California EPA Certification and U.S. EPA Verification

In an attempt to gain market share, certain manufacturers of low-end ultrasonic stencil cleaners have tried to confuse customers and discredit Smart Sonic's Certification from the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) and the Verification by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ETV Program.*

These companies have obtained a copy of a communiqué from the U.S. EPA to Smart Sonic (public record) dated April 1999 and are attempting to misconstrue the information by telling potential users that Smart Sonic is NOT certified and the California EPA and other state EPAs do not perform such certifications.

Because Smart Sonic was the first (and still the only) stencil cleaning process to receive such prestigious recognition from the EPA, it was unclear exactly how the information should be published. The communiqué provided clarification to Smart Sonic for publication and advertising purposes.

The California EPA Certifies environmentally sound and user safe products and the U.S. EPA acts as a third party to verify the data provided by the California EPA. The communiqué in question simply serves to clarify that the U.S. EPA does not "certify" but provides "Verification" that the California EPA Certification data is accurate and correct.

The U.S. EPA Verification Statement for the Smart Sonic Stencil Cleaning Process can be viewed on the EPA website: Or, go to: (Click on "Verified Technologies" and "Aqueous Circuit Board Cleaners").

A copy of the California EPA Certification may be viewed on the California EPA website: Or,

While the Cal/EPA Certification has reached the expiration date, the official U.S. EPA Verification remains valid (see Cal/EPA DTSC letter below). To date, Smart Sonic remains the only stencil cleaning process ever to pass the rigid standards of the California Environmental Technology Certification Program and the only stencil cleaning process to complete the U.S. EPA's Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) Program*.

Unfortunately, with today's economy and environmental pressures, there are companies willing to lower themselves to any level for additional business. Fortunately, these people are well known for their tactics and potential users have not been fooled.

The U.S. EPA program is available to any commercial ready product. Rather than trying to discredit the program, these manufacturers should be submitting their products for evaluation.

Facts to consider when buying a stencil cleaner:
  1. Stencils are heat sensitive. Heated wash solutions and heated air used for drying should be avoided.

  2. Adhesives used to bond the stencil screen to the frame and to the metal etched foil are hygroscopic. Long cleaning cycles (5 minutes plus) can breakdown adhesive bonds of a stencil. Fast cycle times are important.

  3. Anyone can say a stencil cleaner is environmentally safe. However, Smart Sonic Stencil Cleaning Process is the only system to pass Cal/EPA Certification and complete the U.S. EPA's ETV Program*.

  4. When cleaning delicate stencils and misprinted PCBs, the lowest possible ultrasonic power required to achieve desired cleaning results is ideal. High-powered ultrasonics could be damaging to PCB components and circuitry. Other systems require high power ultrasonics because other cleaning chemistries are not as effective as Smart Sonic's 440-R SMT Detergent.

  5. Other manual ultrasonic stencil cleaners are designed to fully immerse a 29-inch stencil, which means their tanks must be deeper, and therefore the machine higher. To fully immerse a stencil requires the use of a basket with top mounted handles. Machine height = 42 inches, stencil = 29-inches, basket handles = 6-inches. Total lifting height to load stencil into wash tank = 77-inches. This is NOT a good ergonomic design. Because Smart Sonic is designed to clean only the contaminated portion of the stencil, the complete stencil is not immersed and a basket is not necessary. Smart Sonic Model 1500 height = 34-inches, stencil = 29-inches. Total lifting height = 63-inches to load and unload a 29-inch stencil.

  6. A larger wash tank means more chemistry use and more wastewater generated. Smart Sonic tanks are designed to use the least amount of wash solution.

  7. 440-R SMT Detergent is guaranteed to clean any type of solder paste from any fine-pitch stencil. Other chemistries only clean a select few types of solder paste. If flux types change in the future, another chemistry may be required if not using 440-R SMT Detergent. Other chemistries mean different waste streams and possibly different cleaning machines. Smart Sonic is guaranteed to support future changes.

  8. If cleaning SMD adhesives from stencils and misprinted PCBs, and cleaning post solder flux residues from pallets and/or oven radiators, as many as 3 different chemistries may be required if not using 440-R SMT Detergent. With 440-R SMT Detergent, all applications are safely cleaned with one chemistry.

  9. Smart Sonic stencil cleaners are able to use ANY cleaning chemistry. However, ONLY Smart Sonic stencil cleaners are able to use 440-R SMT Detergent. Smart Sonic provides the most flexibility.

