The reliability of solder joints on printed circuit boards (PCBs) is significantly affected by thermal fatigue processes due to downsizing and high density packaging in electronic components. Accordingly, there is a strong desire in related industries for development of a new nondestructive inspection technology to detect fatigue cracks appearing in these joints. The authors have applied the SP-μCT, a synchrotron radiation X-ray microtomography system, to the nondestructive observation of such cracks. However, for planar objects such as PCB substrates, reconstruction of CT images is difficult due to insufficient X-ray transmission along the parallel axis of the substrate. In order to solve this problem, a synchrotron radiation X-ray laminography system was developed to overcome the size limits of such specimens. In this work, this system was applied to the three-dimensional, nondestructive observation of thermal fatigue cracks in solder joints, for which X-ray CT inspection has been extremely difficult. The observed specimens included two typical joint structures formed using Sn-3.0Ag-0.5Cu solder: (1) a fine pitch ball grid array (FBGA) joint specimen in which an LSI package is connected to a substrate by solder bumps 360 μm in diameter, and (2) a die-attached specimen in which a 3 mm square ceramic chip is mounted on a substrate. The optical system developed for use in X-ray laminography was constructed to provide a rotation axis with a 30° tilt from the right angle to the X-ray beam, and to obtain X-ray projection images via the beam monitor. The same solder joints were observed successively using the laminography system at beamline BL20XU at SPring-8, the largest synchrotron radiation facility in Japan. In the FBGA type specimen, fatigue cracks were clearly observed to appear at the periphery of the joint interface, and to propagate gradually to the inner regions of the solder bumps as thermal cycling proceeded. In contrast, in the die-attached joint specimen, micro-cracks were observed to appear and propagate through the thin solder layer. An important observation was that these micro-cracks become interconnected prior to propagation of the main fatigue crack. The fatigue crack propagation lifetime was also estimated in both specimens by measuring the crack surface area and calculating the average crack propagation rate through the three-dimensional images. Consequently, the sectional images obtained by the laminography system clearly show the process of crack propagation due to thermal cyclic loading.

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