March 21, 2012

Advanced Component Testing: Decapsulation

For the past month, I have been blogging about advanced testing methods for electronic components, discussing XRF analysis and X-ray imaging. The last advanced testing process I will explain in this series is decapsulation. 

At Converge, we have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to substandard components, and we have invested in numerous advanced testing capabilities to help ensure the safety of our supply chain. If any discrepancy raises a red flag during our 76-point inspection – from suspicious markings to inaccurate measurements – our engineers can use these advanced methods to further investigate the authenticity of the components in-house at no additional cost to our customers. Both XRF analysis and X-ray imaging are nondestructive processes. Decapsulation, on the other hand, is used as a last resort. 

Decapsulation is a destructive testing process used to properly expose the die of an integrated circuit for full visual inspection and further verification. Integrated circuits, or ICs, are complex, high-density parts that are often encased in a plastic or resin compound known as a mold. Molded ICs can be difficult to verify for authenticity, since the die is no longer accessible. 

Converge uses a jet etcher to decapsulate sample ICs from a questionable lot when more answers are needed to properly identify the materials. This intricate machine carefully uses nitric and sulfuric acid to remove the outer layers of the mold. Once completed, the process exposes what is underneath – bond pads, bond wires, die markings (manufacturer logos, ID numbers, die revisions, etc.), and lead frame interconnects. 

Photos: A decapsulated IC package is examined under a high-power microscope. The average IC is just a few millimeters in diameter, and the die inside looks like a mere speck to the naked eye. With this technique, engineers are able to authenticate details that would be impossible to verify with only a visual inspection.   

Following decapsulation of the IC, a Converge engineer examines each part with a high-power microscope. By comparing the microscopic images with the original purchase orders, the manufacturer’s data sheets, and/or the internal structure of golden samples with the same date and lot codes, trained engineers can detect minute discrepancies that would otherwise be impossible to see. If a substandard part is identified, it is immediately pulled from the supply chain. This makes decapsulation an important, if not critical, part of any quality-driven distributor’s counterfeit-prevention program.

The advanced testing equipment that Converge has in-house makes decapsulation relatively quick and efficient. It enables our trained engineers to leave no stone left unturned when verifying IC authenticity, providing an extra level of quality assurance to our customers at no extra cost. Many independent distributors do not offer this service. Others outsource decapsulation to a third-party testing service, which increases the cost for the customer. 

Yes, purchasing decapsulation machines for in-house use and hiring the engineers who use them have required a significant capital investment on Converge’s part. But we believe it is worth every penny. Our customers shouldn’t have to pay extra to ensure that the electronic components they are ordering are actually what they are purported to be. Converge believes that quality assurance should always be part of the original package – not an added feature. Would you agree?

If you missed Part I-XRF Analysis and Part II-X-ray Imaging of our Advanced Component Testing Series, you can read them now. 

Share this blog post:

No comments:

Post a Comment