The coronavirus pandemic is leading to shortages of more than test kits, ventilators and, um, toilet paper. Due to the huge increase in demand for hand sanitizer, there is a now shortage of isopropyl alcohol—a key ingredient in some fluxes.

The pandemic is affecting the production of alcohol-based fluxes for electronics manufacturing. Rising prices and even sold out stocks are the latest developments. Water-based or hybrid fluxes, with low alcohol additions, are moving into focus as a alternative for use in electronics assembly.

“We are currently facing extreme conditions on the world market. From March 10-11 alone, the prices for alcohols, which are necessary for the production of alcohol-based fluxes, have increased by 400 percent in some cases,” reports Markus Geßner, marketing director for Emil Otto GmbH, a flux manufacturer in Eltville, Germany. “Our customers are noticing this development. This has led to a significant increase in demand on the customer side, which basically means that we will not be able to supply alcohol-based fluxes within days if this development continues.”

Water-based fluxes could be an alternative. Water-based fluxes are free of alcohol and thus independent of alcohol prices. Soldering results with water-based fluxes are good and in some cases superior to alcohol-based flux products, says Geßner. In addition, water-based fluxes are not flammable.

If assemblers process components that are sensitive to temperature, Geßner recommends the use of hybrid fluxes with a lower alcohol content. “Since we have to use less alcohol for these fluxes, we will be able to produce larger quantities here,” he says. “Water-based fluxes are no problem and here we are actively supporting our customers with advice and action if they want to use them at this point. In terms of price and process technology, they represent an attractive solution.”