. The electroless palladium layer enhances the gold layer’s adherence and stops the development of nickel reaction products. The immersion gold layer provides a protective covering and improved PCB solderability.
Depending on the requirements of each application, each layer’s structure and depth may change. Generally speaking, the nickel layer is more profound than in ENIG. The palladium layer is incorporated to enhance the finish’s effectiveness in stressful settings.
In recent years, ENEPIG has grown in popularity, especially for high-reliability applications, including aerospace, medical technology, and military applications. It has many advantages over conventional surface finishes, including higher wire bondability, enhanced adhesion, and improved resistance to corrosion. The procedure is more complicated than ENIG to provide consistent and uniform coating and calls for careful control of the plating chemical and process variables.
Advantages of Using ENEPIG Surface Finish
In contrast to existing surface finishes, such as ENIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold) and HASL, ENEPIG (Electroless Nickel Electroless Palladium Immersion Gold) has a variety of benefits (Hot Air Solder Leveling).
Some of the advantages of using ENEPIG include the ones below.
- High Reliability: ENEPIG has a high level of reliability, making it an ideal choice for applications that require long-term performance and durability, such as aerospace, medical, and military applications.
- Improved Corrosion Resistance: ENEPIG provides improved corrosion resistance compared to other surface finishes, such as ENIG and HASL. This is due to the palladium layer, which helps prevent the formation of nickel corrosion products.
- Excellent Solderability: ENEPIG has excellent solderability due to the immersion gold layer, which provides a flat and uniform surface for soldering. This makes it ideal for applications that require high-density component placement.
- Improved Wire Bondability: ENEPIG provides improved wire bondability compared to other finishes, such as HASL. This is due to the presence of the palladium layer, which enhances the adhesion of the gold layer and reduces the risk of wire bond failures.
- Lead-Free Compatibility: ENEPIG is compatible with lead-free soldering processes, making it an ideal choice for applications that require compliance with RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) regulations.
Disadvantages of ENEPIG Surface Finish
While ENEPIG (Electroless Nickel Electroless Palladium Immersion Gold) offers several advantages over other surface finishes, it also has a few disadvantages to consider before selecting it for a particular application.
Some of the disadvantages of ENEPIG include the following:
- Complexity: ENEPIG is a more complex process compared to other surface finishes, such as ENIG and HASL. It requires careful control of the plating chemistry and process parameters to ensure consistent and uniform plating.
- Expenditure: ENEPIG is generally more expensive than other surface finishes, such as HASL. The added cost is due to the additional layers and complexity of the process.
- Thickness: The thickness of the nickel and palladium layers can vary depending on the specific application requirements. If the layers are too thick, they can cause solderability and wire bondability issues.
- Potential for Palladium Whiskers: ENEPIG can form tiny palladium whiskers hair-like structures that can grow on the surface of the finish. These whiskers can cause short circuits and other electrical issues if they come into contact with other components or traces on the PCB.
- Environmental Concerns: ENEPIG contains nickel and palladium, which are considered to be environmental pollutants. Care must be taken in the handling and disposal of the chemicals used in the plating process to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.
Overall, ENEPIG provides several benefits over other surface finishes. Still, a few drawbacks exist before choosing a particular application. In addition to the unique needs of the application, it is essential to carefully consider the cost, complexity, and possibility of palladium whiskers.
Applications Using ENEPIG Surface Finish
An excellent option for many high-reliability and high-performance applications, ENEPIG (Electroless Nickel Electroless Palladium Immersion Gold) surface finishing is a flexible finish with many advantages.
The industries listed below are just a few that use ENEPIG Surface Finishes.
- Aerospace and Defense: ENEPIG is widely used in the aerospace and defense industries due to its high reliability and durability. It is ideal for applications that require long-term performance and protection against harsh environmental conditions, such as temperature extremes, humidity, and corrosive substances.
- Medical Devices: ENEPIG is often used in medical devices due to its biocompatibility and corrosion resistance. It is ideal for applications that require long-term implantation or exposure to body fluids.
- Automotive Electronics: ENEPIG is also used in automotive electronics, particularly in safety-critical systems such as airbags and anti-lock braking systems. It offers high reliability and durability in harsh operating environments, such as extreme temperatures and vibration.
- Telecommunications: ENEPIG is commonly used in telecommunications equipment, particularly in high-speed and high-frequency applications. It offers excellent signal integrity and reliability, making it ideal for applications that require high-density component placement and high-speed data transfer.
- Consumer Electronics: ENEPIG is also used in consumer electronics, particularly high-end devices such as smartphones and laptops. It offers excellent solderability and wire bondability, making it ideal for applications that require miniaturization and high-density component placement.
