The effect of gold (Au) on the reliability of 0.65 mm pitch surface mount solder joints between plastic quad flat packs and Cu‐Ni‐Au FR‐4 printed circuit boards was investigated. Cu‐Ni‐Au is a desirable printed circuit board finish for multi‐chip modules or printed circuit boards that would otherwise require a selective Au finish, for example for edge connectors or wire bondable parts. However, Au is known to embrittle solder when it is present in sufficiently high concentrations, creating a concern that solder joint fatigue life in service will also be adversely affected. This paper reports the results of mechanical shock, mechanical vibration and thermal cycling testing of fine pitch solder joints containing varying amounts of Au. Tests were performed on as‐soldered joints and on joints that had been heat‐treated to evolve the microstructure towards equilibrium. The tests were designed to accelerate in‐service conditions in a typical industrial environment. Under these conditions, the Au concentrations tested did not promote solder joint failures. Microstructural characterisation of the distribution and morphology of the Au‐, Ni‐ and Cu‐Sn intermetallics in the joint before and after accelerated testing was also performed. On the basis of these observations it is recommended that the Au concentration in solder joints between plastic quad flat packs and Cu‐Ni‐Au FR‐4 printed circuit boards not exceed 3.0 wt.%.
Glazer, J., Kramer, P.A. and Morris, J.W. (1992), "Effect of Gold on the Reliability of Fine Pitch Surface Mount Solder Joints", Circuit World, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 41-46. https://doi.org/10.1108/eb046177
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