Tin Whisker Formation on Small Outline Transistors Assembled Using Bismuth-Containing Lead-Free Solder Alloys After Long-Term Ambient Temperature, High Humidity Storage Part 2: Statistical Analysis
With the introduction of environmental legislation such as the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), lead (Pb)-free materials have made their way into the electronics manufacturing industry. One issue that has emerged is that Pb-free solder alloys can initiate and grow tin whiskers under specific conditions. These whiskers are thin, highly conductive filaments which have the potential to grow and can cause field failures in many applications. Most concerning with respect to tin whiskering are high reliability applications such as aerospace, automotive, and medical.
Bismuth (Bi) is being considered for inclusion in solder alloys to replace the current industry standard (SAC 305) and provide improved thermomechanical and vibration reliability. In this paper, we discuss whisker formation of several Bi-bearing alloys after long-term (12,000 hours), ambient high humidity (25°C/85% RH) storage. Three alloys containing Bi, in addition to SAC 305 (Sn-3.0Ag-0.5Cu), were considered. These alloys were Violet (Sn-2.25Ag-0.5Cu-6.0Bi), Sunflower (Sn-0.7Cu-7.0Bi), and Senju (Sn-2.0Ag-0.7Cu-3.0Bi). The boards were fabricated with electroless nickel immersion gold (ENIG) and immersion tin (ImmSn) finishes and populated with parts having Cu and Fe42Ni alloy leads and chip parts, with half of assemblies cleaned and half cleaned and contaminated with low levels of NaCl.
This paper is the second in a series of three in which we share quantitative statistical analysis from the whisker inspection of the small outline transistor (SOT) components. It was found that on ImmSn surface finishes, the longest whiskers were found on SAC, however the longest whiskers were found on Bi-bearing alloys for ENIG. In addition, whiskers were found to generally grow in regions where the tin coverage is thin, and, on ENIG-finished assemblies, near the PCB, likely due to galvanic corrosion between the solder and the finish chemistry.