Automated optical inspection

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Automated optical inspection (AOI) is an automated visual inspection of printed circuit board (PCB) (or LCD, transistor) manufacture where a camera autonomously scans the device under test for both catastrophic failure (e.g. missing component) and quality defects (e.g. fillet size or shape or component skew). It is commonly used in the manufacturing process because it is a non-contact test method. It is implemented at many stages through the manufacturing process including bare board inspection, solder paste inspection (SPI), pre-reflow and post-reflow as well as other stages. [1]

Visual inspection is a common method of quality control, data acquisition, and data analysis. Visual Inspection, used in maintenance of facilities, mean inspection of equipment and structures using either or all of raw human senses such as vision, hearing, touch and smell and/or any non-specialized inspection equipment. Inspections requiring Ultrasonic, X-Ray equipment, Infra-red, etc. are not typically regarded as Visual Inspection as these Inspection methodologies require specialized equipment, training and certification.

Printed circuit board board to support and connect electronic components

A printed circuit board (PCB) mechanically supports and electrically connects electronic components or electrical components using conductive tracks, pads and other features etched from one or more sheet layers of copper laminated onto and/or between sheet layers of a non-conductive substrate. Components are generally soldered onto the PCB to both electrically connect and mechanically fasten them to it.

Transistor semiconductor device used to amplify and switch electronic signals and electrical power

A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. It is composed of semiconductor material usually with at least three terminals for connection to an external circuit. A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor's terminals controls the current through another pair of terminals. Because the controlled (output) power can be higher than the controlling (input) power, a transistor can amplify a signal. Today, some transistors are packaged individually, but many more are found embedded in integrated circuits.


Historically, the primary place for AOI systems has been after solder reflow or "post-production." Mainly because, post-reflow AOI systems can inspect for most types of defects (component placement, solder shorts, missing solder, etc.) at one place in the line with one single system. In this way the faulty boards are reworked and the other boards are sent to the next process stage. [2]

SMT inspection

AOIs for a PCB board with components may inspect the following features:

AOI can be used in the following locations in the SMT lines: post paste, pre-reflow, post-reflow, or wave areas.

Surface-mount technology method for producing electronic circuits

Surface-mount technology (SMT) is a method for producing electronic circuits in which the components are mounted or placed directly onto the surface of printed circuit boards (PCBs). An electronic device so made is called a surface-mount device (SMD). In industry, it has largely replaced the through-hole technology construction method of fitting components with wire leads into holes in the circuit board. Both technologies can be used on the same board, with the through-hole technology used for components not suitable for surface mounting such as large transformers and heat-sinked power semiconductors.

Bare PCB inspection

AOI for a bare PCB board inspection may detect these features:

The triggering of a defects report may be either rule-based (e.g. no lines on the board should be smaller than 50μ) or CAD based in which the board is locally compared with the intended design.

This inspection is much more reliable and repeatable than manual visual inspection.[ citation needed ]

In many cases, smaller circuit board designs are driving up the demand for AOI vs in-circuit testing.[ citation needed ]

The following are related technologies and are also used in electronic production to test for the correct operation of electronics printed circuit boards: [3]

See also

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Ball grid array

A ball grid array (BGA) is a type of surface-mount packaging used for integrated circuits. BGA packages are used to permanently mount devices such as microprocessors. A BGA can provide more interconnection pins than can be put on a dual in-line or flat package. The whole bottom surface of the device can be used, instead of just the perimeter. The traces connecting the package's leads to the wires or balls which connect the die to package are also on average shorter than with a perimeter-only type, leading to better performance at high speeds.

A reflow oven is a machine used primarily for reflow soldering of surface mount electronic components to printed circuit boards (PCB).

Reflow soldering

Reflow soldering is a process in which a solder paste is used to temporarily attach one or thousands of tiny electrical components to their contact pads, after which the entire assembly is subjected to controlled heat. The solder paste reflows in a molten state, creating permanent solder joints. Heating may be accomplished by passing the assembly through a reflow oven or under an infrared lamp or by soldering individual joints [unconventionally] with a desoldering hot air pencil.

Rework (electronics) term for the refinishing operation or repair of an electronic printed circuit board (PCB) assembly

Rework is the term for the refinishing operation or repair of an electronic printed circuit board (PCB) assembly, usually involving desoldering and re-soldering of surface-mounted electronic components (SMD). Mass processing techniques are not applicable to single device repair or replacement, and specialized manual techniques by expert personnel using appropriate equipment are required to replace defective components; area array packages such as ball grid array (BGA) devices particularly require expertise and appropriate tools. A hot air gun or hot air station is used to heat devices and melt solder, and specialised tools are used to pick up and position often tiny components.

Solder paste is a material used in the manufacture of printed circuit boards to connect surface mount components to pads on the board. It is also possible to solder through hole pin in paste components by printing solder paste in/over the holes. The paste initially adheres components in place by being sticky, it is then heated melting the paste and forming a mechanical bond as well as an electrical connection. The paste is applied to the board by jet printing, stencil printing or syringe and then the components are put in place by a pick-and-place machine or by hand.

