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Peter Hansen - Physics of Failure

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Peter Hansen - Physics of Failure Introduction
Physics of Failure (PoF) is an approach for the development of reliable products that uses knowledge of root-cause failure processes to prevent product failures through robust design and manufacturing practices. Alot of input for this text has been derived based on sources primarily from CALCE EPSC at University of Maryland. The PoF approach proactively incorporates reliability into the design process by establishing a scientific basis for evaluation new materials, structures, and electronics technologies. Information to plan tests and screens, and to determine electrical and thermal-mechanical stress margins are identified by the approach.

The PoF approach encourages innovative, cost-effective design through the use of realistic reliability assessment. The basic premise is that it is equally important to understand how equipment works and fails in the environment for which it is expected to operate. Environmental conditions such as temperature cycling, vibration, humidity, and radiation cause stress, which leads to failure. PoF tools model the stress-failure relationship for the dominant environmentally-induced failure mechanisms. Once these relationships are developed, the expected life can be computed and compared to requirements. Traditionally the failure rate of a product is characterized with the so-called bath tub curve.

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A simplistic form to represent the current accumulated failure level (F) for the time (T) is then given as:

Where f is the failure rate at time t, and b is the exponential coefficient. For b<1 the curve represents the state of infant mortalities, when b=1 this is the state random failures, when b>1 wear out failures occurs and the failure rate has a Weibull distribution. The prime focus with development in these types of models is to quantify the unknown and uncertain events. The character of these types of models is that they are black box models, which represents the overall top down perspective of the failures without detailed knowledge. This makes these types of reliability modeling commonly used to as reactive approaches to support logistical actions and system level decisions. A comparison between characteristics of the black-box models and the PoF models can be found in the following figure that compares the different perspectives in reliability assessment.

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For each individual failure mechanism the corresponding failure rate follows a 3parameter Weibull distribution where there typi-cally is an initial period with no failures followed by a sudden rise in the failure rate and a decline. This relationship is found in the figure underneath. When PoF is applied to extract the form and shape of the bath tub curve it is realized that the bath tub curve is a super-impossure of a set of failure mechanisms described as wear out failures. This fact also applies for the failure free operating period. The superimposed failure rate curve derived from PoF models is found in the following figure.

Background of PoF
Rapid advances in technology, coupled with the relentless drive to remain competitive in world markets, are motivating the electronics industry to focus on effective reliability verification and enhancement techniques. The process begins with a thorough understanding of the failure mechanisms that could be activated in typical electronic products. Effective measures can then be taken not only to prevent their manifestation under lifecycle stresses, but also precipitate them in a controlled manner during accelerated stress testing (AST). Accelerated stress testing has been recognized to be a valuable activity to assess the reliability and quality of electronics in a timely manner. Accelerated stress tests are often carried out under increased or exaggerated environmental conditions to enhance the damage accumulation rate due to any physical or environmental phenomena in the

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product.

In traditional accelerated testing techniques , root-cause identification and analysis is not adequately emphasized. In Physics of Failure (PoF) approach understanding of the underlying failure mechanisms is essential for designing and conducting successful accelerated tests. One of the most critical issues is the need for a rational method to relate the results of accelerated stress tests quantitatively to in-service reliability, using a scientific accelerated transform. In other words, the amount of test-time compression achieved in an accelerated test must be determined quantitatively. Successful answers to these issues are possible only through understanding the physics of the relevant failure mechanisms, and can lead to dramatic break-throughs in 1) Reducing product development cycle time 2) Increasing confidence in products life-time reliability 3) Controlling manufacturing variabilities The electronics industry has not yet achieved the required maturity in adopting a PoF based AST. To further complicate matters, shrinking development budgets have focused interest on conducting accelerated testing under combinations of multiple stresses, to enhance test time compression. This has only served to increase the confusion in literature, in standards, and in industry, regarding the most cost-effective and scientific way to conduct accelerated stress testing for electronic assemblies. Researches agree that PoF principles hold the greatest promise of providing a systematic approach to plan, conduct, implement and evaluate accelerated life tests, especially under combined environments where synergistic effects of different environmental loads could be of paramount significance.

