Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to describe the behavior of different lead-free solders (95.5Sn3.8Ag0.7Cu, i.e. SAC387 and Sn7In4.1Ag0.5Cu, i.e. SAC-In) in thermomechanically loaded non-collapsible ball grid array (BGA) joints of a low-temperature co-fired ceramic (LTCC) module. The validity of a modified Engelmaier’s model was tested to verify its capability to predict the characteristic lifetime of an LTCC module assembly implementable in field applications. Design/methodology/approach– Five printed wiring board (PWB) assemblies, each carrying eight LTCC modules, were fabricated and exposed to a temperature cycling test over a −40 to 125°C temperature range to determine the characteristic lifetimes of interconnections in the LTCC module/PWB assemblies. The failure mechanisms of the test assemblies were verified using scanning acoustic microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and field emission SEM investigation. A stress-dependent Engelmaier’s model, adjusted for plastic-core solder ball (PCSB) BGA structures, was used to predict the characteristic lifetimes of the assemblies. Findings– Depending on the joint configuration, characteristic lifetimes of up to 1,920 cycles were achieved in the thermal cycling testing. The results showed that intergranular (creep) failures occurred primarily only in the joints containing Sn7In4.1Ag0.5Cu solder. Other primary failure mechanisms (mixed transgranular/intergranular, separation of the intermetallic compound/solder interface and cracking in the interface between the ceramic and metallization) were observed in the other joint configurations. The modified Engelmaier’s model was found to predict the lifetime of interconnections with good accuracy. The results confirmed the superiority of SAC-In solder over SAC in terms of reliability, and also proved that an air cavity structure of the module, which enhances its radio frequency (RF) performance, did not degrade the reliability of the second-level interconnections of the test assemblies. Originality/value– This paper shows the superiority of SAC-In solder over SAC387 solder in terms of reliability and verifies the applicability of the modified Engelmaier’s model as an accurate lifetime prediction method for PCSB BGA structures for the presented LTCC packages for RF/microwave telecommunication applications.
Soldering & Surface Mount Technology – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 27, 2014
Keywords: Reliability; Thermal fatigue; Engelmaier’s model; High frequency; Lead‐free solders; Low temperature co‐fired ceramics (LTCC)
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