  10. Smart Sonic provides a complete process from one source. Other systems require 2 or more vendors. If problems should arise, the two vendors tend to blame each other and the user is caught in the middle.

  11. Smart Sonic introduced the first ultrasonic stencil cleaning system in 1990. We have more experience in ultrasonic stencil cleaning technology than all other competitors combined. Our process has been certified by Cal/EPA and verified by the U.S. EPA's ETV Program*. It is guaranteed to clean any type of solder paste and has met the "test of time" with over 1,000 systems in operation worldwide. No other process comes close.

Don't be fooled into thinking that high-powered ultrasonics is beneficial in a stencil cleaner. Studies have shown that electronic assemblies can be damaged by high-powered ultrasonics.1, 2 Other ultrasonic stencil cleaners must use high-powered ultrasonics to help compensate for less effective chemistries. Smart Sonic's 440-R SMT Detergent enables us to safely clean stencils and misprinted PCBs without subjecting them to harmful high-powered ultrasonics. The lower the power -- the safer the cleaning.

1. Richards, B., Burton, P., and Footner, P., "Does Ultrasonic Cleaning of PCBs Cause Component Problems: An Appraisal," IPC Technical Review, June 1990, pp.15 - 27.

2. Vuono, B., and Crawford, T., "Ultrasonic Cleaning of Military PWAs," EMPF TS0040, April 1991

The most important factor of any cleaning process is always the chemistry. Smart Sonic uses ultrasonic agitation to deliver the 440-R SMT Detergent into fine-pitch apertures where spray jets cannot penetrate. Without the 440-R SMT Detergent, an ultrasonic stencil cleaner is just another cleaner.

CAUTION: Chemistries claiming to be "Drop in replacements for 440-R SMT Detergent." Because 440-R SMT Detergent is the most widely used and effective stencil cleaning chemistry, there are some other chemistries claiming to be "just as good" or claiming to be a "drop in replacement." 440-R SMT Detergent, as part of the Smart Sonic Stencil Cleaning Process, has passed California EPA Certification and completed the U.S. EPA's ETV Program*. No other chemistries have been certified or verified.

Any replacement chemistry for 440-R SMT Detergent should at least have the following qualities:

Other ultrasonic stencil cleaners totally immerse a 29-inch (750mm) stencil while the Smart Sonic Models 1500 and 2000 only cover 26 inches. Why? Click here for answer.

