Saturday, March 17, 2012

Clearing the Air About Fume Extraction

At, we carry a wide variety of products for fume extraction (such as the Hakko FA-400 and the recently blogged about, FA-430 Fume Extraction System). We understand that fume extraction is an important part of any soldering system and we thought providing our readers with a brief explanation of how fume extraction works would be a valued resource.

Our friends over at Hakko have created an excellent Tech Note about "The Purpose of Fume Extraction." We've edited this down to a few major points and highly recommend reading their full article at your leisure.

When soldering, harmful fumes containing gasses, aerosols, and particulate matter are created. Breathing in these dangerous fumes for an extended time can cause illness and irritation. As the article points out, both metallic and organic compounds are involved in the soldering process and the combination of those compounds, scorched board materials, and conformal coatings being heated are what lead to the potentially noxious fumes.

The main culprit, and what you really want to address when soldering, is flux smoke. There are several types of soldering flux and they create different fumes to extract.

The main varieties of flux are resin, no-clean, and water soluble. Each can create a different kind of irritant fumes.

Resin-based fluxes are the most popular and are usually made up of an organic compound (mainly, colophony, which is found in pine trees). The reaction of the acids in these fluxes can create irritation to the skin or eyes and sometimes other allergic reactions. Some resin-based fluxes contain chemical activators, which can cause further irritations.

No-clean fluxes can be organic or not, but most of them are more acidic than resin-based fluxes, and therefore, produce more potentially irritating fumes. Solder smoke from no-clean fluxes is based on the breakdown of alcohols and typically can contain acetone, terpenes, and formaldehyde among others.

Water-soluble fluxes usually contain carboxylic acids, which are organic, and a detergent. Both elements can create irritating fumes.

As we can see, most fluxes are made up of some type of organic material, and it is the breakdown of those materials under heat that causes the potentially dangerous fumes during the soldering process. Acids in fluxes can also react with oxides on the boards being soldered and also lead to fumes.

To provide protection during the soldering process, it seems obvious that the use of fume extraction systems not only makes sense, but should be a standard component of every work area where soldering will take place. can help you find a fume extraction system to suit your needs. We also offer a large selection of soldering/desoldering products to build the perfect system for your workplace. Visit our Web site to make a purchase or do more research. Or, as always, give us a call (800-966-6020) or send us an email and let our experts know what you’re looking for.

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