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HQ 960845

March 4, 1998

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 960845 DWS


TARIFF NO.: 8443.59.50

Port Director of Customs
610 South Canal Street
Chicago, IL 60607

RE: IA 18/97; Solder Paste Screen Printing Machine; Explanatory Note 84.43;
NY A86708; 8479.89.97

Dear Port Director:

This is in response to your undated memorandum (CLA-2-CH CT-303-AC) to the Customs Information Exchange, New York, relating to a request for internal advice submitted by counsel for Fuji America Corporation on December 20, 1996, concerning the classification of a solder paste screen printing machine under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Your memorandum has been referred to this office for a response.


The merchandise consists of a solder paste screen printing machine, which is part of a surface-mount system for printed circuit boards (PCBs). The surface-mount system includes the screen printer, chip placer and/or multifunction surface mount or modular mounter, glue dispenser, digitizer, and various peripheral equipment. These machines are computer controlled and operate as an assembly line, connected by a conveyor system for the individual PCBs. Collectively, the machines are used to populate PCBs with electronic components and circuitry.

Counsel states that the process of populating PCBs begins with the solder paste screen printing machine. The unpopulated PCB enters the screen printer on a conveyor belt and is positioned within the machine by a "board stop." A camera within the machine swings into place between the top of the PCB and the bottom of a stencil made of metal. The camera photographs pre-set reference marks called "fiducials" on the PCB and the stencil, and then swings to one side. The machine is programmed to compare the alignment of the "fiducials" and adjust the position of the stencil to match the PCBs "fiducials."

Next, the PCB is raised to the level of the stencil and pressed against it. A squeegee is programmed to roll solder paste across the top of the stencil with a set amount of pressure. As it passes over the stencil, the squeegee deposits the required amount of paste exactly where needed on the PCB. The PCB is then lowered back to the conveyor belt and exits the screen printer to the next stage of assembly.

The solder paste acts as a glue for the components which will populate the PCB. At the end of the assembly line, the populated PCBs enter a "reflow oven", which is a heat tunnel in which the solder paste is baked into a permanent bond for the PCB and its components. After assembly, the solder paste not only forms a permanent bond but also provides the electrical connection allowing the PCB to operate.


Whether the solder paste screen printing machine is classifiable under subheading 8443.59.50, as other printing machinery, or under subheading 8479.89.97, as an other machine having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in chapter 84, HTSUS.


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

8443 Printing machinery, including ink-jet printing machines, other than those of heading 8471: machines for uses ancillary to printing; parts thereof:

Other printing machinery:

8443.59 Other:

8443.59.50 Other.

8479 Machines and mechanical appliances having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; parts thereof:

Other machines and mechanical appliances:

8479.89 Other:

8479.89.97 Other.

Although it is claimed that the solder paste screen printing machine imported with the other machines described above constitute a functional unit (see section XVI, note 4, HTSUS), we are limiting this ruling to the classification of the screen printer only, as is requested in the internal advice request.

In NY A86708, dated September 10, 1996, Customs held that solder paste screen printing machines meet the terms of heading 8443, HTSUS, and are classifiable under subheading 8443.59.50, HTSUS.

However, your office is concerned that, because the subject screen printer utilizes solder paste and not ink, it may be precluded from classification in heading 8443, HTSUS, and classifiable in heading 8479, HTSUS, under subheading 8479.89.97, HTSUS.

In understanding the language of the HTSUS, the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes may be utilized. The Explanatory Notes, although not dispositive or legally binding, provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS, and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989). In part, Explanatory Note 84.43 (pp. 1339 - 1341) states that:

[t]his heading covers all machines used for printing by means of the type, printing blocks, plates or cylinders of the previous

The heading also covers:

(1) Machines for printing a repetitive design, repetitive wording or overall colour on textiles, wallpaper, wrapping paper, rubber, plastics sheeting, linoleum, leather, etc. * * * * *


Machines for printing a repetitive design, repetitive words or overall colour on textiles, wallpaper, wrapping paper, linoleum, leather, etc., include:

(3) Screen printing machines. The material to be printed passes through the machine together with a stencil-screen band, the colour being applied through the stencil.

As Explanatory Note 84.43 demonstrates, screen printing machines are provided for in heading 8443, HTSUS. Nowhere in Explanatory Note 84.43 are goods of heading 8443, HTSUS, limited to those which solely use ink. In fact, in the description of screen printing machines above, the term "material" is mentioned; such a reference implies that materials other than ink may be used.

Therefore, it is our position that the solder paste screen printing machine meets the terms of heading 8443, HTSUS. Because the merchandise is included in heading 8443, HTSUS, it is precluded from classification in heading 8479, HTSUS, by the terms of heading 8479.

Consequently, we agree with the holding in NY A86708, and we find that the subject solder paste screen printing machine is classifiable under subheading 8443.59.50, HTSUS.


The solder paste screen printing machine is classifiable under subheading 8443.59.50, as other printing machinery.

This decision should be mailed by your office to the internal advice requester no later than sixty (60) days from the date of this letter. On that date, the Office of Regulations and Rulings will take steps to make the decision available to Customs personnel via the Customs Rulings Module in ACS and the public via the Diskette Subscription Service, Freedom of Information Act, and other public access channels.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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