An X-ray micro-tomography system called SP-μCT, which has a spatial resolution of 1 μm, has been developed in SPring-8, the largest synchrotron radiation facility in Japan. In this work, SP-μCT was applied to the nondestructive evaluation of micro-crack propagation appearing as thermal fatigue damage in lead-free solder joints. The observed specimens include two typical micro-joint structures by Sn-3.0wt%Ag-0.5wt%Cu lead-free solder. The first is an FBGA (Fine pitch Ball Grid Array) joint specimen in which an LSI package is connected to a substrate by solder bumps 360 μm in diameter, while the second is a chip joint specimen in which chip type resistors 1.6 mm in length and 0.8 mm. in width are mounted on a substrate. A thermal cycle test was carried out, and the specimens were picked up at fixed cycle numbers. The same solder joints were observed repeatedly using SP-μCT at beamline BL20XU in SPring-8. An X-ray energy of 29.0 keV was selected to obtain CT (Computed Tomography) images with high contrast among some components, and a refraction-contrast imaging technique was also applied to the visualization of fatigue cracks in the solder joints. In the FBGA type specimens, fatigue cracks appeared at the periphery of the interfaces between the solder and the UBM (Under Bump Metallization) on the LSI package. As the thermal cycle proceeds, the cracks propagate gradually to the inner region of the solder bumps in the vicinity of the interface. On the basis of the three-dimensional crack images, the fatigue crack propagation lifetime was accurately estimated by means of the average crack propagation rate. On the other hand, in the chip joint specimens, fatigue cracks appeared and propagated through the thin solder layer between the chip and substrate. In contrast to the FBGA specimen, many small voids roughly 5 to 10 μm in length were formed in the solder layer. The important observed fact is that these voids deform and connect to each other due to the thermal cyclic loading prior to crack propagation. Consequently, the obtained CT images clearly show the process of crack propagation due to the thermal cyclic loading of the same solder joint. In contrast, such information has not been obtained, whatsoever by industrially employed X-ray CT systems.

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