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Volume I, Issue 1


Technical Briefs Home

The President's Corner

Molding Compound Lawsuit Quietly Settled

Lead-Free and the Military / Aerospace Dilemma

GEIA Hot Solder Dip Specification

Ionic Contamination at the Component Level

Column Grid Array: The Solution to BGA Reliability Problems


The President's Corner

I am proud to present this newsletter as our first in a series of technical presentations designed to communicate topics of interest to our industry. In addition to the newsletter, we will be conducting in-house seminars on topics with the highest level of interest. Our first technical seminar in the series will be on X-ray Fluorescence (XRF). We have invited experts from Matrix Metrologies who have decades of experience designing XRF equipment and standards. For more information about this XRF seminar, click here.

The No-Pure-Tin vs. Lead-Free Tug-of-War

With blinding speed, the semiconductor industry is adopting pure-tin as the primary finish for all components except ball grid array. To them, pure-tin is ideal. Solderability is robust, pure-tin is fully compatible with both tin-lead and lead-free solders, and implementation is easy. The semiconductor industry views tin whiskers as a minor reliability issue with the same degree of risk and uncertainty as dendrites and conductive anodic filaments. Keep in mind the component suppliers arenít the high-risk takers of earlier years. The vast majority of them are also keeping their part numbers for tin-lead, for a little while anyway. If they offer both choices and the customers select pure-tin, then they really canít be held liable for the consequences.

On the opposite side of this tug-of-war are the high-reliability gurus in military and aerospace. NASA is leading the team and has mounted a formidable campaign. Although in some cases it may seem that they are employing scare tactics, nothing else seems to convey their message. With a whopping 0.3% of the market, these high-rel users have little more than good debate skills and clever tactics on their side.

So, it seems the fight is almost over. Or is it? The real battle will now go underground, into the laboratories that perform failure analysis. The only thing that will reverse this pure-tin tide is solid evidence that tin whiskers are causing an unacceptable number of field failures. Hopefully, it wonít be at the cost of any lives. It would be tragic to repeat history and have to learn Napoleonís lesson of using pure-tin all over again. We'll all be caught with our pants down.

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