of the Smart Sonic Stencil Cleaning Process
Only stencil cleaner GUARANTEED to clean any type of solder pasteOther stencil cleaners must use different chemistries to clean different solder pastes and make no guarantees of cleaning performance.No-clean, RMA, Water soluble and synthetic solder pastes can be cleaned in the same system at the same time. Multiple flux type users and/or users planning to change flux types do not have to purchase two or more systems.
Only stencil cleaner GUARANTEED to clean any fine-pitch stencilOther stencil cleaners have difficulty cleaning apertures smaller than 25 mil pitch.All apertures will be cleaned regardless of the pitch now or in the future. A cleaner stencil will perform better.
Only stencil cleaner to have been certified ENVIRONMENTALLY SAFE by the California EPA Other stencil cleaners are not certified and may need to be replaced in the near future to meet ever changing environmental regulationsHelps provide data to meet EPA environmental regulations now and into the future.
Complete turn-key process from one sourceOther systems provide only a "piece of the puzzle" One vendor for the machine, a different vendor for the chemistry and still another for the waste management.Smart Sonic owns and guarantees the entire process. If something fails with the competitor's system, fingers are always pointed toward the other vendor as the source of the problem.
440-R SMT Detergent is a non-hazardous chemistryOther systems use flammable/explosive solvents or saponifiers that require hot water that can scald personnel.Users are not needlessly exposed to potential fire / explosion or hot water hazards. No special fire or liability insurance required.
Process cleans at ambient temperatureOther systems that clean at ambient temperature use hazardous solvents. All other aqueous systems require heat. Hot water creates water vapor that can contaminate the assembly area.Stencils are heat sensitive. Adhesives bonding the screen to the frame and metal etched foil are heat-cured and can debond if washed in hot water or dried with hot air. Fine-pitch apertures can expand/contract and distort. Smart Sonic's ambient process eliminates these problems.
Field tested since 1990Other systems are constantly changing in an attempt to meet Smart Sonic's performance, safety and environmental standards.Smart Sonic has met the "Test of Time." The same process has met all environmental, safety and cleaning standards since it's introduction in 1990. Other systems have required replacement or modification.
Over 1,000 systems in operationThere have been many stencil cleaners introduced since 1990. Smart Sonic is one of the few survivors. Smart Sonic is the only process not requiring modificationUser is assured of a lasting process not requiring costly modifications or replacement to keep pace with changing regulations or flux types.
Ultrasonics clean where sprays cannot reachSprays bounce off and cannot penetrate fine-pitch apertures. Ultrasonics microscopically "scrub" each individual aperture assuring all apertures are clear.Smart Sonic's ultrasonic cleaning action guarantees to clean any fine or ultra fine-pitch stencil. A cleaner stencil will improve production and reduce misprints.
Cleans any size stencil for complete flexibilityOther systems clean 20", 30" or 40" stencils, not all three sizes.As technology and stencil sizes change, a Smart Sonic system will support those changes without the need to change machines.
Non flammable, non explosive chemistryOther systems use flammable and/or explosive solvents.No special transportation or storage requirements. Systems using flammable solvents require costly fire suppression systems, in case of explosion, and isolation from other equipment and electrical sources increasing the footprint requirement
No VOCsOther systems use saponifiers or solvents containing VOCs.VOCs are the current target of the AQMD and EPA. Systems using VOCs will require modification or replacement.
Chemistry has mild pleasant odorOther system use offensive solvents and harsh saponifiersImproved working environment
Low MaintenanceOther system utilize recirculating wash systems, high pressure sprays, and complicated filtration systemsSmart Sonic does not recirculate, use high-pressure sprays or filtration systems. Less downtime
Low chemistry consumptionOther systems have a "loading factor" to the solvent or the saponifier requires constant replenishment.440-R is not consumed during the cleaning process. Less time monitoring chemistry and lower operating cost
Low energy consumptionOther systems require heated wash solutions and/or heated dryersAmbient processing uses less energy and lowers operating cost
Fast cycle times (1-2 minutes to wash and rinse, 2-6 minutes for optional low temperature drying)Other systems require 15-25 minutes to clean a stencilFaster throughput improves production and reduces operator interface time.
Fast and easy load and unloadSystems using high pressure sprays require complicated fixturing to hold stencilEasier operation, less damage to stencils and improved throughput
Simple operation - load and press one button.No calibration, chemistry titration, or cycle parameter changesLess training and user orientation required. Improved throughput
No liquid hazardous waste disposalOther systems require expensive filtration systems or hauling of hazardous liquid waste creating long term liability exposureSmart Sonic's liquid waste qualifies for routine evaporation. The non hazardous liquid is sent to atmosphere reducing the waste to the original solid solder paste for recycling. (The waste can be filtered if desired).
Nothing is sent to drainFiltering liquid waste requires drain disposal or hauling of the effluent.Drain disposal presents long term liability exposure.
Recommend by stencil manufacturesHigh pressure spray systems can damage the delicate land mass areas between fine-pitch apertures. Systems using hot wash solutions and/or hot drying air can debond heat cured stencil adhesives and distort fine-pitch apertures.The Smart Sonic ultrasonic/ambient process maintains the integrity of the stencil prolonging the life of the stencil and reducing misprints caused by aperture distortion, altered screen tension, etc.
Award winning processNo other stencil cleaning process has ever been recognized for cleaning performance, environmental or user safety.The Smart Sonic Process has been evaluated and tested by recognized experts in the field of surface mount assembly
Verified by the U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyOther systems are trying to stay one step ahead of EPA regulationsChanging environmental regulations are a major reason for changing stencil cleaning processes. Smart Sonic helps eliminate that concern.
Used by more major SMT assemblers than any other stencil cleanerMajor assemblers have approved the Smart Sonic ProcessContract manufacturers are assured of approval by potential major customers
Contract manufacturers are assured of approval by potential major customers AdvantageOther cleaning systems clean only a selected few types of contaminants One Smart Sonic Cleaner can take the place of two or three other cleaners

* Information on the performance characteristics of this technology can be found at, or call Smart Sonic at 1(818) 610-7900 for a copy of the ETV verification report. Use of the ETV® Name or Logo does not imply approval or certification of this product nor does it make any explicit or implied warranties or guarantees as to the product performance.

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