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Find Out More About X-Ray: Get the Picture

Today, x-ray technology is making greater progress in PCB assembly than ever before simply due to the fact sub-assemblies and the components and devices populating them have become increasingly smaller to meet market demands. Today’s level of PCB and component shrinkage is to the point that conventional or standard x-ray is having difficulties detecting flaws and defects.

You may be asking, ‘what does this have to do with me, the OEM?’ Here’s why. Advanced x-ray technology and your products are becoming more inextricably intertwined. It’s highly probable that you are now increasingly populating your boards with cutting-edge chips. Chipmakers are packing more circuitry in smaller die and packaging those die in smaller packaging like microBGAs with 0.5mm ultra-fine pitch and below. Plus, greater numbers of OEMs are moving to smaller and smaller PCBs to meet the markets for portable communications products.

Put all that together and the bottom line is that PCB and silicon area are highly dense requiring highly advanced x-ray to find problems. That’s why it’s a good idea for you the OEM to gain some know how about reading x-rays so you can be savvy about possible errors your EMS Provider or contract manufacturer (CM) can inadvertently make.

Check out our September column in SMT Magazine to get a better picture.

In the meantime, here are some tips and hints to help get you started on reading x-rays:

  • X-ray is the best way to inspect the insides of device packages and to verify solder joint integrity as shown by Fig. 1.
  • Determine whether or not your EMS Provider or CM has well-trained technicians who are up-to-date on current x-ray technology.
  • Keep in mind that advanced x-ray provides you even greater detailed definition of potential problems.
  • You can see whether or not all the balls of a BGA or bumps of an LGA are properly melted and soldered on the board’s surface.
  • Advanced x-ray helps you to locate hard to find and interpret defects like head-on-pillow.
  • Get to know the differences between standard and advanced x-ray and the features that are most critical for spotting hard to find defects in small areas.

Getting a good handle on x-ray technology and how to read an image associated with your board is of utmost importance in this day and age. The last thing you want is to have your EMS Provider or CM pull a fast one on you by failing to notify you that your boards have a slight flaw or defect. You certainly don’t want to find out later on when your product is on the market or in the field.