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Comparison of Whisker Growth from Pressure-Induced and Environment-Induced Whisker Growth Test Methods
Keywords: Whiskers, Growth, Testing
One of the remaining challenges associated with the use of lead-free materials in electronics is the potential risk associated with tin whiskers. Despite intense research in recent years, there are still no accelerated test methods to reliably predict whisker growth in field application conditions. Presently semiconductor component and electronic systems manufacturers rely on testing conditions defined by industry standards including JESD201, IEC 60068082-2, and ET-7410. While these test methods offer a common platform for the practical purpose of component qualification, the value of these tests for quantitative whisker risk assessment is quite limited. Additionally, these tests are time-consuming and labor intensive, making it difficult to use for purposes such as process improvement, control, and monitor. As a result, there is a need for the development of faster test methods for both component and systems manufacturers. One of the promising methods is external mechanical loading. It is known that mechanical deformation and damage of the tin film can produce rapid whisker formation. Depending on loading conditions, whisker growth can be observed in as short as a few hours. If whisker growth from such tests can be correlated with results from any of the current standard tests, it will greatly reduce the efforts involved in film evaluation and product qualification. In this work, we use the mechanical loading method to examine the whisker growth propensity on a series of connector type components. We will investigate the effects of plating chemistry, film thickness, and loading conditions on whisker growth on these components, and the results will be compared with those from a JESD201 evaluation. Analytical results of the microstructure of the Sn films will also be discussed.
Michael Osterman, Research Scientist
University of Maryland - CALCE,
College Park, MD

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