IPC Testing

IPC Testing

What is IPC?

IPC was founded in 1957 as the Institute for Printed Circuits. Today, it is a global trade association representing the electronics industry with a focus on design, PCB manufacturing and electronics assembly. IPC has over 3700 members, including Aerojet Rocketdyne, Rockwell Collins, Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Training, and Parker Hannifin Electronic Controls.

William McGinley, seated at the right, a founder of the NTS Baltimore organization, was also one of IPC’s founding members and IPC’s very first IPC Hall of Fame Award recipient in 1977.

IPC Testing Qualification

NTS has been accredited to perform IPC testing since 1980 originally by the military and later by A2LA (American Association for Laboratory Accreditation) and most recently by IPC itself. NTS Baltimore, under the Trace Laboratories name, was the first laboratory chosen to participate in IPC’s new Product Validation Services program that began in 2013. NTS is accredited to the standard that outlines requirements for IPC qualified laboratories, IPC-QL-653, Qualification of Facilities that Inspect/Test Printed Boards, Components, and Material.

NTS performs testing to qualify products to numerous IPC specifications including these major ones.

  • Acceptance: IPC-A-610
  • Assembly: J-STD-001
  • Solderability: J-STD-002, J-STD-003
  • Assembly Materials:
    • Flux/Solder – J-STD-004, J-STD-005, J-STD-006
    • Coat/Mask/Marking – IPC-CC-830, IPC-4781
  • Printed Board/Acceptance: IPC-A-600, IPC-6012, IPC-6013, IPC-6015, IPC-6016, IPC-6018
  • Laminate:
    • Rigid – IPC-4101, IPC-4103
    • Flex – IPC-4202, IPC-4203, IPC-4204
  • Cleaning/Cleanliness: IPC-9202

Additionally, NTS performs testing per the IPC-TM-650 Test Methods Manual including testing per Section 2.1, Visual Examination; Section 2.2, Dimensional Measurements; Section 2.3, Chemical Testing; Section 2.4, Mechanical Testing; Section 2.5, Electrical Testing and Section 2.6, Environmental Exposure.

NTS Baltimore is an IPC test lab that is experienced in testing all levels of electronic products. We start at the materials level testing printed circuit board (PCB) laminate, copper, solder mask, conformal coating, final finishes, soldering materials, adhesives, marking inks, components, etc. NTS qualifies the completed bare PCB, as well as the completed printed circuit assembly (PCA) and offers full root cause failure analysis.

Let an expert IPC testing laboratory test your product

NTS staff serve as chairs or vice chairs of several IPC committees including the Assembly and Joining Committee, the Testing Committee, the J-STD-004 Flux Specification group, the SIR task group, and the Ionic Conductivity task group. NTS experts also contribute to numerous other committees as well as vote on the IPC advisory committee, the TAEC, Technical Activities Executive Committee.

NTS PCB experts developed the latest IPC-A-600 MIT/CIT/CIS training class, as well as the IPC-6012/600 MIT/CIT/CIS training classes. IPC-6012, Qualification and Performance Specification for Rigid Printed Boards, and IPC-A-600, Acceptability of Printed Boards, are used to assess the quality of rigid PCBs.
NTS has all of the resources and experience necessary to discuss, develop, perform, and interpret IPC qualification and conformance. Contact us today with any questions you may have.

Conformal Coating Qualification & Conformance Testing

Conformal coating is applied to electronic circuits to provide a protective barrier to moisture and contamination and to provide electrical insulation. The most common specifications used for conformal coating testing are IPC-CC-830 and MIL-I-46058.

IPC-CC-830 or MIL-I-46058

IPC-CC-830 is currently broken down into three categories as show in the table below. Column A testing for qualification, Column B testing for retention of qualification and Column C testing for quality conformance.  MIL-I-46058 is broken down into four categories: Qualification, Group A, Group B and Group C. The testing frequencies for each specification are outlined below.

Testing FrequencyIPC-CC-830MIL-I-46058
Required InitiallyColumn A, Qualification TestingQualification Testing
Required Every 2 YearsColumn B, Retention of Qualification TestingGroup C Testing
Required Every YearNot Applicable
Group B Testing
Required on Each BatchColumn C, Conformance TestingGroup A Testing

Although the MIL-I-46058 document has been canceled for new design since November of 1998, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) still maintains a Qualified Products List (QPL) for this document because the material is still being purchased for the manufacture of products that are being built to old military contracts.  NTS is a DLA-approved testing laboratory for this specification and can supply full conformal coating qualification and conformance testing including assistance interacting with DLA to complete the necessary application form.

There is currently no QPL maintained for IPC-CC-830 qualified products although one is being developed by IPC.  If you, the user, are responsible for supplier surveillance, we recommend reviewing your supplier’s actual dated test reports to confirm necessary testing is being completed.

NTS supplies testing services to conformal coating manufacturers and users including root cause failure analysis for adhesion, electrical, contamination and other issues.

