What is Hot Air Solder Leveling (HASL) PCB Surface Finish?

What are the procedures involved, advantages and limitations of HASL surface finish? Comparison with Lead-Free HASL (LF-HASL)?

PCB Basics PCB Surface Finishes 
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Editorial Team - PCB Directory

Jun 19, 2023

Hot Air Solder Leveling (HASL) is a widely used surface finish in PCB manufacturing. It involves coating the exposed copper surfaces of a PCB with a layer of solder to protect them from oxidation and facilitate the soldering process during assembly. The solder-coated surface provides a flat, even surface for component attachment and ensures good solderability.

In the world of printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing, selecting the right surface finish is crucial for ensuring reliable connections, optimal solderability, and overall performance. Among the various surface finishes available, two common options are HASL (Hot Air Solder Leveling) and LF-HASL (Lead-Free Hot Air Solder Leveling). These surface finishes play a significant role in protecting the copper traces on PCBs and facilitating the soldering process during assembly.

Join us as we delve into the world of HASL and LF-HASL surface finishes, unraveling the intricacies that contribute to the reliability and performance of modern printed circuit boards.

The Process of Applying HASL to PCBs

The process of applying HASL typically involves the following steps:

  1. Flux Application: The PCB is first cleaned and coated with a layer of flux, which helps in removing any oxides from the copper surface and promotes solder wetting.
  2. Immersion in Solder Bath: The PCB is then carefully immersed in a bath of molten solder. The solder adheres to the exposed copper surfaces, creating a uniform layer.
  3. Excess Solder Removal: Once the PCB is lifted out of the solder bath, excess solder is removed using hot air knives or other techniques. This step ensures that the solder coating is level and does not exceed the required thickness.

Advantages of Hot Air Solder Leveling (HASL)

HASL offers several advantages as a PCB surface finish, which include:

  • Good Solderability: HASL provides a flat and uniform solder-coated surface, which promotes excellent solderability. Components can be easily attached and soldered to the PCB, resulting in reliable electrical connections.
  • Cost-Effective: HASL is a cost-effective surface finish option compared to some alternatives like gold plating or immersion silver. It requires fewer processing steps and materials, making it more economical for high-volume PCB manufacturing.
  • Wide Availability: HASL is a widely available surface finish and is supported by most PCB manufacturers. Its popularity and long-standing use make it a familiar and trusted option in the industry.

Limitations of Hot Air Solder Leveling (HASL)

Despite its advantages, HASL has a few limitations and considerations:

  • Uneven Surface Topography: The HASL process can result in a slightly uneven surface topography due to the leveling process. This unevenness can pose challenges for fine-pitch components or applications that require precise flatness.
  • Lead-Based Solder: Traditional HASL processes use lead-based solder, which may be a concern for applications that require compliance with specific regulations or environmental standards. The use of lead-based solder has been restricted in certain regions due to its potential environmental and health effects.

It is important for PCB designers and manufacturers to consider the specific requirements of their applications and regulations when deciding on the appropriate surface finish, whether it be traditional HASL or lead-free alternatives.

To address these limitations, lead-free alternatives to HASL, such as LF-HASL, have emerged. LF-HASL replaces the lead-based solder with lead-free solder, making it more environmentally friendly and compliant with regulations. Let’s explore LF-HASL as a PCB surface finish.

LF-HASL (Lead-Free Hot Air Solder Leveling)

LF-HASL as a Variation of HASL

LF-HASL, which stands for Lead-Free Hot Air Solder Leveling, is a modified version of the HASL process that utilizes lead-free solder alloys. It addresses the environmental concerns associated with the use of lead-based solder by replacing it with lead-free alternatives. LF-HASL provides a surface finish option that is compliant with environmental regulations and suitable for industries that require lead-free manufacturing.

Need for the Development of LF-HASL

The development of LF-HASL was primarily driven by environmental concerns and regulations regarding the use of lead-based materials. Lead is known to be harmful to human health and the environment, and various regulations have been implemented to restrict its usage. LF-HASL was developed as an alternative surface finish to meet the growing demand for lead-free manufacturing and comply with environmental standards.

The Process of LF-HASL

The process of LF-HASL is similar to that of HASL, with the key difference being the use of lead-free solder materials. The steps involved in LF-HASL are as follows:

  • Flux Application: The PCB is cleaned and coated with a layer of flux, which assists in removing oxides and promoting solder wetting.
  • Immersion in Lead-Free Solder Bath: The PCB is immersed in a bath of molten lead-free solder. The lead-free solder adheres to the exposed copper surfaces, creating a uniform coating.
  • Excess Solder Removal: Once the PCB is lifted out of the solder bath, any excess solder is removed using hot air knives or other techniques to achieve a level surface.

Advantages of LF-HASL

  • Environmental Compliance: LF-HASL is free from lead, which makes it compliant with environmental regulations and standards that restrict the use of lead-based materials. It helps companies meet their environmental responsibilities and reduces the impact on human health and the ecosystem.
  • Lead-Free Manufacturing: LF-HASL is well-suited for industries and applications that require lead-free manufacturing processes. It caters to the increasing demand for lead-free electronics in sectors such as automotive, medical devices, aerospace, and consumer electronics.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: LF-HASL, like traditional HASL, is a cost-effective surface finish option compared to some alternatives. It requires fewer processing steps and materials, resulting in lower overall production costs.
  • Wide Availability: LF-HASL is widely available and supported by most PCB manufacturers. Its compatibility with existing manufacturing processes and its established market presence make it a viable choice for many applications.

