Devices mounted on printed circuit boards (PCBs) are subject to temperature variations resulting from power switching and ambient temperature changes, and may be subject to random dynamic load histories from sources such as vibration. Since solder material is mechanically the most ductile part, fatigue failure may occur in solder joints. Health monitoring for fatigue life under field conditions is a key issue for improving availability and serviceability for maintenance. We have developed a failure precursor detection technology and a fatigue life estimation method for ball grid array (BGA) solder joints, based on a canary circuit. This method estimates fatigue failure life of an actual circuit by detecting failure connections in a canary circuit (a dummy circuit of daisy-chained solder joints). The canary circuit is designed to fail before the actual circuit under the same failure mode by using accelerated reliability testing and inelastic stress simulation. A feasibility study of the failure probability estimation method is conducted by applying the method to a PCB on which a BGA component is mounted. It is confirmed that the fatigue life under a thermal cyclic load can be estimated from a canary circuit, that estimation of fatigue life under a random dynamic load is feasible, and that the estimation results are consistent with results from actual random vibration tests. The proposed method is found to be useful for prognostic health monitoring of solder joint fatigue failure.

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