Ask the Experts
November 10, 2008 - Updated
November 10, 2008 - Originally Posted

Opens on BGA Solder Joints

We are seeing some unknown solid substances around PCB pads after reflow soldering. These substances appear to be causeing opens on some BGA solder joints. How can we identify the composition of these substances? How can we confirm what has caused this problem?

E. W.

Expert Panel Responses

The answer to the question is the development of an analytical test protocol.
  1. The substance needs to be identified if it is elemental then a SEM / EDX needs to be performed to determine the elemental composition.
  2. The substance needs to be tested for organic composition as well This is done with an FTIR to determine the organic spectrum. This will then be put against other known spectrums to give a percent confidence of what the organic substance is or atleast what family it is in ie. Flux residue, uncured epoxy resin, etc. This gives one a good idea of where to look for root cause.
  3. Then once identified the root cause or source of the contaminate has to be determined and why it is there and effecting the solderability of the bga balls.
  4. Then one needs to replicate the problem to insure all variables are understood and then a corrective action will be developed to insure the problem is eliminated or atleast controlled depending on the real problem.
The issue could be excessive flux residue or uncured epoxy resin. A good test protocol will identify the substance and once identified then root cause can be determined. STI Electronics performs this type of failure analysis work daily and has the tools to find root cause. I hope this helps the company in need. Good luck.

Mark McMeen
VP Engineering Services
STI Electronics Inc.
Mark T. McMeen is STI Electronics Inc.ʼs Vice President of Engineering Services. He oversees the daily operations of the Engineering Services division of STI. He has over 18 years experience in the manufacturing and engineering of PCBs.

Contaminants on the BGA balls (left behind on the balls due to due to improper cleaning during the BGA mfg process) may be interfering with the solder paste during the SMT process; and causing the opens. There have been instances where plain tap water has been used to clean the BGA instead of DI water - during SMT reflow, these contaminants reacted with solder paste to form solid "gunk" and caused opens. BGA ball cleanliness needs to be verified. Also a BGA mfg process that uses a no-clean process could result in a wider process window because no contaminants are introduced due to a cleaning step. SEM-EDS & Raman Spectroscopy can be used to analyze the composition.

Karthik Vijay
Technical Manager - Europe
Indium Corp.
Currently with Indium Corporation and responsible for technology programs and technical support for customers in Europe. Over 15 yrs experience in SMT, Power, Thermal & Semiconductor Applications. Masters Degree in Industrial Engg, State University of New York-Binghamton.

From what you describe, it sounds like flux residues that are being left on the pcb. This can occur from either; too high a reflow temperature causing the flux to burn and contaminate the pcb or too low a reflow temperature causing the flux to wet to the board but not allow the solder balls to melt. You first order of finding a solution would be to use an optical inspection system like the VPI-1000 from Easy Braid Corp., It will allow you to look under mounted BGAs and determine what the material is.

Edward Zamborsky
Regional Sales Manager
OK International Inc.
Ed Zamborsky is a Regional Sales & Technical Support Manager for Thermaltronics, located in New York. His position requires frequent customer visits throughout North America and the Caribbean and his position encompasses not only sales but the role of trainer and master applications engineer for all of Thermaltronics products. His expertise includes such specialties as hand soldering, convection and conduction reflow techniques, array rework, fluid dispensing equipment, and fume extraction. Ed has authored many articles and has presented many papers on topics such as; Low Volume SMT Assembly, Solder Fume Extraction, SMT Rework, BGA Rework, Lead-Free Hand Soldering, High Thermal Demand Hand Soldering, Lead Free Visual Inspection and Lead Free Array Rework.
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