Failure is a possibility with any component on any PCB. In many cases wearout is the culprit, leaving engineers to deal with the aftermath of dissecting what went wrong and possibly re-engineering the component to avoid recurrence.
Risk mitigation after the fact is an expensive proposition. Instead, make reliability a priority during the design phase using simulation software – well before prototyping or production – that focuses on key contributors to component wearout and failure:
1. Ensure Solder Joint Reliability
Having confidence that your product will function under given conditions, for a specified time, without exceeding defined failure levels is a direct result of solder joint reliability testing. Applying accelerated stress tests in three crucial areas will reveal potential failure mechanisms:
- Temperature/thermal cycle stress testing determines how various PCB component materials resist fluctuating high and low temperatures, and how the materials react in terms of cracking, warpage, damage to leads and markings, and hermetic seal failure.
- Plated-through hole fatigue stress testing exposes and calculates component vulnerability to thermal expansion mismatch between PCB materials that leads to excessive strain, cracking and open circuits, especially during PCB component mounting or subsequent field conditions.
- Vibration and shock stress testing measures the effects of harmonic and random vibration and drop/shock in order to gather data and accurately predict failure probability, root causes of failure and failure events. To ensure accurate results, the testing protocol must reflect the variety of real world scenarios the device may encounter over the course of its operational life.
2. Select Materials and Suppliers that Align with Your Needs
Choosing materials for your project and selecting a manufacturing supplier to provide them are not mutually exclusive decisions. Processes are only part of the equation. Supplier selection also plays a critical role in the success or failure of the final product.
It’s critical to build manufacturer partnerships that can consistently identify and align plastics properties with design and functionality requirements – delivering quality products and services without interruption. Unwittingly engaging with manufacturers lacking these fundamental capabilities can dramatically increase the potential for defects that result in expensive warranty claims, loss of market share and possibly irreparable damage to your brand.
3. Evaluate Post-Assembly Handling Operations
Product integrity is addressed throughout design and manufacture, but it is equally as important during shipping where vacuum sealing, moisture barrier bags (MBB), desiccant products and humidity indicator cards (HIC) are commonly used to protect PCBs against moisture and contamination. Post-assembly handling operations should be scrutinized to identify areas for efficiency improvements, in terms of both protection and appropriate certification documentation.
Engineers can mitigate failure risk and easily prioritize PCB reliability on-screen during the design phase by using powerful computer programs like Sherlock Automated Design Analysis™ software. Find out more about how this comprehensive tool saves time and money in Introduction to Design for Reliability. Click the button below to download your free copy.