What are Dry Cabinets in PCB Manufacturing and Assembly?

PCB Assembly PCB Fabrication 
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Editorial Team - PCB Directory

Dec 21, 2023

Dry Cabinets are specialized cabinets used in PCB manufacturing and assembly that are designed to create and maintain low-humidity environments, safeguarding electronic components from the detrimental effects of moisture. By maintaining optimal humidity levels, dry cabinets play a crucial role in enhancing the quality, reliability, and overall performance of electronic devices.

Electronic components and printed circuit boards (PCBs) are highly susceptible to moisture, posing significant challenges during the manufacturing and assembly processes. Moisture can lead to a range of issues, including oxidation, corrosion, and compromised electrical performance. As modern electronic devices become more intricate and densely packed with sensitive components, the need for meticulous moisture control becomes paramount.

This article delves into the intricacies of moisture control in PCB processes, highlighting the pivotal role that dry cabinets play in ensuring the integrity of electronic components throughout the manufacturing and assembly phases.

Understanding Moisture in PCB Manufacturing

Moisture has profound implications for electronic components and PCBs, primarily due to the hygroscopic nature of certain materials. When exposed to moisture, these materials absorb water molecules, leading to several adverse effects:

  • Oxidation and Corrosion: Moisture accelerates the oxidation process, causing corrosion on metal components such as solder joints and connectors. This compromises the conductivity and overall functionality of the PCB.
  • Electrical Leakage: Water absorption can create unintended electrical paths, resulting in leakage currents and short circuits. This can lead to erratic behaviour and failure of electronic devices.
  • Dielectric Absorption: Moisture can be absorbed by dielectric materials, altering their electrical properties and causing shifts in capacitance and impedance. This can impact the performance of capacitors and other components.

Discussion on Common Moisture-related Issues in PCB Manufacturing and Assembly

In the dynamic environment of PCB manufacturing and assembly, several common moisture-related challenges pose significant risks to the quality and reliability of electronic devices:

  • Soldering Issues: Moisture trapped in solder paste or on PCB surfaces can lead to defects during the soldering process, including the formation of voids and unreliable solder joints.
  • Popcorning: In surface mount devices (SMDs), moisture trapped within the component can cause rapid vaporization during solder reflow, leading to internal cracking known as popcorning.
  • Delamination: The presence of moisture between PCB layers can result in delamination, compromising the structural integrity of the board and affecting its thermal and electrical properties.
  • Reduced Insulation Resistance: Moisture can degrade the insulation resistance between conductive traces, increasing the risk of electrical shorts and malfunctions.

Understanding these moisture-related issues is essential for implementing effective preventive measures, and this article will further explore how dry cabinets serve as a critical solution in mitigating these challenges during PCB manufacturing and assembly processes.

How Dry Cabinets Work to Control Humidity and Moisture Levels?

Dry cabinets employ advanced technologies, such as desiccants or nitrogen purging, to regulate humidity levels within the enclosed space. The fundamental mechanisms include:

  • Desiccant Technology: Many dry cabinets use desiccant materials, such as silica gel, to absorb moisture from the air within the cabinet. This prevents the accumulation of humidity and protects stored components from moisture-related damage.
  • Nitrogen Purging: In some cases, dry cabinets are purged with nitrogen gas to displace the moisture-laden air. By maintaining a nitrogen-rich environment, the cabinets effectively inhibit the ingress of moisture.
  • Humidity Control Systems: Dry cabinets are equipped with humidity control systems that monitor and adjust the internal humidity levels to meet the desired setpoints. This ensures a consistent and controlled environment for sensitive components.

Key Features of Dry Cabinets in PCB Manufacturing

Desiccant Technology and Its Role in Moisture Absorption: Dry cabinets utilize desiccants, such as silica gel, to absorb moisture from the air within the cabinet. Desiccants act as moisture-absorbing agents, preventing the buildup of humidity and safeguarding electronic components stored in the cabinet.

Desiccant technology plays a crucial role in protecting PCBs by actively absorbing and neutralizing moisture, thus minimizing the risk of oxidation, corrosion, and other moisture-induced problems.

Humidity Control Mechanisms: Dry cabinets are equipped with sophisticated humidity sensors that continuously monitor the internal humidity levels. Based on real-time data from the sensors, the cabinets employ automated systems to adjust and maintain the desired humidity levels.

Precise humidity control ensures that electronic components are stored in an environment with optimal moisture conditions, reducing the likelihood of defects and ensuring the quality of PCBs.

Temperature Control Features: Temperature Monitoring: Dry cabinets often come with temperature monitoring systems to ensure that the internal temperature remains within a specified range.

