The IPC assembly specifications have become the worldwide standard for virtually every company involved in printed circuit board fabrication, assembly, repair and prototyping. That is without question. What is in question amongst most in the industry is what exactly each specifications primary focus/purpose is. This is compounded by the many acronyms and combination of letters and numbers that are used for the specifications and revision levels. As an IPC Master Training Center we get calls every day from customers wanting to get IPC certified but don’t know which specification is best for their situation. So this should clear it up for everyone.

There are 6 primary assembly specifications: IPC-600K, IPC-6012F, IPC-A-610H, 

IPC/WHMA-A-620E, IPC-7711/7721D and IPC-J standard 001H.  The last letter in all these refers to the revision level.  For example, the J standard is at revision H which supersedes revision G.  Anytime there are substantive changes or additions, a new revision comes out and the spec gets the next letter as a suffix.  One hint, don’t try to apply any logic to the numbers and letters, they don’t follow any logical pattern.  To further complicate the alphabet soup, there are two “Space Addendums”.  The IPC/WHMA-A-620SA and IPC-J-001SA.  These are an additional set of criterion for aerospace applications.  We definitely want those technicians highly skilled!  All specifications are interrelated and utilize criteria from the other specifications in each one but their focus is different. The main focus of each is:


IPC-600K-Acceptability of Printed Circuit Boards.  This is for bare board fabrication and inspection.  The specification includes general technical information and pictures of internal and external defects as well as minimal acceptable and preferred conditions.  This certification class is all classroom study and includes no hands on work so it can be done virtually.

IPC-6012F-Qualification and Performance Specification for Rigid Printed Boards.  This covers qualification and performance of rigid printed boards, including simple single-sided through complex multilayer, with or without blind/buried vias and metal core boards. It addresses final finish and surface plating coating requirements, conductors, holes/vias, frequency of acceptance testing and quality conformance as well as electrical, mechanical and environmental requirements. This certification is all classroom study and includes no hands on work so it can be done virtually.

IPC-A-610H-Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies.   This is typically for final QC at an assembly house and incoming inspection of assembled PCA’s from an assembly facility or EMS partner.  This also is very pictorial and empirical in its documentation of good and bad solder connections for all types of SMT and TH components as well as other PCB defects.  All aspects of workmanship standards and inspection criterion are covered.  This certification is all classroom study and includes no hands on work so it can be done virtually.

IPC/WHMA-A-620E-Requirements and Acceptance for Cable and Wire Harness Assemblies.  This is for people terminating wires and building wire/cable harnesses.  It includes all types of crimp, solder and solderless connections and what constitutes a robust reliable assembly.  It is mostly classroom work but there is an optional hands on module for applying the practices learned.  The optional Space Addendum is available for NASA and other aerospace applications.   The primary certification is all classroom study so it can be done virtually however the optional hands on module must be done in person.

IPC-7711/7721D–Rework, Modification and Repair of Electronic Assemblies.  This is an intensive hands-on five day curriculum that will make the student extremely proficient in repair of most all SMT and TH devices as well as trach, pad and PCB laminate repair.  The 7711 portion is component removal and replacement.  The 7721 portion is repair of damaged TH barrels/annular rings, SMT lands and PCB traces, including inner layers of multilayer boards.  

IPC-J-001H-Requirements for Soldered Electrical and Electronic Assemblies.   This is the most comprehensive specification of the 6 and focusses on process control for building reliable electronics.  The certification course involves mostly classroom work but also hands on skills comprise approximately 40% of the five day curriculum.  This is generally considered the highest level specification and also has the optional Space Addendum.  To further the confusion, the J-001 also includes J standards-002 through J-006 specifications.

We’re not done with the acronyms yet!  All of these specifications are available in CIS (Certified IPC Specialist) level or “worker proficiency” (think operator level), CSE (certified Standards Expert) or “referee” (think lead technician level) and CIT (certified IPC Trainer) or “instructor certified”.  The CIT is a more rigorous curriculum, a higher level certification and qualifies the student to then train others to the CIS level.  All certifications are valid for two years then require recertification.  Perhaps the most important question is why invest in these training classes?  Some do because they are contractually required but most companies now see the value in proper training.  If we want to bring work back from low cost regions of the world we need to be more efficient, build it right the first time with better quality, quicker delivery to market and less field returns.  Better skills will make us more competitive in real “true” cost and more profitable in the long run.  The most successful companies realize that training is an investment, not an expense.  

Hopefully this clears up the alphabet soup of IPC specifications for you.  As always, if you have any questions you can contact our knowledgeable staff and they will be happy to help you. 919-552-3434 or training 

Circuit Technology Inc. is an IPC master training center based in Raleigh, NC.  They conduct regular training classes there and at their other training centers in MD, VA, SC, FL, CA, Costa Rica and Mexico as well as on location at customer sites throughout the world.  Circuit Technology is dedicated to helping our customers improve their PCB assembly and repair processes to improve their profitability.