One of the major failure modes in lead-free solder joints is the brittle fracture at the solder/Cu pad interface under dynamic loading conditions. Such brittle fracture often leads to catastrophic premature failure of portable electronic devices. Therefore, it is desirable to design the package and the solder joints in such a way that brittle interfacial fracture can be avoided during drop test. To develop such design guidelines, we studied in this paper the dynamic failure of a single solder joint (SSJ). The SSJs with different geometry and substrate surface finish were prepared by laser-cutting from a BGA package assembled on a printed circuit board (PCB). The SSJs were tested under various shear loading rates, ranging from 5 mm/s to 500 mm/s. In conjunction with the experimental tests, finite element analyses (FEA) of these SSJ samples subjected to various loading rates were also conducted. Results from both experimental testing and numerical simulations show that the distribution of plastic strain near the solder/IMC interface is a key indictor of the failure mode. For a given sample geometry and loading rate, if the maximum solder plastic strain lies near the solder/IMC interface, the failure will be more likely to be ductile failure within the solder alloy. On the other hand, if the maximum plastic strain is mainly located at the edge of the interface between solder and the IMC layer with very little plasticity within the solder near the interface, brittle fracture of the IMC/Cu interface will be more likely to occur. Since numerically computing the plastic strain distribution in a solder joint is much easier than predicting joint failure, results of this study provide us with an effective means to predict the type of failure mode of a solder joint under dynamic loading.

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