Failure analysis is the process of identifying, and typically attempting to mitigate, the root cause of a failure. In the electronics industry, failure analysis typically involves isolating the failure to a location on a printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) before collecting more detailed data to investigate which component or board location is functioning improperly.
The typical approach to a failure analysis of an electronic system is to locate the failure and collect data that will explain the failure's root cause and potentially illuminate mitigation strategies. A wide variety of methodologies exist to gather data about failure location, root cause, and mitigation.
PCBA failures most often manifest as either short circuits or open circuits. A short circuit is an unwanted electrical connection. An open circuit is a break in an expected electrical connection.
Electrical testing is typically the first step in any PCBA failure analysis. Electrical continuity testing can be used to isolate the failure location on PCBA that is not functioning correctly. This typically involves probing the circuit with a multimeter to iteratively measure resistance across components and conductive PCB traces until an anomalous short or open circuit is detected. Ideally, this will point to an individual component, solder joint, or PCB trace. Once the failure site is identified, more detailed failure analysis can begin.
When the failure has been located, the next step in the failure analysis of an electronic system is to gather as much relevant data as possible without damaging the specimen. Standard non-destructive failure analysis techniques for electronics include:
After all non-destructive options are exhausted, electronic failure analysis often requires further data acquisition utilizing destructive techniques. Typical destructive approaches include:
The expert engineers and reliability professionals at DfR Solutions are thought leaders in electronics reliability. We’ve compiled a wide-range knowledge base on failure analysis. Click on the resources below to access whitepapers, webinars, presentations, and more.
Effective failure root cause analysis is critical in identifying how a problem originated, whether it occurred in the field, on a test or involved a loss of quality during manufacturing. DfR Solutions takes a multidisciplinary approach to root cause analysis that is founded on the Physics of Failure (PoF).
There are several reasons why today’s power supplies can experience reliability issues, including solder joint fatigue as a top contributor. Space constraints and large components in a power supply can prove problematic for solder joints, along with thermal expansion issues that can occur during thermal cycling.
Decapsulation and cross-sectioning are two failure analysis techniques frequently used to root cause failure issues in electronics. However, these destructive methods that are expensive and time consuming, can be made more effective by the use of Scanning Acoustic Microscopy (SAM) to identify the most likely failure site for destructive methods to be focused on.