Trouble With Skewed DPAK Components

Trouble With Skewed DPAK Components
We are having trouble with surface mount DPAC components skewing during reflow. We checked our profile and tried a diagonal hatch aperture.
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Phil Zarrow
Phil Zarrow
With over 50 years experience in PCB assembly, Phil is one of the leading experts in SMT process failure analysis. He has vast experience in SMT equipment, materials and processes.
Jim Hall
Jim Hall
A Lean Six-Sigma Master Blackbelt, Jim has a wealth of knowledge in soldering, thermal technology, equipment and process basics. He is a pioneer in the science of reflow.



And welcome to Board Talk with Jim Hall and Phil Zarrow, the Assembly Brothers, who by day go as ITM Consulting. We're here to take your questions on process issues, components, materials, equipment procedures and try to help you resolve them.

Today Jim we have a question from B.O. We are having trouble with surface mount DPAK components skewing during reflow. We have checked our profile and have tried a diagonal hatch aperture on our stencil. We are still having problems with skewing DPAKs. Any thoughts?


Let's take this opportunity to say why do components skew? Defined correctly it happens during reflow, specifically right at the point where the solder metal in the solder paste melts and wets the surfaces of the pad and the leads on the DPAC.

We all know that if everything is balanced the surface tension forces will actually pull the component into correct alignment. Now skewing is when the component is not in the correct alignment so what has happened is that those same surface tension forces have somehow gotten out of balance.

There are a number of reasons to do that. The best way to do it is to optimize the reflow profile. Make sure that the heating of all of that pad reaches soldering temperature and all of the paste melts.

And all of that surface tensions around the perimeter of the big pad on the DPAK, which is what is causing you the problem, all that melts together. That the surface tension forces are balanced and do not skew the part.

So you want to make sure that you have adequate pre-heat. You may want to add a soak. Perhaps the best thing would be to go to a shoulder profile, recommend by Dr. Lee of Indium.

Where you actually in the profile use one zone just before the reflow right at the melting temperature to slow down the heating. You cool down the temperature of that zone. The profile would basically look like a straight ramp right up to just below the melting temperature.

Not this typical soak temperature, 10 or 15 degrees, one or two degrees below the melting temperature. And then you slow the profile down just as it goes through that melting.

Slowing down formation of surface tension, and minimizing the possibility that those nasty surface tension forces will get out of balance and skew your component.


Right and that is what about 30 seconds more or less?


Oh even less than that, 15 to 20 seconds. You need a big oven to do that because you have to use one zone. In my opinion you need at least a seven zone oven or that one-zone shoulder section will become too long.


As Jim mentioned, this float phenomenon we have seen, it has always been there. We've seen it in early reflow we used to see it in individual leads in parts, particularly two leaded parts.

The way we used to control it, and still do is by balancing the pads and the apertures, in other words the overall volume of solder on both sides. However, with your DPAK you are dealing with the same problem that people have with the big BTCs and the QFNs.

We have a very, very large area and it becomes much trickier to balance. As Jim said, shoulder profile can help. You should definitely experiment with some other aperture designs, some window paning.

Keep abreast with whatever people are writing about these days with regard to BTCs, certainly might be applicable to your DPAK.


And my answer to that, having read a lot of what people have published, is that it is component specific. What diagonal cross section you are using might work on one style of component, might not work on another one.

It all depends on the geometry and the paste and the thickness of the stencil and so forth. There are lot of different window paning pattern that you can try. From my experience it is going to be a trial and error process.

Much better to solve it with the reflow profile. And Phil made some good points. Be sure that your board is designed in terms of the shape of the pad, the solder mask around it, any vias adjacent to it are masked off and so forth.

So you don't have board geometry and construction issues that are causing these surface tension forces to get out of balance.


Very good. Well, I think that we hopefully covered it. I am sure our readers will have some input on some of their experiences.


Good point Phil. And thank you to all of you who comment, criticize us. We really appreciate it, and it is really a forum for sharing information.


With that said, whether you are soldering DPAKs, BTCs, whatever you do, please don't solder like my brother.


And don't solder like my brother.


What type of solder paste are you using, Lead Free will be much much slower to self center, its SG makes it adhere to itself so it wont grab the component; wrassel the component into place. Are there any ground planes or voltage busses running under the skewing component(s)? Busses will pull heat away from the components and cause uneven heating.
Ike Sedberry, ISEDS
Large bodies of bulk solder often tend to form a "dome" beneath BTC components, whenever the paste wets out to the PCB pad before it wets to the part. When this happens - even for an instant - your component is suddenly floating, delicately balanced, atop this dome. This is the moment when the skewing occurs. A dome of solder becomes a fulcrum, and the part is free to twist, tilt, or float sideways, with help from gravity and convection currents in the oven.

Other commenters have mentioned some great cures. Tinning the component pad encourages the solder to wet simultaneously to the part and PCB - drawing the part down instead of forming a dome. Reducing the overall solder volume can also help, as this will minimize the "dome height," so the part doesn't downhill. (You'll just need to ensure the reduced volume doesn't also reduce your coverage to unacceptable levels.) Window pane patterns may also eliminate the issue; in addition to reducing overall solder volume, it won't matter if the PCB surface wets first because a pattern of smaller mini "domes" can support the part balanced for a few moments, until the component wetting finally occurs.
Alan Couchman, Process Sciences, Inc.
For situations like this, I have found that pre-tinning the large DPAK pad with a small amount of solder and using about 30% of the large board pad for printed paste (.003" thick) will fix the issue. Remember, nothing solders to solder like ________ does. Pre-applied solder wets almost instantly across the whole DPAK part, while printed paste on the board pad may not due to differing heatsink issues. Qualify it on a sample of 8 parts first.
Richard Stadem, General Dynamics Mission Systems
On D=PAK's the IPC pad PWB footprint is not ideal... the footprint for the pads is not long, and everyone seems to try to get the foot on the pad and therefore shifts the thermal plane side at the edge of the pad. Reminder that the gull wing toes do NOT have to be on the pad, so recommend to place the toe at the very edge of the pad. Then the thermal plane will have more contact and not skew as easily. IPC should recommend a longer copper pad for the gull wing leads since that would help prevent such issues and give the thermal plane a better solder joint where it really matters.
Scott Murphy, Xetron
I recently had problems with some DPAKs, I discovered that if the front pins are not at the same level as the thermal pad, it shifts during the soldering process.
Roger Cespedes,Camtronics
If all else fails, chipbond/stake the part prior to placement/reflow.
Phil Skiba, TecNiq Inc
I didn't see if they were all skewing the same direction. It is assumed that the oven/conveyer is level. I would double check the leveling just to eliminate that possibility.
Steve Lee, IDA North America
I already corrected DPAK skewing by breaking the stencil aperture for the thermal pad of the DPAK in four smaller apertures, so breaking the big solder "lake" under the part in four smaller "lakes" during Time above liquidus on reflow. Then I recommend to check the part keeps its operation temperature the same as before
Helio Jose Cantarino, Heson Consultoria, Brazil
Some other suggestions: Choke the thermal land apertures more.

Place a 0402 solder pellet at the heel side of the gullwing land, set the toes of the gullwing leads at the toe edge of the land. The 0402 should clear and now you've got more solder on the gullwing side.
Scott Homan, IEC Electronics
Try rotating the board 90 degrees at a time and run your assembly thru the oven. You might find that the direction thru the oven will affect the out of balance wetting actions.
Jerry Wiatrowski, General Dynamics

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