Defect of the Month

Bob Willis

When solder isn’t shaped correctly, the condition is known as head-in-pillow.

This month we show the ball surface on area array packages where no solder joint was formed. The joints were intermittent, but one of the surfaces – either the ball or the surface of the solder on the pad – was deformed. This is better known as head-in-pillow (HiP) or head-on-pillow (HoP), depending on the shape formed on the solder adjacent surface.

FIGURES 1 and 2 show examples of HiP/HoP. In Figure 1, the surface of the ball is shown after mechanically separating the device from the board. The indent of the solder from the pad on the board is visible.


Read more: Solder Surface Deformation

Bob Willis

Are you vacuuming the right way?

This month we see a solder paste print deposit with what appears to be migration of paste particles away from the main pad. If this is just a one-off, a careful wipe with acotton bud would avoid an unnecessary wash-off and reprint. Ensure the PCB surface finish can withstand a wash-off process; some surface finishes don’t like it. Wash-off can affect wetting and final solderability.

A few reasons for this defect, each of which could be the root cause:

  • Double printing or excess squeegee pressure
  • Solder paste contamination on the bottom of the stencil from a previous print
  • Misplaced or missing component
  • Vacuum hold-down of PCBs during printing with exposed vias under BGAs. Read more: Solder Paste Migration

Bob Willis

Measuring BGA joints can reveal process problems.

This month we show variation in the size of the solder joints on a section of a BGA. Measuring variation on solder ball size after reflow is useful. Even better is when measurements are taken automatically with an x-ray system, as this provides a good comparison tool between NPI and production builds.

Measuring NPI build, and saving the measurement data, provides a good point of reference when problems are seen on a build. It is also useful when moving between contractors or in the event of changes due to other process modifications.

Read more: What Solder Ball Size Variation Can Tell Us

Bob Willis

While coatings are typically used on boards, some choose to coat components as well.

This month we show manual conformal coating on one component. One optical example is shown under normal lighting and then under UV light, to show the tracer added in coatings to allow easy manual or automatic inspection. This is not a defect. I asked if this was intended, however, as it was unusual.

Traditionally, coatings are used to protect circuit boards in humid environments and more so in condensing conditions to prevent corrosion. On some occasions design engineers also use coatings to provide that little stability.


Read more: Conformally Coated Chip Caps
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