Lead free electronic assemblies are often subjected to thermal cycling during qualification testing or during actual use. The dwell periods at the high temperature extreme during thermal cycling cause thermal aging phenomena in the solder material, including microstructural evolution and material property degradation. In addition, lead free solders can also experience aging effects during the ramp periods between the low and high temperature extremes of the cycling.

In this study, the mechanical behavior evolution occurring in SAC305 lead free solder subjected to various thermal cycling exposures has been investigated. Uniaxial test specimens were prepared by reflowing solder in rectangular cross-section glass tubes with a controlled temperature profile. After reflow solidification, the samples were placed into the environmental chamber and thermally cycled from −40 C to +125 C under a stress-free condition (no load). Several thermal cycling profiles were examined including: (1) 90 minute cycles with 15 minutes ramps and 30 minutes dwells, (2) air-to-air thermal shock exposures with 30 minutes dwells and near instantaneous ramps, (3) 30 minute cycles with 15 minutes ramps and no dwells (saw tooth profile), (4) 150 minute cycles with 45 minutes ramps and 30 minutes dwells, and (5) no cycling (simple aging at the high temperature extreme). For each profile, 10–15 samples were cycled for various durations of cycling (e.g. 48, 96, and 240 cycles), which were equivalent to various aging times at the high temperature extreme of T = 125 C.

After cycling, the stress-strain curves and mechanical properties including effective elastic modulus and Ultimate Tensile Strength (UTS) of all the cycled samples were measured. For each cycling profile, the evolutions of the mechanical properties were characterized as a function of the cycling duration, as well as the net aging time at the high temperature extreme. Comparison of the results of various thermal cycling profiles showed that the detrimental effects of aging are accelerated in a thermal cycling environment. Furthermore, microstructure evolution during thermal cycling has also been investigated to validate the observed mechanical properties degradation. The test results revealed that the mechanical properties degradation of SAC305 are higher in thermal cycling compared to simple equivalent aging. For example, the elastic modulus and UTS of SAC305 reduced by 41%, and 38%, respectively after 5 days aging whereas these properties reduced by 69%, and 51%, respectively after 5 days equivalent aging using thermal cycling profile #4 (240 cycles).

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