What is Peelable Solder Mask in PCB Manufacturing

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Introduction to Peelable Solder Mask

Peelable solder mask (PSM) is a specialized type of solder mask used in printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing. Unlike traditional solder masks that are permanently applied to the PCB surface, peelable solder masks can be easily removed after the soldering process. This unique property makes PSM an essential tool for various applications in PCB Assembly and rework.

What is Solder Mask?

Solder mask, also known as solder resist or solder stop, is a thin polymer layer applied to the copper traces of a PCB. Its primary function is to protect the copper from oxidation and prevent solder bridges from forming between adjacent pads during the soldering process. Solder mask also provides electrical insulation and improves the PCB’s overall durability.

Types of Solder Mask

There are several types of solder mask used in PCB manufacturing, each with its own unique properties and applications:

  1. Liquid Photoimageable Solder Mask (LPSM)
  2. Dry Film Photoimageable Solder Mask (DFSM)
  3. Peelable Solder Mask (PSM)
  4. Thermal Curable Solder Mask
  5. UV Curable Solder Mask

Advantages of Peelable Solder Mask

Peelable solder mask offers several advantages over traditional solder masks in specific applications:

1. Temporary Protection

PSM provides temporary protection to the PCB during the soldering process. It shields the copper traces and pads from solder, flux, and other contaminants, ensuring a clean and precise soldering result. After soldering, the PSM can be easily peeled off, leaving the PCB surface clean and ready for the next step in the assembly process.

2. Selective Soldering

Peelable solder mask allows for selective soldering of specific components or areas on the PCB. By applying PSM to the areas that do not require soldering, manufacturers can focus on the desired locations without affecting the rest of the board. This is particularly useful for rework, repairs, or when adding components to an existing PCB.

3. Improved Soldering Quality

PSM helps improve soldering quality by preventing solder bridges, shorts, and other defects. The temporary mask keeps the solder confined to the desired pads, resulting in cleaner and more precise solder joints. This is especially important for fine-pitch components and high-density PCB designs.

4. Cost-Effective

Compared to other rework and repair methods, peelable solder mask is a cost-effective solution. It eliminates the need for expensive equipment or time-consuming manual processes, such as desoldering or solder wick removal. PSM can be quickly applied and removed, reducing labor costs and increasing production efficiency.

5. Versatility

Peelable solder mask is versatile and can be used on various PCB types, including rigid, flexible, and rigid-flex boards. It is compatible with different soldering techniques, such as Wave soldering, selective soldering, and hand soldering. PSM is also available in different colors and formulations to suit specific application requirements.

Applications of Peelable Solder Mask

Peelable solder mask finds applications in several areas of PCB manufacturing and assembly:

1. PCB Rework and Repair

PSM is extensively used in PCB rework and repair processes. When a component needs to be replaced or a solder joint requires fixing, peelable solder mask can be applied to the surrounding area to protect it from solder and flux. This allows technicians to focus on the specific repair area without affecting the rest of the PCB.

2. Selective Soldering

In selective soldering, only specific components or areas of the PCB are soldered, while the rest of the board remains untouched. Peelable solder mask is ideal for this application, as it can be applied to the areas that do not require soldering. This prevents solder from accidentally bridging or shorting adjacent pads, ensuring a clean and precise soldering result.

3. Prototype and Low-Volume Production

Peelable solder mask is often used in prototype and low-volume PCB Production. In these cases, the PCB design may undergo frequent changes, requiring components to be added, removed, or repositioned. PSM allows for easy modification of the PCB without damaging the existing components or solder joints.

4. Conformal Coating Masking

Conformal coating is a protective layer applied to PCBs to shield them from environmental factors such as moisture, dust, and chemicals. Before applying the conformal coating, certain areas of the PCB may need to be masked off to prevent the coating from covering critical components or connectors. Peelable solder mask can be used as a temporary masking material, which can be easily removed after the conformal coating process.

Peelable Solder Mask Application Process

The application process for peelable solder mask involves several steps:

1. Surface Preparation

Before applying the PSM, the PCB surface must be clean and free from dirt, grease, and other contaminants. This ensures proper adhesion of the mask to the PCB. Cleaning can be done using isopropyl alcohol or other suitable solvents.