Given its exceptional reliability, corrosion resistance, solderability, wire bondability, and lead-free compatibility, ENEPIG is an excellent option for various high-reliability and high-performance solutions. It is a well-liked option in multiple sectors and applications because of its efficiency and adaptability.
How to Apply the ENEPIG Finish?
The application method for the Electroless Nickel Electroless Palladium Immersion Gold (ENEPIG) Surface Finish is a multi-step procedure involving several chemical and electrochemical techniques.
The following procedures are used to apply the ENEPIG finish:
- Cleaning: The first step in the ENEPIG process is cleaning the PCB surface to remove contaminants or oxidation. Many techniques, such as alkaline, acid, or plasma cleaning, might be used to accomplish this.
- Pre-Dip: After cleaning, the PCB is typically pre-dipped in a dilute acid solution to activate the surface and promote adhesion of the subsequent layers.
- Electroless Nickel Deposition: The next step is depositing a thin electroless nickel layer on the PCB surface. This is typically done using an electroless nickel plating bath containing a reducing agent, stabilizer, and nickel salt. The reducing agent reduces the nickel ions to metallic nickel, which deposits on the surface of the PCB.
- Palladium Deposition: After the electroless nickel deposition, a thin palladium layer is deposited on top of the nickel layer using a palladium immersion solution. This helps to improve the solderability and wire bondability of the surface.
- Immersion Gold Deposition: The final step in the ENEPIG process is depositing a thin layer of immersion gold on top of the palladium layer. This is typically done using an immersion gold bath containing a gold salt and a reducing agent. The reducing agent reduces the gold ions to metallic gold, which deposits on the surface of the PCB.
- Final Rinsing: After the ENEPIG process, the PCB is typically rinsed thoroughly with deionized water to remove residual chemicals or particles.
Overall, the ENEPIG method is a sophisticated procedure that calls for carefully managing the plating chemical and process parameters to provide consistent and uniform plating. Moreover, to satisfy the needs of a particular application, the thickness of the layers of gold, palladium, and nickel can be changed. Compared to alternative surface finishes, the ENEPIG process has several benefits, including good solderability, wire bondability, and corrosion resistance.
Considerations When Choosing Between ENEPIG or ENIG Surface Finish
Towards a particular application, there are a variety of considerations to weigh when choosing between ENEPIG and ENIG surface finishes. We’ve gathered the information that one should be aware of before choosing the best surface finish for their purposes. Doing this can lower maintenance and repair expenses in the long term.
- Expense: The ENEPIG process typically involves additional steps and materials, which can make it more expensive than the ENIG process. Therefore, the cost of the surface finish should be considered when selecting between the two.
- Application Specifications: The specific requirements of the application, such as performance, reliability, and durability, should be considered when selecting a surface finish. For example, suppose the application requires high-speed signal transmission or miniaturization. In that case, ENEPIG may be a better choice due to its superior signal integrity and wire bondability.
- Lead-Free Compatibility: If the application requires lead-free compatibility, ENEPIG, and ENIG can be used as both surface finishes are compatible with lead-free solder alloys.
- Environmental Considerations: The environmental impact of the surface finish should be considered when selecting between ENEPIG and ENIG. ENEPIG typically contains less gold than ENIG, which can make it a more environmentally friendly option.
- Manufacturing Procedure: The manufacturing process used to produce the PCB should also be considered when selecting between ENEPIG and ENIG. ENEPIG typically requires more process steps and equipment than ENIG, making manufacturing more challenging.
Generally, the choice of a Surface Finish is influenced by the demands of the particular application, the production process, the price, and external conditions. Additionally, improved signal integrity, wire bondability, and corrosion resistance are just a few of the benefits ENEPIG has over ENIG. However, it may cost more and involve more production procedures. Although ENIG is a more affordable choice that works well in many applications, it could deliver a different efficiency level than ENEPIG.
Summarizing the Main Points: ENIG vs. ENEPIG in PCB Surface Finish
In summary, ENIG and ENEPIG PCB Surface Finishes are the two well-recognized gold treatments in the industry because of their exceptional capabilities, advantages, disadvantages, and wide range of purposes. We hope this post will help someone reduce their PCB Surface Option.
One need not seek further since PCBMay can apply a high-quality ENIG and ENEPIG PCB Surface Finish or any other available Surface Polishes to your application. In addition, we can meet any requirements you may have without compromising for subpar workmanship.
Stop deliberating and act now! Please send us your quote immediately to take advantage of our daily specials.