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Repairing Water Damage on Your iPhone 4 with an Ultrasonic Cleaner

Written by  Dr. Bob Sandor
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With cutting-edge technology and a sophisticated design, the iPhone 4 has successfully redefined what a mobile phone is capable of. Among this smartphone’s features are a 326 pixels per inch (ppi) retina display, a multi-touch display as well as a 5.0 megapixel camera. With these top-of-the-line features, it is essential that your device is always in tip-top shape. Since this requires constant maintenance, an ultrasonic cleaner is a good investment to easily clean your printed circuit boards (PCBs).

iPhone 4 units can take a lot of abuse including being left out in the rain, dropped in the soup or otherwise rendered inoperable. Unless your iPhone 4 is irreparably damaged, it can most likely be restored to operation in an ultrasonic printed circuit board cleaner. With the same technology used by printed circuit board manufacturers, ultrasonic circuit board cleaning quickly and safely removes contaminants from the delicate components in your iPhone 4.

 

Here you will learn:

  • How an Ultrasonic PCB Cleaner Works

  • How to Select and Set Up your Circuit Board Cleaner

  • How to Disassemble, Clean and Reassemble your iPhone 4

How Ultrasonic PCB Cleaners Work to Restore Your iPhone 4

Ultrasonic cleaners> are used in a wide range of applications to remove virtually any soil or contamination by using the power of cavitation action. This is the term used to describe the implosion of billions of minute bubbles contacting iPhone 4 PCB components and surfaces. The bubbles are created by generator-powered ultrasonic transducers bonded to an ultrasonic cleaning tank and typically operate at an ultrasonic frequency of 37 to 42 kHz (37,000 to 42,000 cycles per second).

When the bubbles implode contaminants are quickly and safely removed from PCB surfaces without damaging delicate parts. So tiny are the bubbles that they penetrate minute cracks, crevices and blind holes that might lodge dried residue, dust and dirt particles. The ultrasonic PCB cleaning system will complete the job in as little as 10 to 15 minutes. And it will do it in an environmentally friendly manner because the ultrasonic circuit board cleaning solution formula is a biodegradable concentrate that minimizes disposal problems.

How to Select and Set Up your iPhone Circuit Board Ultrasonic PCB Cleaner

Ultrasonic PCB cleaners come in a variety of sizes from bench top units to a floor-mounted industrial ultrasonic cleaning machine, so you can select any size you need. Our most popular models for cleaning iPhone 4 circuit boards are the ¾ gallon Elma EH075EL and 1½ gallon Elma EH150EL. You should select an ultrasonic PCB cleaner equipped with a frequency sweep function, such as this Elma transonic http://www.iultrasonic.com/elma-transonic-elma-tih500mf2.html, to prevent damage to sensitive components during cleaning. Choose a model also equipped with a heater to improve the ultrasonic cleaning process.

Whatever the model and size of ultrasonic circuit board cleaner you use there are steps to take before cleaning begins.

  1. Fill the ultrasonic cleaner tank to the fill line (or approximately 2/3 full) with ultrasonic cleaning solution such as Elma tec clean A1 diluted 1:20 with water.
  2. Turn on the ultrasonic cleaner, set the heater to approximately 50°C, and operate for about 30 minutes to drive off cavitation inhibiting entrained air. Degassing is complete when bubbles stop coming to the surface and must be performed every time the tank is filled with fresh circuit board cleaning solution.

How to Disassemble, Clean and Reassemble your iPhone 4

Step 1: Disassembling your iPhone 4

The first thing you need to do is to remove the SIM tray. You can use either the official SIM removal tool or a paper clip for this as long as it will fit through the hole. Poke the tool or paper clip in the tiny hole to the right of your iPhone 4. Next, remove the back cover of the gadget by removing the two screws at the bottom. Note the gap before pulling it up, and it’s ready to be removed. Remove the screw where the battery connector is located. It is important to note which screws are for which holes. It is suggested that you write and mark the screws as you make your way inside the iPhone 4.

