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 Exploring the Benefits of Immersion Tin PCB Surface Finish

Exploring the Benefits of Immersion Tin PCB Surface Finish

What is immersion tin or white tin?

Immersion tin PCB , also known as white tin. That is a surface finish used in electronics manufacturing. It involves applying a thin layer of tin onto the surface of a PCB to protect and enhance its solderability. This process is commonly used to prevent the oxidation of copper traces on the PCB. ensuring proper solder connections during assembly.

immersion tin PCB

Why is immersion tin used?


Immersion tin provides excellent solderability. making it easier to create reliable solder joints during the assembly process. The flat and smooth surface of the tin layer ensures good wetting and adhesion of solder. leading to consistent and robust connections between components and the PCB.

Flat Surface:

The immersion tin process results in a flat and uniform surface. This is particularly important for fine-pitch components and surface mount technology (SMT). where precise alignment and soldering are critical for proper functionality.


Oxidation Prevention:

The tin layer acts as a barrier that prevents the underlying copper traces from oxidizing. This is important for maintaining the long-term stability and performance of the PCB. Oxidation can degrade the electrical conductivity of copper traces. and compromise the functionality of the circuit.

Environmentally Friendly:

Immersion tin considered to be more environmentally friendly compared to other surface finishes. such as those containing lead or requiring the use of hazardous chemicals. It doesn’t involve the use of toxic substances. which aligns with modern environmental regulations and initiatives.

Fine-Pitch Components:

Immersion tin’s flat and uniform surface is particularly suitable for fine-pitch components. which have closely spaced pins. The even surface helps ensure that solder paste applied uniformly and that solder joints form reliably.


The immersion tin process can help planarize the surface of the PCB. ensuring that components sit flush and level. This is important for the mechanical stability of the assembly. and can contribute to better heat dissipation.

Wire Bonding:

Immersion tin is also compatible with wire bonding. a technique used to connect wires to pads on a semiconductor device. The even surface and solderability of immersion tin facilitate the wire bonding process.

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Disadvantages of Immersion tin PCB

Whisker Formation:

Immersion tin can be prone to tin whisker growth over time. Tin whiskers are tiny, hair-like structures that can grow from the surface of the tin layer. and potentially cause short circuits. Mitigation strategies, such as proper PCB design and storage conditions. can help reduce the risk of whisker formation.

Handling Sensitivity:

The surface of immersion tin can be sensitive to handling and contamination. Fingerprints and other contaminants can affect solderability, so careful handling procedures required.

Storage Life:

PCBs with immersion tin finish assembled relatively quickly after the surface finish applied. as the tin layer can be susceptible to oxidation if stored for an extended period.

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Thickness specifications of immersion tin PCB

The thickness of an immersion tin (white tin) coating on a PCB. typically falls within a specific range to ensure optimal performance and solderability. However, exact thickness specifications can vary based on industry standards. specific PCB manufacturers, and the requirements of the application. The immersion tin thickness is usually specified in micrometers (µm) or mils. The recommended thickness range for immersion tin coatings is commonly around:

Standard Range: 1.0 µm to 1.5 µm (40 µin to 60 µin)

These thicknesses chosen to balance the need for good solderability, flatness. and the prevention of tin whisker growth. Thicker coatings used for specific applications. but excessively thick tin coatings can lead to solderability issues and uneven surfaces. Thinner coatings might not provide sufficient protection against copper oxidation.

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How to apply immersion tin PCB?

Applying immersion tin (white tin) to a printed circuit board . involves a specific process that requires careful handling and adherence to industry standards. Below is a general outline of the steps involved in applying immersion tin to a PCB:


Clean the PCB to remove any contaminants, oils, and residues from the surface. This step is crucial for ensuring proper adhesion of the tin layer.

Chemical Deposition:

The PCB immersed in a chemical solution that contains tin salts. The most common solution used is stannous chloride (SnCl2) dissolved in water. The solution may also contain additives to control the deposition rate and improve the quality of the tin coating.


Before immersion in the tin solution, the PCB may undergo an activation step. This involves treating the surface with a solution that promotes the displacement reaction. between the tin ions and the copper surface.


The activated PCB immersed in the tin solution for a specific period of time. During immersion, the tin ions in the solution react with the copper surface to form a thin layer of tin.


After the immersion, the PCB is thoroughly rinsed with deionized water. to remove any excess tin solution and prevent contamination.


The PCB is carefully dried to remove any remaining moisture. This done using forced air or other appropriate drying methods.


The PCB is visually inspected to ensure that the immersion tin coating is uniform and adhering well to the copper surface.

Post-Treatment (Optional):

Depending on the PCB manufacturer’s process and requirements. there might be additional steps such as baking or reflow. to enhance the adhesion and durability of the tin coating.


The finished PCBs may undergo testing to verify their solderability. It’s important to note that applying immersion tin requires precision. and adherence to strict process parameters. Variations in temperature, solution concentration, immersion time. and other factors can impact the quality of the tin coating. Also, the immersion tin process can be sensitive to factors like panel size, PCB design, and equipment used.

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Causes of immersion tin circuit board tinning problems


Tinning issues can arise during the immersion tin process for PCBs due to a variety of factors. These issues can affect the quality of the tin coating, solderability, and reliability of the PCB. Here are some common causes of immersion tin tinning problems:

Poor Cleaning and Preparation:

Contaminants, oils, and residues on the PCB surface can hinder the adhesion of the tin coating. Inadequate cleaning and preparation of the PCB before the immersion process. That can lead to uneven or poor-quality tin coatings.

Inconsistent Activation:

Activation is a crucial step that promotes the displacement reaction between tin ions and the copper surface. Inconsistent activation can result in uneven tin deposition and poor adhesion of the coating.

Incorrect Tin Solution Parameters:

Incorrect concentration of tin salt in the solution, improper solution temperature. or incorrect immersion time can all affect the deposition rate and quality of the tin coating. Variations in these parameters can lead to non-uniform coatings.

Uneven Distribution of Current:

Electroplating processes, including immersion tin. rely on proper distribution of electrical current across the PCB surface. Poor current distribution due to uneven contacts. or design-related issues can result in non-uniform tin coatings.

Contaminated Solution:

Contamination of the tin solution with impurities or foreign particles. That can lead to uneven deposition and poor-quality tin coatings. Regular maintenance and monitoring of the solution’s purity are essential.

Tin Whisker Formation:

Immersion tin coatings can be prone to tin whisker growth over time. These tiny, hair-like structures can cause short circuits. Factors that contribute to whisker formation. include excessive tin thickness, stress in the coating, and storage conditions.

Poor Rinsing and Drying:

Inadequate rinsing after immersion and incomplete drying. That can leave residual solution on the PCB surface affecting the quality of the tin coating.

Surface Finish Compatibility:

The underlying surface finish of the PCB, such as copper traces treated with OSP. (Organic Solderability Preservatives), can affect the adhesion of the tin coating. Incompatibility between the surface finish and immersion tin process can lead to poor tinning results.

Panel Design and Layout:

The design of the PCB panels, including their size, shape. and arrangement, can impact the immersion tin process. Uneven distribution of solution or current. especially in large or complex panels, can lead to tinning problems.

Lack of Process Control:

Variation in process parameters or lack of consistent monitoring. and control during the immersion tin process. That can result in inconsistent and poor-quality tin coatings.

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