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PoF approach aids in design, manufacture and reliability & quality assessment of electronic products in order to facilitate development of costs effective approaches for improved, durable electronic systems. This approach begins with the preliminary design. The designer defines the product requirements based on the customer?s needs and the supplier?s capabilities. The requirements identified typically include the products characteristics and life-cycle load histories. Goals for product characteristics are typically specified in terms of: functionality and performance; physical attributes (size, weight, appearance etc.); reliability and durability; manufacturability and qualify; testability, maintainability and supportability; time-to-market (development cycle); time-in-market (obsolescence cycle); cost and time-to-profit (affordability and profitability); marketability (market size). Depending on the nature of the product different aspects of the characteristics may dominate. Knowledge of the life-cycle allows the designer to model the designer to model the effects of various stresses acting on the product. Possible environmental stresses, their effects, and potential reliability improvement techniques are found underneath. Environmental Effects Stress High Parameters such as resistance, inductance, Temperature capacitance, power, dielectric constant will vary; insulation may soften; moving parts may jam due to expansion and finishes may blister; thermal aging, oxidation and other chemical reactions may be enhanced; viscosity may be reduced and evaporation of lubricants can arise and structural overloads may occur due to physical expansions. Plastics and rubbers lose flexibility and Low become brittle; electrical constants vary; Temperature ice formation occurs when moisture is present; lubricants and gels increase Potential Reliability Improvement Techniques Thermal insulation, heatwithstanding materials, cooling systems.

Thermal insulation, coldwithstanding materials, heated environments

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viscosity; finishes may crack; structures may be overloaded due to physical contraction. Thermal Materials may be instantaneously Combination of techniques Cycling and overstressed causing cracks and for high and low Shock mechanical failures; electrical properties temperatures. may be permanently altered. Crazing, delamination, ruptured seals can arise. Shock Mechanical structures may be overstressed Strengthened structural causing weakening or collapse; items may members, reduced inertia be ripped from their mounts; mechanical and moments, shockfunctions may be impaired. absorbing mounts. Vibration Mechanical strength may deteriorate due to Stiffening control fatigue or overstress electrical signals may resonance. be erroneously modulated; materials and structure may be cracked, displaced or shaken loose from mounts; mechanical functions may be impaired. Humidity Penetrates porous substances and causes Moisture resistant materials, leakage paths between electrical dehumidifiers, protective conductors; causes oxidation which may coating, hermetical sealing. lead to corrosion; moisture causes swelling Moisture traps in materials such as gaskets; excessive loss of humidity can causes embrittlement. Contaminated Many contaminants combined with water Nonmetal protective covers, Atmosphere provide a good conductor, which can lower reduced use of dissimilar Spray insulation resistance; causes galvanic metals in contact, hermetic corrosion of metals and accelerates sealing, dehumidifiers. chemical corrosion. Electromagnetic Causes spurious and erroneous signals Shielding, radiation Radiation from electrical and electronic equipment hardening and components; may causes complete disruption of normal electrical and electronic equipment such as communication and measuring systems. Nuclear/Cosmic Causes heating and thermal aging; can Shielding, radiation Radiation alter chemical, physical and electrical hardening. properties of materials; can produce gases and secondary radiation; can causes oxidation and discoloration of surfaces; damages electrical and electronic components, especially semiconductors. Sand and Finely finished surfaces are scratched and Air-filtering, wear-proof Dust abraded; friction between surfaces may be materials, sealing. increased; lubricants can be contaminated; clogging of orifices; materials may be worn, cracked or chipped; abrasion. Contaminates insulation, corona paths. Structures such as containers and tanks, Increased mechanical Low Pressure are overstressed and can be exploded or strength of containers, (High fractured; seals may leak; air bubbles in pressurization, alternate Altitude) materials may increase due to lack of liquids (low volatility), cooling medium; insulation may suffer improved insulation,

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arcing breakdown; ozone may be formed; outgasing is more likely.

improved heat transfer methods.

