Electronic circuit board close up.

IPA – Isopropyl Alcohol:

Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) is a go-to standard within the Electronics Industry for cleaning PCBs (printed circuit boards) because:

  1. It’s cheap
  2. It removes ionic contamination (as long as it’s rinsed from the surface)

Over the years IPA has solidified its place within the Electronics Manufacturing industry as a universal cleaner to remove oil, grease, and other handling soils. Pair that with low cost and abundant places to buy it, it’s no wonder it found its place within this industry.

However, the polar nature of IPA makes it a poor cleaner for removing non-polar oil grease and other contaminates. An operator can encounter this problem more easily than you think and because of this, it requires another solvent capable of tackling non-polar contaminants on top of already using IPA. This can increase production times, cost, resources, etc. Additionally, IPA has the unique ability to naturally absorb moisture from the air when exposed called hygroscopy. Although this is a very cool phenomenon, this is a big disadvantage when using it for cleaning PCBs. Furthermore, most companies buy IPA in bulk, and most bulk containers can be subject to the air around them, especially when transferring to other application-type containers (spray bottles, etc). So, as mentioned above, this starts to essentially dilute the IPA over time leading to slower drying times and the increased likelihood of possible corrosion or electrical leakage due to the water-laden IPA and water’s high surface tension. This can be more critical than ever when you are working with fine pitch components with extremely small pockets where water can get in and never properly dry.

Lastly, IPA can be subject to water and oil additives. So sure, at face value it’s cheaper than most but a lot of times the purity of it can be compromised, leading to higher consumption and inadequate cleaning capabilities. There’s a saying that is fitting for this dilemma, “you get what you pay for.” This can only put fuel on the fire, introducing more ionic contamination rather than getting rid of it and make it almost impossible to get to the requirements of your customers, likely causing corrosion and eventual board failure, ultimately losing you time and money. To conclude, IPA is a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. Alluring you into thinking that you are saving money and time in the short term while losing vital capital and resources in the long run.


MultiEx N7-TS

Conversely, our MultiEx N7-TS is an aqueous, pH-neutral broadband cleaning and/or rinsing detergent for fine cleaning tasks. Optimally cleans SMD-paste, dust, fats, oils, and (conditionally) colophonium and flux, Something IPA could struggle with.

It was fabricated to quickly and thoroughly clean stencils, misprints, and for the stencil underside/flipside cleaning inside screen printers. Additionally, N7-TS is a great alternative universal cleaner for many different applications. Depending on the cleaning task and the requirements, it can effortlessly clean assembled PCBs, solder carriers, solder pallets, ESD boxes, and PCB magazines. When initially comparing the two, IPA seems like it would be the cheaper choice, however, once you have been using chemistry for weeks, months, even years, the high consumption of IPA really starts to add up. Just like the purchase of batteries, one factor is equally as important as price per unit, CONSUMPTION/EFFICIENCY! Check out our youtube video here, it can better visualize what we are getting at. N7-TS is capable of working at 30-40° C, thus allowing for less evaporation compared to IPA while simultaneously having the ability to run multiple cycles before you have to change out the chemistry. Available as a ReadyMix or a concentrate depending on your needs. Also, it is available for use in our Kolb machines with PowerSpray® technology and common spray-in-air cleaning systems as well as inside screen printers. Depending on the product and cleaning task, it’s also suitable for Kolb AirFlow® systems as well as common spray-in-immersion and ultrasonic cleaning systems.

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