The coarse heterogeneous microstructure of SAC alloys makes the behavior of interconnections highly sensitive to its geometric length-scale. Heterogeneous integration and the resulting increase in package complexity and miniaturization are making this scale-effect ever more important. This scale effect derives from the anisotropy of tin and the coarse multi-tiered microstructural heterogeneities in SAC solders. As a result, no two joints behave the same and every joint is unique depending on its specific microstructure. Product teams responsible for reliable heterogeneous integration have to ensure that they have adequate methods to deal with this variability.

This paper highlights the multi-tiered microstructural morphology in SAC solders due to the solidification and crystallization process. At the highest tier in the joint microstructure are individual (highly anisotropic) grains that can be 100s of microns in size. At the next lower tier the primary heterogeneity is due to individual dendrites of pro-eutectic β tin, that can have lobes as large as 10–20 microns. At the next lower tier the characteristic heterogeneity is a eutectic mix of nanoscale Ag3Sn IMC particles dispersed in a Sn matrix.

Researchers have long recognized that the grain morphology is extremely important to mechanical behavior of BGA solder joints because they are coarse-grained (i.e. there may be only a few anisotropic grains in each BGA solder joint). However, heterogeneous integration has now led to joints that are much smaller (less than 100 microns tall), thus making them of the same length-scale as individual tin dendrites within each grain. In other words, there may be just a few dendrites through the thickness of the joint. Unfortunately, very little attention has focused on SAC behavior at such a small length-scale. This study focuses on the effect of the tin-dendrite morphology on the effective behavior of SAC solder joints, using a combination of experiments and multi-tiered anisotropic models that combine dislocation nano-mechanics with composite micromechanics. The volume fraction of β-Sn dendrite within one crystal could vary from 20% to 80%, depending on the time and temperature above the liquidus temperature and the cooling rates. The effects of volume fraction and aspect ratio of Sn dendrites on the anisotropic steady-state creep rate of single crystal SAC specimen are examined. The objective of the study is to provide insights into the role that solder microstructural heterogeneity will play on package reliability in heterogeneous integration.

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