The first step is to determine the sources of reliability risks under life-cycle loads by identifying the potential weak-links and dominant failure mechanisms associated with the application. While general-purpose software, such as Ansys, Abaqus, FloTherm and IcePack, are used to evaluate stress within electronic assemblies, time constraints tend to prevent analysis of individual parts and components. Further, stress simulations alone do not reveal product reliability. Significant time savings can be realized when engineers develop a flow-through process of life-cycle characterization, product modeling, load transformation, and failure assessment to qualify electronic systems. This process is termed virtual qualification. The three main PoF activities include: Understanding the hardware configuration Determining the product life-cycle loads for each potential failure site Performing an initial PoF assessment of the potential failure modes of the device. The output of this step is ranking of the potential weak-links expected under lifecycle load.

The key PoF activity involves ?stress analysis? to determine how the applied life-cycle loads (electrical, thermal, mechanical and chemical) are transmitted and distributed throughout the electronic assembly. In the next step, the stress fields are used to identify where the failure might occur (failure site), how a failure might manifest itself (failure mode), and what the underlying root cause might be (failure mechanism). After the failure mechanisms have been identified, the relevant failure mechanism models are employed to predict reliability. This step is termed ?damage analysis?. If no theoretical models are available, semi-empirical models are developed using statistically designed experiments. The designed experiments are used to identify critical design factors and stresses

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governing failure, and to identify mathematical relationships relating the dominant factors to reliability measures. Variability in the factors is specified using statistical distribution functions. Variations in material properties and geometry due to manufacturing variability and defects are addressed at this juncture. The PoF approach can be used to qualify nominal design and manufacturing processes and to conduct design trade-offs to ensure that the product has adequate stress margins and meets or exceeds reliability targets. During the products development cycle, PoF is often employed to establish robust controls as a means of continuously monitoring and improving quality from early prototype fabrication through final manufacture.

Conceptual Models of Failure
Failures are due to a complex set of interactions between stresses that act on and within the system; and the materials that the system is comprised of. Three simple conceptual models of failure are defined. The first two are due to irreversible material damage while the third is caused by reversible changes in material properties. 1) Stress-Strength: A material fails when the stress exceeds the strength. Strength is treated as a stochastic (random) variable and failure depends on the occurrence of critical events rather than mere repetition of cycles. Examples of overstress failure include fracture of a steel bar in tension; electrical overstress of a transistor with a voltage applied across the emitter-collector; and thermal overstress in a polymer beyond glass transition temperature. Damage-endurance: Stress events cause damage that accumulates irreversibly and failure results when and only when damage exceeds the endurance limit of the material. Accumulated damage does not appear when the stresses are removed, although sometimes annealing and healing of materials can occur. Examples of failures due to cumulative damage include fatigue from thermo mechanical stresses, electromigration and corrosion due to contaminants and moisture cycling. Performance-tolerance: A system performance characteristic is satisfactory if it remains within the specified tolerances. Examples include excessive vibration due to inadequate damping, excessive propagation delay in integrated circuits at high temperature, excessive thermal transients due to inadequate diffusivity.

2)

3)

Failure mechanisms
Failure mechanisms are the fundamental thermodynamic processes by which stresses cause damage to elements comprising the system, ultimately leading to failure by one or more of the conceptual models. PoF design guidelines, which emphasize the understanding of potential failure mechanisms, are more effective if quantitative models can be developed to describe the relevant failure mechanisms. It is necessary therefore to identify the failure mechanisms that could be activated by the applied stresses during the life-cycle of the system. Failure mechanisms are broadly grouped into overstress mechanisms and wearout mechanisms. Overstress failure are catastrophic sudden failures due to a single occurrence of a stress event that exceeds the intrinsic strength of a material. Examples of overstress failures include buckling of materials, electrical failures resulting in electrical discharge. Accumulation of incremental damage leads to failure when the accumulated damage exceeds the material endurance limit, and is termed wearout failure. By definition, only

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wearout failure can be accelerated during an AST. Verification of overstress failures, on the other hand, is performed through ?proof-tests?. Therefore, failure acceleration models used in accelerated stress tests must focus on the relevant wearout failure mechanisms. A list of generic failure mechanisms is found bellow.

Credits to Søren Hansen for support, template and hosting.

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