Devices and components can fail to operate properly for many reasons. Accurately determining root causes of these failures requires extensive experience, keen attention to detail and access to a range of analytical techniques.
Covalent Metrology’s Failure Analysis (FA) team brings more than 100 years of collective experience identifying failure mechanisms for a range of modern devices. In 2020, we acquired the business and integrated the team from Riga Analytical, a highly regarded failure analysis lab founded by Giorgio Riga in 1982. Combining the experienced Riga team with the full suite of advanced analytical techniques and expertise at Covalent has dramatically expanded our FA service offering. Our FA expertise covers a wide range of products, including chips, PC boards and many types of advanced componentry used in medical devices, semiconductor manufacturing, displays and consumer electronics, to name a few.
Whether you are the manufacturer or the user of devices that are not working properly, Covalent Metrology is fully equipped to help.
Common techniques used in Failure Analysis include:
- Mechanical cross sections
- FIB cross sections
- Scanning Electron Microscopy
- Micro-CT (3D X-ray microscopy)
- Auger spectroscopy
- X-ray photon spectroscopy (XPS)
- Scanning acoustic microscopy (SAM)
- Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR)
- Laser confocal microscopy
- 3D Wide Area Patterned Light Measurement
Optical microscopy is ubiquitous in diverse fields within academic research and commercial industries. It is an affordable, rapid analytical imaging technique used to visualize samples. While optical microscopes may be common, many instruments fall far short on performance when compared with the cutting-edge digital microscope systems available at Covalent.
Auger electron spectroscopy (AES) is a surface-sensitive analytical technique used to quantify and map the elemental composition of the outermost 2-10 nm of a material. In conjunction with ion beam sputtering, depth profiling can also be done on samples to provide composition as a function of depth as well as layer thicknesses.
Dye and Pry testing is a destructive, IPC-described failure-analysis and quality-control technique performed on solder joints on printed circuit board assemblies (PCBA) to identify certain defects unique to solder joints.
FIB-SEM systems are used to produce 2D and 3D images of surface topography, and are able to resolve nm-scale features on a sample surface. In addition to standard SEM capabilities, the inclusion of the focused-ion-beam also allows for in situ sample manipulation.
Fourier-transformed infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) is a nondestructive, optical technique used to characterize optical properties of a material, and to qualitatively identify chemical functional groups and trace chemicals present in a specimen.
IPC Compliance testing via destructive physical analysis provides a comprehensive screening for quality assurance and comprises the best-known method to identify design or production issues in electronics assemblies, components, and fabricated boards. This procedure includes a complete program of analytical methods and procedures for characterizing modern electronics boards.
Material cross section analysis enables one to expose buried features on a sample in a controlled fashion, to assay critical dimensions, or to identify miscellaneous structural defects or abnormalities such as: cracks, bridging, delamination, deformations, and more. In addition, Covalent staff are certified to conduct IPC qualified cross-sectional procedures for PCB failure analysis and quality control.
EDXRF is a fast, nondestructive spectroscopy technique used to determine the elemental composition of a near-surface volume, and to compute thin film thickness in a multilayer stack. Uniquely available at Covalent is one of the first EDXRF systems ever to incorporate a micron-scale beam spot, as well as integrated hybrid sensor systems to accelerate data collection.
Nanoindentation is a quasi-static mode of nanomechanical analysis used to measure hardness and reduced elastic modulus of solid samples. Hardness is determined by calculating the ratio of the maximum force to the area of the tip. Modulus is determined by fitting the unload-curve to a linear slope.
Nanomechanical scratch testing (nano-scratch) is an alternate nanomechanical testing mode to nano-indent or nano-wear box testing, which is used to measure force response and mechanical properties typically of thin films and coatings. In addition to standard penetration depth and indent characteristics, the nano-scratch test also calibrates and measures the amount of force required to keep the tip moving laterally across the sample surface.
Scanning Acoustic Microscopy (SAM) is a non-destructive and non-invasive imaging technique which uses ultrasound signals to visualize the sample. The two primary modes of detection are reflection and transmission, and lateral imaging resolution is dependent on the frequency of the transducer and the speed of sound through the material.
Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) is a surface imaging technique capable of achieving nm resolution on topographical features. Additionally, all Covalent instruments are also outfitted with energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) detectors to capture quantitative elemental composition measurements, as well as 2D elemental maps, in addition to conventional SEM images.
Wide Area 3D Patterned Light measurements encompass a class of optical profilometry techniques used to visualize the surface topography of larger samples. Unique to this technique, the generated 3D model is compatible for output as a CAD overlay for volumetric comparison in process and part evaluation.
X-ray computed tomography (often referred to as Micro-CT due to its spatial resolution) is a non-contact, nondestructive 2D / 3D imaging technique used to capture morphology and topography at the micron scale of the exterior and interior of the sample. It produces a 3D model which can be quantitatively measured to analyze critical dimensions of surface and subsurface components.