The ability to regulate temperature contributes to creating a stable environment, complementing humidity control efforts and further preventing moisture-related issues. Some dry cabinets offer customizable temperature settings, allowing users to tailor the storage conditions based on the specific requirements of the components.

Benefits of Using Dry Cabinets in the Manufacturing Process

Dry cabinets contribute to enhanced component reliability by controlling humidity levels. This results in increased longevity of electronic components. Soldering processes become more efficient with dry cabinets. By maintaining optimal conditions during soldering processes, the quality of solder joints improves. This reduces the risk of defects and ensures the integrity of PCBs.

Dry cabinets also act as a shield for electronic components, protecting them from environmental factors such as moisture, dust, and pollutants. This protection helps to maintain the performance of components. Dry cabinets can help manufacturers save costs. By preventing moisture-related defects, the need for replacements and rework is reduced, resulting in cost savings.

Types of Dry Cabinets

Desiccant Dry Cabinets

Desiccant Dry Cabinets use materials such as silica gel to absorb moisture from the air inside the cabinet. They are generally more cost-effective than nitrogen dry cabinets. Desiccant technology is well-suited for environments that require consistent low humidity levels, as it provides efficient moisture control.

Nitrogen Dry Cabinets

Nitrogen Dry Cabinets use nitrogen gas to displace moisture-laden air, creating a low-humidity environment. They precisely control humidity levels, ensuring a stable and controlled atmosphere for sensitive components. These dry cabinets are particularly beneficial for applications where extremely low humidity levels are essential, such as semiconductor manufacturing.

Hybrid Dry Cabinets

Hybrid dry cabinets utilize both desiccant and nitrogen purging technologies to offer enhanced flexibility. They are versatile and can be used for various applications, allowing users to choose between desiccant or nitrogen modes based on specific requirements. These cabinets provide adaptability to varying humidity needs, making them an ideal solution for different manufacturing scenarios.

Selection Criteria for Dry Cabinets Based on Specific Manufacturing Needs:

  • Humidity Requirements: Consider the specific humidity levels required for the storage and manufacturing processes of electronic components.
  • Budget Constraints: Evaluate the budgetary constraints and cost-effectiveness of different dry cabinet options.
  • Application Specifics: Assess the unique needs of the manufacturing environment, such as the sensitivity of components and the desired precision in humidity control.
  • Flexibility: Determine the level of flexibility needed in terms of adjusting humidity levels and the adaptability of the dry cabinet to different manufacturing scenarios.
  • Space and Capacity: Consider the physical space available and the capacity required to accommodate the volume of components to be stored.

Best Practices for Using Dry Cabinets

Proper Storage and Handling of Moisture-Sensitive Components

Proper storage and handling are paramount to the effective use of dry cabinets in PCB manufacturing. Moisture-sensitive components should be securely packaged in materials like moisture barrier bags before being placed inside the dry cabinet. Sealing components within containers further minimizes exposure to ambient air, ensuring they remain in optimal conditions. Additionally, clear labeling of components with their moisture sensitivity levels and expiration dates facilitates easy identification and rotation of stock, preventing the negligent use of compromised materials.

Maintenance and Calibration of Dry Cabinets

Regular maintenance and calibration are essential for the sustained performance of dry cabinets. Conducting visual inspections on a routine basis helps identify signs of wear, damage, or malfunction. Periodic calibration of humidity and temperature sensors is crucial to ensuring accurate readings and optimal functionality. Monitoring and replacing desiccant materials as needed is part of proactive maintenance, contributing to efficient moisture absorption. Establishing a scheduled maintenance routine, including filter cleaning and overall system checks, further enhances the longevity and reliability of the dry cabinet.

Integration of Dry Cabinets into the Manufacturing Workflow

Strategic integration of dry cabinets into the manufacturing workflow is vital for their effectiveness. Proper placement involves positioning the cabinets to minimize exposure to external factors, such as direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, and drafts. Access control measures should be in place to restrict cabinet access to authorized personnel, reducing the risk of accidental exposure or mishandling of components.

These best practices collectively contribute to the optimal performance of dry cabinets in preserving the integrity of moisture-sensitive components throughout the PCB manufacturing and assembly processes. By incorporating these practices, manufacturers can enhance product quality, minimize the risk of defects, and extend the lifespan of electronic devices.


In summary, precise moisture control is crucial in PCB manufacturing due to the complex nature of modern electronic devices. Unchecked moisture can lead to corrosion and compromised performance. Dry cabinets, designed to maintain low-humidity environments, are pivotal in safeguarding components, enhancing quality, reliability, and overall performance.

Click here to view Dry Cabinets listed on PCB Directory from various manufacturers.

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