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How To Choose A Surface Treatment for PCB

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When selecting a surface treatment for printed circuit boards (PCBs), factors such as cost, reliability, suitability, and process requirements need to be considered. Here is a detailed analysis of six common surface treatment methods.


1. Gold Plating


Gold Plating


Gold plating is the most expensive surface treatment method but is also the most stable and suitable for lead-free PCB processes. It is highly recommended for high-cost or high-reliability electronic products due to its excellent performance and durability.


2. OSP (Organic Solderability Preservative)


PCB OSP


OSP is the lowest cost surface treatment and easy to operate. However, it requires some readjustments in equipment and process conditions in assembly plants and is not quite suitable for reworking. This limits its popularity. The protective film on the PAD is damaged after high-temperature heating, reducing solderability, especially after the second solder reflow. Therefore, if the PCB needs to go through multiple processes, DIP solderability will face challenges.


3. Immersion Silver


PCB Immersion Silver


Although pure silver has high mobility that can cause electrical leakage, modern "immersion silver" uses organic co-plated "organic silver," which meets lead-free process demands. This method also offers a longer shelf life for solderability compared to OSP boards.


4. Immersion Gold (ENIG)


PCB Immersion Gold


The biggest issue with ENIG finishing is the "black pad" problem, where some pads are not properly plated with gold or the gold is oxidized. Consequently, many manufacturers do not recommend ENIG for lead-free processes. Despite this, most domestic manufacturers in China use this method.


5. Immersion Tin


PCB Immersion Tin


Immersion tin can easily be contaminated and scratched, and it undergoes oxidation and color changes during the process. Therefore, most domestic manufacturers avoid using this method, and it also has relatively high costs.


6. HASL (Hot Air Solder Leveling)


HASL offers low cost, good solderability, reliability, and strong compatibility. Despite its excellent welding characteristics, the presence of lead in HASL means it cannot be used in lead-free processes.


Understanding these different surface treatment methods allows you to choose the most suitable PCB surface treatment based on specific product requirements and process needs.

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