By adopting LF-HASL, companies can ensure compliance with regulations, promote environmentally friendly practices, and meet the evolving demands of industries that require lead-free manufacturing processes.

Application and Industry Use

Industries Where HASL and LF-HASL are Commonly Used

HASL and LF-HASL are widely used as surface finishes in various industries and applications, including:

  • Consumer Electronics: HASL and LF-HASL find extensive use in consumer electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, gaming consoles, and home appliances.
  • Automotive: Both HASL and LF-HASL are employed in automotive electronics, including vehicle control units, infotainment systems, sensors, lighting systems, and dashboard electronics.
  • Industrial Equipment: HASL and LF-HASL are used in industrial equipment such as control systems, motor drives, power supplies, and monitoring devices.
  • Telecommunications: These surface finishes are commonly utilized in telecommunication equipment such as routers, modems, switches, and base stations.
  • Medical Devices: HASL and LF-HASL are applied in medical devices and equipment, including patient monitoring systems, diagnostic devices, imaging equipment, and laboratory instruments.
  • Aerospace and Defense: These surface finishes are used in the aerospace and defense industries for avionics, communication equipment, radar systems, and military-grade electronics.

Other Applications of HASL and LF-HASL can be found in various other applications such as consumer goods, lighting, industrial control systems, and more.

Factors that influence the choice between HASL and LF-HASL

The choice between HASL and LF-HASL depends on several factors and the decision should be taken after an in-depth analysis of each of them. Restricting the use of lead-based materials drives the adoption of LF-HASL in compliance with Environmental regulations. While in Some industries, such as automotive and medical devices, industry standards require lead-free manufacturing processes. LF-HASL is favored in such cases to meet these standards. Specific customer requirements, particularly those related to manufacturing, may influence the choice of HASL as the preferred surface finish. Finally, Certain applications may have unique requirements that make LF-HASL more suitable while certain requirement pertains to the use of HASL.

Examples of industries that favor LF-HASL due to its lead-free nature:

LF-HASL (Lead-Free Hot Air Solder Leveling) is a manufacturing process that is particularly favored in industries requiring lead-free processes. These industries include consumer electronics, where the demand for environmentally friendly products is on the rise, leading to the extensive adoption of LF-HASL in devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The automotive industry also prioritizes lead-free manufacturing due to environmental regulations and the need for long-term reliability, utilizing LF-HASL for automotive electronic components and systems. In the medical device sector, strict compliance with safety and environmental regulations is crucial, making LF-HASL the preferred choice for manufacturing lead-free and environmentally friendly medical devices. Additionally, LF-HASL finds application in other industries such as aerospace, telecommunications, and industrial equipment, where meeting regulations and customer demands for lead-free manufacturing is essential.

By considering these factors and industry-specific requirements, companies can make informed decisions when choosing between HASL and LF-HASL as surface finishes for their PCBs, ensuring compliance with regulations and meeting customer expectations.


In conclusion, this article has explored the concepts of HASL and LF-HASL as PCB surface finishes and highlighted their respective processes, advantages, limitations, and applications. HASL is a widely used surface finish that offers good solderability and reliable solder joints. However, it may have limitations such as uneven surface topography and the use of lead-based solder.LF-HASL, on the other hand, is a variation of HASL that utilizes lead-free solder alloys. It was developed to address environmental concerns and comply with regulations. LF-HASL follows a similar process to HASL but uses lead-free solder materials, making it more environmentally friendly.

The choice between HASL and LF-HASL depends on various factors, including environmental regulations, customer requirements, and industry standards. Industries such as consumer electronics, automotive, and medical devices favor LF-HASL due to its lead-free nature and compliance with environmental standards. It is essential to select the appropriate surface finish based on specific requirements and considerations. Factors such as environmental impact, industry regulations, and customer demands should guide the decision-making process. By choosing the right surface finish, PCB manufacturers can ensure the reliability, performance, and longevity of their products.

Editorial Team - PCB Directory

Jan 15, 2020

HASL (Hot Air Solder Leveling) is a metallic surface finishing technique, which is performed on the outermost layer of the PCB board to protect the exposed copper surfaces like tracks until the component placement and soldering is completed.

The HASL coating is composed of Solder with 63% Tin and 37% Lead, and during the assembly process, this coating gets dissolved with the soldering material.

The HASL Coating is applied as per the steps below:

  1. The process starts with the immersion of the PCB board into a molten tin/lead solution, where all exposed copper area is covered by this solution.
  2. After that, a Hot Air Leveler (HAL) ensures the uniformity of solder deposit by removing the excess solder from the PCB board, using high pressure hot air knives. The purpose of this is to leave a uniform and thin possible layer on the board.
  3. This coating protects the copper traces from corrosion until the board goes in for the assembly process.

Advantages of HASL:

  • Resistance to copper corrosion
  • Excellent wetting capability during the soldering process
  • Provides excellent quality solder joint (solderability) by making component  soldering more effective
  • Economical
  • Can be re-worked easily
  • Suitable for Lead-free PCBs
  • Reduce the chances of PCB failure

Limitations of HASL:

  • It offers high thermal stress to the PCB, which results in defects.
  • Due to the inconsistent thickness of HASL coating, it’s not a feasible solution for SMT component placement.
  • Not suitable for PTH (Plated Through Hole) components.
  • Less environment-friendly
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