Soldering & Surface Mount Technology

ISSN: 0954-0911

Article publication date: 27 June 2008



(2008), "NPL-IPTM from NPL", Soldering & Surface Mount Technology, Vol. 20 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: New products From: Soldering & Surface Mount Technology, Volume 20, Issue 3

A new approach by NPL results in their design and build of a unique machine for testing low cycle isothermal fatigue of lead-free solders Dr Chris Hunt and his team are excited that the approach adopted by NPL has led to the design and build of a new instrument, the NPL - IPTM (Interconnect Properties Test Machine), which applies defined deformation under precision control to measure materials properties. The apparatus permits materials data to be obtained from solder samples that have volumes and geometries similar to those of real solder joints, and from joints loaded in shear, mirroring the practical situation in the field. The instrument can also accommodate various solder alloys and surface coatings, and allows direct microscopic examination during the test at temperatures between −55 and 125°C. A four-point measurement system for resistance monitoring has also been embedded and found to correlate well with structural degradation recorded during fatigue testing of solders. The resistance measurement is directly related to the development of a crack, and hence resistance data can be used to predict crack growth rates. The results indicate that lifetime can be measured using the load decrease and/or the resistance increase. Measuring these parameters directly, for different solders and conditions, and relating them to real assembly performance, will greatly aid modelling of lifetime prediction for lead-free solders.

NPL has developed this new approach to the gathering of data such as strain and stress necessary for FEA modelling of lifetime prediction for new lead-free solder joints. Although the mechanical behaviour of lead-free joints is known to be different from that of conventional SnPb joints, there is a lack of credible data suitable for modelling purposes. This is a cause of concern for the industry, especially the high-reliability sector, which is changing to lead-free soldering materials and processes. Hence, the need to generate such data to evaluate likely lead-free solder performance has assumed some urgency.

For more information contact: Dr Chris Hunt 0208 043 7027; E-mail:

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