Selective soldering

Selective soldering is the process of selectively soldering components to printed circuit boards and molded modules that could be damaged by the heat of a reflow oven or wave soldering in a traditional surface-mount technology (SMT) or Through-hole technology assembly processes.This usually follows an SMT oven reflow process; parts to be selectively soldered are usually surrounded by parts that have been previously soldered in a surface-mount reflow process, and the selective-solder process must be sufficiently precise to avoid damaging them.

Quad Flat No-leads package

Flat no-leads packages such as quad-flat no-leads (QFN) and dual-flat no-leads (DFN) physically and electrically connect integrated circuits to printed circuit boards. Flat no-leads, also known as micro leadframe (MLF) and SON, is a surface-mount technology, one of several package technologies that connect ICs to the surfaces of PCBs without through-holes. Flat no-lead is a near chip scale plastic encapsulated package made with a planar copper lead frame substrate. Perimeter lands on the package bottom provide electrical connections to the PCB. Flat no-lead packages include an exposed thermal pad to improve heat transfer out of the IC. Heat transfer can be further facilitated by metal vias in the thermal pad. The QFN package is similar to the quad-flat package (QFP), and a ball grid array (BGA).

In-circuit test (ICT) is an example of white box testing where an electrical probe tests a populated printed circuit board (PCB), checking for shorts, opens, resistance, capacitance, and other basic quantities which will show whether the assembly was correctly fabricated. It may be performed with a bed of nails type test fixture and specialist test equipment, or with a fixtureless in-circuit test setup.

Automated X-ray inspection (AXI) is a technology based on the same principles as automated optical inspection (AOI). It uses X-rays as its source, instead of visible light, to automatically inspect features, which are typically hidden from view.

The 5DX was an automated X-ray inspection robot, which belonged to the set of automated test equipment robots and industrial robots utilizing machine vision. The 5DX was manufactured by Hewlett Packard, then later Agilent Technologies when HP was split into Hewlett Packard and Agilent Technologies in 1999. The 5DX performed a non-destructive structural test using X-ray laminography (tomography) to take 3D images of an assembled printed circuit board using 8-bit grayscale to indicate solder thickness. It was used in the assembled printed circuit board (PCB) electronics manufacturing industry to provide process feedback to a surface mount technology assembly line, as well as defect capture.

Bead probe technology

Bead probe technology (BPT) is technique used to provide electrical access to printed circuit board (PCB) circuitry for performing in-circuit testing (ICT). It makes use of small beads of solder placed onto the board's traces to allow measuring and controlling of the signals using a test probe. This permits test access to boards on which standard ICT test pads are not feasible due to space constraints.

In the testing of printed circuit boards, a flying probe test or fixtureless in-circuit test (FICT) system may be used for testing low to mid volume production, prototypes, and boards that present accessibility problems. A traditional "bed of nails" tester for testing a PCB requires a custom fixture to hold the PCBA and the Pogo pins which make contact with the PCBA. In contrast, FICT uses two or more flying probes, which may be moved based on software instruction. The flying probes are electro-mechanically controlled to access components on printed circuit assemblies (PCAs). The probes are moved around the board under test using an automatically operated two-axis system, and one or more test probes contact components of the board or test points on the printed circuit board.

Orbotech Ltd. is a technology company used in the manufacturing of consumer and industrial products throughout the electronics and adjacent industries. The company is a provider of yield enhancement and production solutions for electronics reading, writing and connecting, used by manufacturers of printed circuit boards, flat panel displays, advanced packaging, micro-electro-mechanical systems and other electronic components. The company is headquartered in Yavne, Israel and operates in North America, Europe, Japan and Asia-Pacific.

Viscom AG is a German company domiciled in Hanover, supplying inspection systems for automated optical inspection (AOI) and automated x-ray inspection (AXI). Viscom inspection systems are used in automotive electronics, aeronautics, aerospace, industrial electronics and in the semiconductor industries.

Thermal profiling

A thermal profile is a complex set of time-temperature data typically associated with the measurement of thermal temperatures in an oven. The thermal profile is often measured along a variety of dimensions such as slope, soak, time above liquidus (TAL), and peak.

ViTrox Corporation Berhad is a Penang, Malaysia based company that specializes in designing and developing automated vision inspection system and equipment testers for the semiconductor and electronic packaging industries as well as electronic communications equipment. The name ViTrox supposedly reflects the core business of the company which is machine vision and electronics.

Stencil printing is the process of depositing solder paste on the printed wiring boards (PWBs) to establish electrical connections. It is immediately followed by the component placement stage. The equipment and materials used in this stage are stencil, solder paste, and a printer.

Dye-n-Pry, also called Dye And Pry, Dye and Pull, Dye Staining, or Dye Penetrant, is a destructive analysis technique used on surface mount technology (SMT) components to either perform failure analysis or inspect for solder joint integrity. It is an application of dye penetrant inspection.