Quality and Reliability Engineering International


Journal Article


Investigation into the failures of input modules at functional testing after assembly revealed unique damage to the emitters of the bipolar custom integrated circuit used as a receiver. Using a form of reverse engineering revealed that the damage could only be produced by a high energy pulse of short duration. Simulating the input circuit using discrete devices confirmed that similar circuit structures with the same applied stresses gave identical results. It was found that an energy level of 275 μJ gave a similar type of damage to that observed from the assembly failures.

The mechanism of failure had to explain why this unique damage was produced at random on any one of four input transistors together with the occasional failure (around one in ten) which did not show this type of damage. This type of failure was traced to short circuits breaking down the insulation oxide to supply lines underlying the input track. Because the damage to the emitters of the input transistors could only be produced by pulsing the discharge from input to input, it was concluded that the damage could be electrostatic in nature. When electrostatic protection precautions were introduced at the delivery of the circuit modules and the earlier assembly stages of the equipment, these failures were totally eliminated.

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