2. Mask Application

Peelable solder mask is typically applied using a brush, roller, or spray. The mask should be applied evenly, covering the desired areas completely. The thickness of the applied mask depends on the specific requirements of the application.

3. Curing

After application, the peelable solder mask needs to be cured to form a solid, protective layer. Curing can be done using heat or UV light, depending on the type of PSM used. Heat curing typically involves exposing the PCB to a temperature of around 150°C for a specific duration, while UV curing requires exposure to UV light for a few seconds to a few minutes.

4. Soldering

Once the peelable solder mask is cured, the PCB can undergo the soldering process. The mask protects the covered areas from solder and flux, allowing for precise and clean soldering of the exposed pads.

5. Mask Removal

After soldering, the peelable solder mask can be easily removed by peeling it off the PCB surface. The mask should come off cleanly, leaving no residue behind. If any residue remains, it can be cleaned using a suitable solvent or cleaning agent.

Choosing the Right Peelable Solder Mask

When selecting a peelable solder mask for your application, consider the following factors:

1. Compatibility

Ensure that the chosen PSM is compatible with your PCB material, soldering process, and other chemicals used in the assembly process. Incompatible materials can lead to poor adhesion, incomplete curing, or residue left behind after peeling.

2. Curing Method

Choose a peelable solder mask that suits your curing method, whether it’s heat or UV curing. Consider the curing time and temperature required, as well as the equipment available in your manufacturing facility.

3. Peelability

The peelable solder mask should be easy to remove after the soldering process without leaving any residue. Look for masks with good peelability to ensure a clean PCB surface after removal.

4. Thickness

The thickness of the applied peelable solder mask can affect its performance. A mask that is too thin may not provide sufficient protection, while a mask that is too thick can be difficult to remove or may interfere with the soldering process. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the appropriate thickness based on your application.

5. Environmental and Health Considerations

Some peelable solder masks may contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or other chemicals that can be harmful to the environment and human health. Choose a PSM that is environmentally friendly and complies with relevant health and safety regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Can peelable solder mask be reused?

No, peelable solder mask is a single-use material. Once applied and peeled off, it cannot be reused. Attempting to reapply used PSM can result in poor adhesion, incomplete coverage, and potential contamination of the PCB.

2. How long does peelable solder mask take to cure?

The curing time for peelable solder mask depends on the type of mask and the curing method used. Heat curing typically takes several minutes at a temperature of around 150°C, while UV curing can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes under UV light.

3. Can peelable solder mask be used on flexible PCBs?

Yes, peelable solder mask can be used on flexible PCBs. However, it is essential to choose a PSM that is specifically designed for flexible substrates. These masks have improved flexibility and adhesion properties to accommodate the bending and flexing of the PCB.

4. Is peelable solder mask suitable for high-volume production?

Peelable solder mask is more commonly used in prototype, low-volume, and rework applications. For high-volume production, traditional solder masks, such as liquid photoimageable solder mask (LPSM) or dry film solder mask (DFSM), are more suitable due to their durability and efficiency in large-scale manufacturing processes.

5. Can peelable solder mask be used for lead-free soldering?

Yes, peelable solder mask can be used for lead-free soldering processes. However, it is important to choose a PSM that is rated for the higher temperatures required in lead-free soldering. Lead-free soldering typically involves temperatures around 260°C, so the selected PSM must be able to withstand these elevated temperatures without degrading or leaving residue.


Peelable solder mask is a valuable tool in PCB manufacturing, offering temporary protection, selective soldering capabilities, and improved soldering quality. Its versatility and cost-effectiveness make it an attractive option for various applications, including PCB rework, repair, and prototype production.

When choosing a peelable solder mask, consider factors such as compatibility, curing method, peelability, thickness, and environmental impact. By selecting the right PSM for your application and following proper application and removal procedures, you can achieve clean, precise, and efficient soldering results.

As PCB designs continue to evolve and become more complex, peelable solder mask will remain an essential tool in the electronics manufacturing industry, enabling faster, more reliable, and more cost-effective production processes.