IPC-CC-830 Conformal Coating Guidelines for Substrate Type and Quantity

TestTest Vehicle
Number of Specimens
1) AppearanceGlass4 coated; 1 uncoated
2) FluorescenceGlass4 coated; 1 uncoated
3) ThicknessGlass4 coated; 1 uncoated
4) Fungus ResistanceGlass4 coated
5) FlexibilityTin Panel4 coated
6) FlammabilityUL 94 test strips (1/2” X 5” bare laminate strips with the sides sanded)20 coated
7) Dielectric Withstanding Voltage (DWV)IPC-B-25A test boards (with the D-pattern wired)5 coated
8) Moisture and Insulation Resistance (MIR)IPC-B-25A test boards (with the D-pattern wired)4 coated; 1 uncoated
9) Thermal ShockIPC-B-25A test boards (with the D-pattern wired)5 coated
10) Temperature and Humidity Aging (Hydrolytic Stability)“Y” shape test assembly (with the resistors, one color coded and one with numbers/alphabets, soldered)5 coated

IPC-CC-830 Cleaning and Coating Substrates

  • Pre-Coating Suggested Cleaning Process
    • Clean test lead terminals with isopropyl alcohol, and scrub with a soft bristle brush for a minimum of 30 seconds.
    • During the remainder of the test specimen preparation, handle test specimens by the edges only.
    • Spray rinse thoroughly with fresh isopropyl alcohol.  Hold test specimen at an approximate 30° angle, and spray from top to bottom.
    • Rinse cleaned area thoroughly with fresh deionized or distilled water. Hold test specimen at an approximate 30° angle, and spray from top to bottom.
    • Dry test specimens in a drying oven for a minimum of three hours at an oven temperature of 50 °C ± 5 °C [122 °F ± 9 °F].
  • Coating
    • Completely coat all sides of the test vehicles.
    • Apply and cure the coating per the coating manufacturer’s instructions.

Qualification Program for Printed Circuit Boards

Many printed circuit board suppliers must be qualified to build per IPC-6012, IPC-6013, IPC-6016, or IPC-6018. Perhaps they are new to the specifications, or maybe they have worked with the specifications for decades. As the user of their products, you may request proof that their products are “up to snuff.”

You may even wish to request that they build your design and have it tested to ensure the quality and integrity of the board meet your standards. Would you want to load expensive components on a poorly built printed circuit board? Why take the risk? Check your suppliers out!

Both the IPC-6012C and IPC-6013B documents, as well as others in the IPC-6010 performance specification series, make it so that the qualification program is As Agreed Between User and Supplier (AABUS). Simply put, this means that you, as the “user,” can select any combination of specific tests or the entire array of tests for the supplier’s boards to undergo. A sound qualification program should include lot acceptance testing and periodic quality conformance testing to ensure product consistency.

List of Qualification Tests: IPC-6010 series (IPC-6012, IPC-6013, IPC-6016, and IPC-6018)

Below is a basic list of qualification tests, as shown in Table 4-1 of IPC-6012C for rigid boards and Table 4-1 of IPC-6018B for high frequency (microwave boards):

  • Visual Examination
  • Solderability (Surface and Through Hole)
  • Dimensional
  • Plating Adhesion
  • Bond Strength for Type 1 boards
  • Plated Through Hole Construction Integrity (prior to Stress)
  • Plated Through Hole Construction Integrity after Thermal Stress
  • Plated Through Hole Construction Integrity after Rework Simulation
  • Dielectric Withstanding Voltage
  • Continuity
  • Insulation Resistance
  • Thermal Shock
  • Cleanliness
  • Moisture and Insulation Resistance

In addition, IPC-6013B, Table 4-1, also suggests the following tests for rigid-flex or flex boards:

  • Bending Flexibility (used for a flex-to-install type of application)
  • Flexible Endurance (used for a continuous flex type of application)
  • Bond Strength of the Stiffener

IPC-6016, used for high density interconnect (HDI) boards, directs us to use the qualification inspections from IPC-6012, IPC-6013, etc., as applicable.
Typically, one or two boards or arrays are submitted for testing, along with the associated coupons that should be built onto the panel (A, B, A/B, D, and E coupons). These coupons should be built onto the panel, as they are useful tools for the supplier to perform their own in-house lot acceptance testing, as the coupons are representative of the panel. Note, however, many of the tests could potentially be performed on the PCB itself if the coupons are not available to send to the test laboratory. The figures below, taken from IPC-2221B Generic Standard on Printed Board Design, show the basic design of the legacy coupons:

Providing the Fabrication Drawing

When submitting samples for testing, sending a fabrication drawing with the samples is equally important because many requirements within the IPC documents are “as specified.” Without knowing the requirements, the test laboratory cannot always determine if it is acceptable versus nonconforming. By submitting the drawing, it will save the suppliers and the users of the product the time and effort of combing through the final report to find these items later.  We ensure that your drawings are kept confidential.
If you have further questions regarding qualification testing or other testing programs, please feel free to contact us.  We are committed to excellence, in our work and in the quality of your products!
NTS has all of the resources and experience necessary to discuss, develop, and perform validation-based test plans and test results.  Contact us at us today with any questions you may have.


IPC Training Courses at NTS

In the printed circuit board (PCB) / assembly (PCA) world, IPC training courses are the industry standard for evaluation and certification.  Based on specific areas of expertise, the IPC training courses are organized and structured to cover all of the key areas of the PCB/PCA construction process.  To help you with this, NTS staffs multiple Master IPC Trainers (MIT’s) to help certify you – at any NTS location or at your location! – for the following programs…

  • IPC-A-600 – Acceptability of Printed Boards: The must-have training for the understanding of the acceptance criteria associated with printed circuit boards.
  • IPC-A-610 – Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies: The most widely referenced standard from IPC, which is the foundation for most PCB/PCA QA departments.
  • IPC-6012 – Qualification and Performance Specification for Rigid Printed Boards: Typically ties to IPC-A-600, this document is dedicated to the acceptance testing and requirements associated with rigid boards.
  • IPC/WHMA-A-620 – Requirements and Acceptance for Cable and Wire Harness Assemblies: The IPC-A-600/A-610 version as it pertains to cable and wire harnesses.

If you’d like more information on our IPC or other training offerings, please contact NTS at IPCTraining@nts.com.

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