By David Bao, Ph.D.
The discerning electronics manufacturer needs to know that there are three grades of solder. In order from highest to poorest grade, they are: (1) electrolytic; (2) virgin; and (3) reclaim. As the original innovator and leader in electrolytic solder, the solder manufactured and sold by Metallic Resources is 10 times more pure than traditional standards.
Beginning at the bottom, reclaim solder is the poorest since the reclaimer simply takes contaminated pot metal, smelts the dross out of it, recasts it, and sells it. When sold, the reclaim solder still contains all previous contaminants. Metallic Resources does not sell reclaim solder. Through the use of state-of-the-art refining technology, Metallic Resources converts a combination of impure virgin-grade solder, solder dross, solder paste, contaminated pot metal, and other materials into the highest grade of tin, lead, and lead-free solder.
Although the name suggests otherwise, virgin-grade solder is not free of contaminants, nor is it entirely pure. Virgin-grade solder manufacturers simply take virgin-grade tin, lead and other elements, then mix them together into the desired alloy – with both known and unknown amounts of metallic and non-metallic contaminants. Although many solder manufacturers may claim to meet the IPC J-STD-006 for electronic solder alloys, that standard is wide in latitude. In short, virgin-grade solder is anything but pure.
So why does electrolytic solder outperform reclaim and virgin-grade solder? Because the purity level is simply unmatched. To get there, Metallic Resources utilizes proprietary electrolytic-refining techniques. We start by melting and mixing impure virgin-grade solder, solder dross, solder paste, contaminated pot metal, and other materials together into an impure and contaminated anode. The tin/lead or tin anode is then placed next to a 99.99% pure cathode sheet and an electric current is run through the electrolytic bath. The impure and contaminated anode depletes into the bath. Only the pure desired alloy grows on the cathode sheet, while all other contaminants, metallic and non-metallic, precipitate out into the bottom of the tank as a sludge. The resulting tin/lead or tin cathode metal is 99.99% pure. This highly pure metal is then adjusted based on the desired alloy. Unlike reclaim and virgin-grade solders, this process results in less impurities and assures batch-to-batch consistency.
Through the electrolytic process, Metallic Resources can obtain triple zeroes of purity, whereas J-STD-006 only calls for electronic grade solder having single or double zero purity. With less contaminants, electrolytic solder from Metallic Resources features lower viscosity, lower surface tension, and greater fluidity, all resulting in:
The electrolytic process removes metallic and non-metallic impurities often found in “virgin metals” and reclaimed solders to provide purer tin and tin/lead solder. This purity results in a smaller crystalline structure which exhibits a shinier, more brilliant solder appearance.
Beyond these defining characteristics, electrolytic solder from Metallic Resources also yields less dross and is more sustainable than the competition. A solder that is lower in viscosity and surface tension will flow more smoothly and cause less turbulence. What this means is less dross generation compared to all other non-electrolytic and virgin-grade solder. Less dross means less waste, resulting in more soldered joints per pound of solder and greater cost-effectiveness. On top of this, the generated dross has less solder content for minimal solder loss, more efficient product usage, and greater economy. Finally, solder pots using electrolytic solder can be operated at lower temperatures to provide energy savings, extended pot life, reduced thermal stress, and reduced potential of contamination.