Excessive solder on the pad could result in a floating part.

The QFN (quad flat pack, no leads) package can no longer be considered exotic. It was when I first wrote about it a decade ago, but not anymore. In fact, along with the wafer-scale BGA, it’s now one of the more common packages for new chip designs.

Not all QFNs come with an exposed metal pad underneath, but most do, and that can cause problems with reflow solder. The pad itself isn’t the problem, but improper solder paste stencil layer design can be.

The default stencil layer in the CAD library footprint might have an opening the full size of the metal pad. If that’s the case, modify the footprint so there will be 50% to 75% coverage with solder paste (FIGURE 1). If you don’t, it may result in yield problems. With a 100% open area, the likely result is too much solder in the middle. The part will ride up, or float, and may not connect with all the pads on the sides of the part.

Figure 1. The optimal QFN footprint will have 50% to 75% solder paste coverage.

FIGURE 2 shows a stencil with too large an opening in the center, a segmented paste layer in the CAD footprint, and the resultant segmented stencil.
You may note I said to shoot for 50% to 75% coverage and ask, “Well, is it 50% or 75%? What gives?”

Figure 2. Stencils shown with too large an opening in the center (left), segmented paste layer (center), and the resultant segmented stencil (right).

True, that is a bit ambiguous. Anything in that range should be fine for prototype boards, however. If the assembly is headed for volume production, work with the manufacturer to tweak the design for best high-volume yield.

The good news on this front is many QFN manufacturers and parts library creators have taken notice. It’s far more likely now than it was 10 years ago to find a datasheet correctly illustrating this and footprints created correctly. But, always check your footprints to make sure.

Duane Benson is marketing manager and chief technology champion at Screaming Circuits (screamingcircuits.com); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedInPrint Article