Ultimate Guide of Nitrogen Reflow Soldering for PCB Assembly

Posted by

What is Nitrogen Reflow Soldering?

Nitrogen reflow soldering is a process used in the assembly of printed circuit boards (PCBs) where the soldering process is carried out in a nitrogen-rich environment. This technique has gained popularity in recent years due to its ability to improve the quality and reliability of soldered joints, especially in high-density and complex PCB designs.

In traditional reflow soldering, the PCB and components are exposed to ambient air during the heating process. The presence of oxygen can lead to oxidation of the solder paste and component surfaces, resulting in poor wetting and potential defects such as bridging, voiding, and incomplete joint formation.

By introducing nitrogen gas into the reflow oven, the oxygen level is significantly reduced, typically to below 100 parts per million (ppm). This inert atmosphere minimizes oxidation and enhances the solder’s ability to flow and form reliable connections between components and the PCB substrate.

Benefits of Nitrogen Reflow Soldering

  1. Improved Solder Joint Quality
  2. Reduced oxidation leads to better wetting and more uniform solder joint formation
  3. Minimizes defects such as bridging, voiding, and incomplete joints

  4. Increased reliability

  5. Enhanced solder joint integrity improves the overall reliability of the assembled PCB
  6. Reduced risk of premature failure due to solder joint issues

  7. Wider process window

  8. Nitrogen reflow allows for a broader range of acceptable process parameters
  9. More forgiving to variations in solder paste application, component placement, and reflow profile

  10. Compatibility with lead-free solders

  11. Lead-free solders, which have higher melting points and are more susceptible to oxidation, benefit greatly from nitrogen reflow
  12. Helps achieve consistent and reliable results with lead-free solder alloys

  13. Reduced flux residue

  14. Nitrogen atmosphere reduces the amount of flux required in the solder paste
  15. Less flux residue on the assembled PCB, reducing the need for post-reflow cleaning

Implementing Nitrogen Reflow Soldering

Equipment and Setup

To implement nitrogen reflow soldering, you will need a reflow oven capable of maintaining a controlled nitrogen atmosphere. This can be achieved through the use of a nitrogen generator or a supply of high-purity nitrogen gas.

The reflow oven should be equipped with a nitrogen inlet and an exhaust system to maintain the desired nitrogen concentration throughout the soldering process. The exhaust system is essential to remove any oxygen that may enter the oven during the loading and unloading of PCBs.

Process Parameters

  1. Nitrogen purity
  2. The purity of the nitrogen gas should be at least 99.999% (5N) to ensure minimal oxygen content
  3. Higher purity levels, such as 99.9999% (6N), may be required for critical applications

  4. Oxygen concentration

  5. The oxygen concentration in the reflow oven should be maintained below 100 ppm, with a target of 50 ppm or lower
  6. Lower oxygen levels provide better results but may require more nitrogen consumption

  7. Reflow profile

  8. The reflow profile should be optimized for the specific solder paste and components used
  9. Nitrogen reflow may allow for slightly lower peak temperatures and shorter time above liquidus (TAL) compared to air reflow

  10. Nitrogen flow rate

  11. The nitrogen flow rate should be sufficient to maintain the desired oxygen concentration throughout the reflow process
  12. Typical flow rates range from 10 to 30 cubic feet per hour (CFH) per square foot of oven chamber area

Process Monitoring and Control

To ensure consistent and reliable results, it is essential to monitor and control the key parameters of the nitrogen reflow process:

  1. Oxygen concentration
  2. Use an oxygen analyzer to continuously monitor the oxygen level inside the reflow oven
  3. Set alarms to alert operators if the oxygen concentration exceeds the desired threshold

  4. Temperature profile

  5. Monitor the temperature profile using thermocouples or a profiling system
  6. Ensure that the actual temperature profile closely matches the optimized profile for the solder paste and components

  7. Nitrogen flow rate

  8. Monitor the nitrogen flow rate to maintain the desired oxygen concentration
  9. Adjust the flow rate as necessary based on the oxygen analyzer readings

Troubleshooting Common Issues

  1. Incomplete solder joints
  2. Possible causes: insufficient nitrogen purity, high oxygen concentration, incorrect reflow profile
  3. Solutions: verify nitrogen purity, check for leaks in the oven, optimize reflow profile

  4. Solder bridging

  5. Possible causes: excessive solder paste application, incorrect component placement, insufficient nitrogen flow
  6. Solutions: adjust solder paste stencil design, improve component placement accuracy, increase nitrogen flow rate

  7. Solder Voiding

  8. Possible causes: moisture in components or PCB, incorrect reflow profile, insufficient nitrogen purity
  9. Solutions: ensure proper storage and handling of components and PCBs, optimize reflow profile, verify nitrogen purity

  10. Flux residue

  11. Possible causes: excessive flux in solder paste, insufficient nitrogen flow, incorrect reflow profile
  12. Solutions: select solder paste with low flux content, increase nitrogen flow rate, optimize reflow profile


  1. Q: Can nitrogen reflow soldering be used with lead-free solder alloys?
    A: Yes, nitrogen reflow soldering is particularly beneficial for lead-free solder alloys, which have higher melting points and are more susceptible to oxidation.

  2. Q: How much nitrogen is consumed during the reflow process?
    A: Nitrogen consumption depends on the size of the reflow oven, the desired oxygen concentration, and the nitrogen flow rate. Typical consumption ranges from 10 to 30 cubic feet per hour (CFH) per square foot of oven chamber area.

  3. Q: Is nitrogen reflow soldering suitable for all types of PCBs?
    A: Nitrogen reflow soldering is suitable for most PCB types, including high-density and complex designs. However, some specialized PCBs, such as those with moisture-sensitive components or unusual materials, may require additional considerations.

  4. Q: Can existing reflow ovens be retrofitted for nitrogen reflow soldering?
    A: Many existing reflow ovens can be retrofitted with a nitrogen inlet and exhaust system to enable nitrogen reflow soldering. However, it is essential to consult with the oven manufacturer or a qualified technician to ensure compatibility and proper installation.

  5. Q: What is the typical return on investment (ROI) for implementing nitrogen reflow soldering?
    A: The ROI for nitrogen reflow soldering depends on factors such as the volume of production, the complexity of the PCBs, and the cost of defects and rework. In general, the improved solder joint quality and reliability can lead to significant cost savings over time, especially for high-value or mission-critical applications.


Nitrogen reflow soldering is a powerful technique for improving the quality and reliability of solder joints in PCB Assembly. By creating an inert atmosphere with low oxygen content, nitrogen reflow minimizes oxidation and enhances the solder’s ability to flow and form reliable connections.

Implementing nitrogen reflow soldering requires specialized equipment, such as a reflow oven with nitrogen control, and careful monitoring of process parameters, including oxygen concentration, temperature profile, and nitrogen flow rate. When properly implemented, nitrogen reflow soldering can significantly reduce defects, improve reliability, and increase the overall quality of the assembLED PCBs.

As the electronics industry continues to push the boundaries of PCB design and manufacturing, nitrogen reflow soldering is becoming an increasingly important tool for ensuring the performance and longevity of electronic devices. By understanding the principles, benefits, and best practices of nitrogen reflow soldering, PCB assembly professionals can unlock new levels of quality and efficiency in their manufacturing processes.