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The Basics of Failure Analysis in Printed Circuit Boards

February 29, 2016 Gretchen Hill 0 Comments

As people discover more and more possibilities with technology, the demand for more advanced equipment and devices become greater. Though other more advanced solutions have been made, most complex devices still rely on integrated circuits assembled on printed circuit boards (PCBs). As manufacturers try to increase the complexity of their devices and at the same time try to decrease the size of their devices, there is greater pressure for PCB manufacturers to pack more circuitry into boards. It is only this way that they can satisfy demands for more complex devices that come in smaller packages.

Printed Circuit BoardsThe problem is, as these boards become denser with integrated circuits, the possibility for errors to occur also increases. The fact that more complex designs are created can lead to new types of flaws. These errors are even harder to fix the smaller the chips are.

To help in resolving flaws with printed circuit boards, these PCBs undergo a process called Printed Circuit Board Failure Analysis during the course of manufacturing. The procedure aims to detect any flaws of varying degrees of severity and perspectives.

Types of Flaws in Printed Circuit Boards

There are three major types of flaws that may occur in a PCB:

o Material defects

Each type of PCB has a precise set of specifications that have to be followed when they are built to avoid any material defects. A semiconductor, for instance, that does not follow the exact specifications in its design will not have the properties and functionalities that are expected of them.

o Faulty electrical connections

These errors often occur when there are trace materials where there shouldn’t be above the threshold. In this case, one common signal that a PCB has electrical faults is overheating in any area of the board. It is the failure analysts’ job to detect the source of the problem so they can be properly addressed.

o Physical breakdowns

It is not uncommon for physical breakdowns to occur. These can be anything form rust spots to fractured parts. Cracks are also common, but it is important to find out first what particular type of crack it is—brittle crack, fatigue crack, or environmental stress crack—so the underlying problem behind the physical breakdown may be resolved to avoid any further similar damage to the PCB.

Techniques for Detecting PCB Flaws

There are a lot of failure detection techniques used by analysts in order to properly diagnosis a PCB for possible faults. There is a specific type of detection technique that is used for every type of PCB flaw. Each type of technique also has sub-types.

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For instance, microscopy is a common method used in failure analysis. However, there are several types of techniques under microscopy, and they are used for detecting different flaws. Spectroscopy is used in detecting trace elements that may lead to material defects, while acoustic microscopy is used in detecting possible physical breakdowns that may have occurred in the printed circuit boards.

Each type of detection technique also has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. This is why it is important for PCB manufacturing companies to have professional failure analysts in their respective teams. A manufacturing firm must have someone reliable when it comes to efficiently identifying the specific type of technique that has to be used in detecting a specific type of fault so that it can be given the right resolution. The use of the correct type of technique is important not only in being able to produce quality printed circuit board products, but also to be able to save money in the failure analysis phase of the manufacturing process.

#Pcb assembly#Pcb fabrication#Printed circuit board

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