Using your tweezers, disconnect the battery from the mainboard. After you disconnect it, pull the plastic tab peeking from underneath the battery. The battery should just pop out. Make sure to remove the small contact as well. Remove the two screws found halfway where the battery is placed. Remove the tiny rectangular plate and set it aside.

For the top plate, there are five screws holding it together. You will need to unscrew them to take them apart. Set these screws aside. Remember that the screws in the iPhone 4 are of different sizes and it is important to know where each one will go. Once the five screws are loosened, you can now remove the top plate. There is a small round white sticker found in the middle left area of the iPhone 4. This is the warranty sticker. Damaging this sticker will void your warranty so it is important to handle it with care. It is however possible to remove the sticker carefully without damaging it.

Next, disconnect the flex cable and move it out of the way. In the place where you got the warranty sticker from, there is a screw. You will need to loosen and remove this screw and set it aside. Beside the camera of your iPhone 4, you will see five flex connectors that need to be disconnected. Pop them open with tweezers and you should see your small circuit board.

Remove the screw at the bottom of the iPhone. The stand off screw on top should also be removed using a small flathead screwdriver. Disconnect the antenna connector from your iPhone 4 circuit board. Once this is done, your iPhone 4 circuit board is now free.

You now hold in your hand, your iPhone 4 circuit board.

Congratulations! You have successfully removed your circuit board from your iPhone 4! You may now proceed with the next step.

Step 2: Cleaning the Printed Circuit Board

Set the PCB ultrasonic cleaner’s thermostat to 50°C and activate the Sweep mode. While the solution is heating, place your PCB in the basket. If you are cleaning more than one at a time take care that they do not touch each other. Once the operating temperature is reached lower the basket into the cleaning solution and set the timer for 10 minutes. Cleaning time depends on the condition of the PCBs and may have to be adjusted.

At the end of the cycle remove the components from the ultrasonic bath. If they are not clean replace them in the bath until the cleaning is complete. Then rinse them in distilled or deionized water to remove all traces of the cleaning solution and avoid water spotting. Dry them with an air blower or warm air dryer.

Safety note: DO NOT reach into an operating ultrasonic bath. Instead remove the basket if you want to inspect or rearrange the parts.

Step 3: Reassembling your iPhone 4

Once it is cleaned, put your circuit board back in place. You’ll know it’s correctly installed when it lines up with the respective tabs in your iPhone 4 unit. Return the screw for the speaker module, making sure it stays secured. This also secures the circuit board.

Take the screw that you removed with the small flat end screwdriver and secure the other end of your circuit board in place. Connect the five flex cables back onto your iPhone 4 circuitboard. Make sure they cover the circuit board since these cable serve as protection for your unit. Also, connect the big flex cable to the circuit board.

Start putting all the screws back to their respective locations. Return the top plate by screwing it back together, with the five screws. Return all the screws to their respective positions. Return the warranty sticker in place, still being careful not to damage it. Put the battery back, with the plastic strip underneath, and screw in to secure. Return the back cover, and secure with the two tiny screws found at the bottom. Put the micro SIM and its holder back in and make sure it locks in place.

Admire the piece of work you just put back together.

Voila! Start your device and your iPhone 4 should be good to go.

More Operating Tips

Any contaminants that rise to the surface of the bath should be skimmed off and disposed of properly. When the circuit board cleaning solution becomes discolored or cleaning takes longer it is time to replace it. Drain the tank and dispose of the spent solution according to local regulations. Take the time to remove any material that settled to the bottom of your ultrasonic cleaning machine. Clean the tank using a cleaning process recommended by the manufacturer.

Questions: Contact the iUltrasonic ultrasonic cleaning experts at 973 821-4400

 

Disclaimer: This advice is not provided by a licensed technician. Follow at your own risk. We assume no liability for any damages caused by following the advice in this article.

Last modified on Thursday, 10 January 2013 05:23
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Dr. Bob Sandor

Dr. Bob Sandor

Dr. Bob Sandor has authored over 40 patents and technical publications. Dr. Sandor has a B.S. in Chemistry from The University of Rochester and a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from Brandeis University.