Wire bonding is the method of making interconnections (ATJ) between an integrated circuit (IC) or other semiconductor device and its packaging during semiconductor device fabrication. Although less common, wire bonding can be used to connect an IC to other electronics or to connect from one printed circuit board (PCB) to another. Wire bonding is generally considered the most cost-effective and flexible interconnect technology and is used to assemble the vast majority of semiconductor packages. Wire bonding can be used at frequencies above 100 GHz.
An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece of semiconductor material that is normally silicon. The integration of large numbers of tiny transistors into a small chip results in circuits that are orders of magnitude smaller, cheaper, and faster than those constructed of discrete electronic components. The IC's mass production capability, reliability and building-block approach to circuit design has ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors. ICs are now used in virtually all electronic equipment and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital home appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the small size and low cost of ICs.
Semiconductor devices are electronic components that exploit the electronic properties of semiconductor material, principally silicon, germanium, and gallium arsenide, as well as organic semiconductors. Semiconductor devices have replaced thermionic devices in most applications. They use electronic conduction in the solid state as opposed to the gaseous state or thermionic emission in a high vacuum.
In electronics manufacturing, integrated circuit packaging is the final stage of semiconductor device fabrication, in which the block of semiconductor material is encapsulated in a supporting case that prevents physical damage and corrosion. The case, known as a "package", supports the electrical contacts which connect the device to a circuit board.
Bondwires usually consist of one of the following materials:
Wire diameters start at 15 µm and can be up to several hundred micrometres for high-powered applications.
The wire bonding industry is transitioning from gold to copper.This change has been instigated by the rising cost of gold and the comparatively stable, and much lower, cost of copper. While possessing higher thermal and electrical conductivity than gold, copper had previously been seen as less reliable due to its hardness and susceptibility to corrosion. By 2015, it is expected that more than a third of all wire bonding machines in use will be set up for copper.
Hardness is a measure of the resistance to localized plastic deformation induced by either mechanical indentation or abrasion. Some materials are harder than others. Macroscopic hardness is generally characterized by strong intermolecular bonds, but the behavior of solid materials under force is complex; therefore, there are different measurements of hardness: scratch hardness, indentation hardness, and rebound hardness.
Copper wire has become one of the preferred materials for wire bonding interconnects in many semiconductor and microelectronic applications. Copper is used for fine wire ball bonding in sizes up to 0.003 inch (75 micrometres). Copper wire has the ability of being used at smaller diameters providing the same performance as gold without the high material cost.
Copper wire up to 0.020 inch (500 micrometres)can be successfully wedge bonded. Large diameter copper wire can and does replace aluminum wire where high current carrying capacity is needed or where there are problems with complex geometry. Annealing and process steps used by manufacturers enhance the ability to use large diameter copper wire to wedge bond to silicon without damage occurring to the die.
Wedge bonding is a kind of wire bonding which relies on the application of ultrasonic power and force to form bonds. It is a popular method and is commonly used in the semiconductor industry. Wedge bonding is usually performed at ambient temperature using pressure and ultrasonic energy to form the wire bonds. It is most often used with aluminium bond wire to bond to aluminium (Al) or gold (Au) bond pads. It is possible to wedge bond with gold wire using a special tool. The advantage of Al wedge bonding is that it is less susceptible to contamination than other forms of wire bonding. The disadvantage is that it is more likely to cause cratering where damage occurs to the semiconductor below the bond pad.
Copper wire does pose some challenges in that it is harder than both gold and aluminum, so bonding parameters must be kept under tight control. The formation of oxides is inherent with this material, so storage and shelf life are issues that must be considered. Special packaging is required in order to protect copper wire and achieve a longer shelf life.Palladium coated copper wire is a common alternative which has shown significant resistance to corrosion, albeit at a higher hardness than pure copper and a greater price, though still less than gold. During the fabrication of wire bonds, copper wire, as well as its plated varieties, must be worked in the presence of forming gas [95% nitrogen and 5% hydrogen] or a similar anoxic gas in order to prevent corrosion. A method for coping with copper's relative hardness is the use of high purity [5N+] varieties.
Palladium is a chemical element with symbol Pd and atomic number 46. It is a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston. He named it after the asteroid Pallas, which was itself named after the epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, acquired by her when she slew Pallas. Palladium, platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium form a group of elements referred to as the platinum group metals (PGMs). These have similar chemical properties, but palladium has the lowest melting point and is the least dense of them.
Pure gold wire doped with controlled amounts of beryllium and other elements is normally used for ball bonding. This process brings together the two materials that are to be bonded using heat, pressure and ultrasonic energy referred to as thermosonic bonding. The most common approach in thermosonic bonding is to ball-bond to the chip, then stitch-bond to the substrate. Very tight controls during processing enhance looping characteristics and eliminate sagging.
Junction size, bond strength and conductivity requirements typically determine the most suitable wire size for a specific wire bonding application. Typical manufacturers make gold wire in diameters from 0.0005 inch (12.5 micrometres) and larger. Production tolerance on gold wire diameter is +/-3%.
Alloyed aluminum wires are generally preferred to pure aluminum wire except in high-current devices because of greater drawing ease to fine sizes and higher pull-test strengths in finished devices. Pure aluminum and 0.5% magnesium-aluminum are most commonly used in sizes larger than 0.004 inch (101 micrometer).
All-aluminum systems in semiconductor fabrication eliminate the "purple plague" (brittle gold-aluminum intermetallic compound) sometimes associated with pure gold bonding wire. Aluminum is particularly suitable for thermosonic bonding.
In order to assure that high quality bonds can be obtained at high production speeds, special controls are used in the manufacture of 1% silicon-aluminum wire. One of the most important characteristics of high grade bonding wire of this type is homogeneity of the alloy system. Homogeneity is given special attention during the manufacturing process. Microscopic checks of the alloy structure of finished lots of 1% silicon-aluminum wire are performed routinely. Processing also is carried out under conditions which yield the ultimate in surface cleanliness and smooth finish and permits entirely snag-free de-reeling.
The main classes of wire bonding:
Ball bonding usually is restricted to gold and copper wire and usually requires heat. For wedge bonding, only gold wire requires heat. Wedge bonding can use large diameter wires or wire ribbons for power electronics application. Ball bonding is limited to small diameter wires, suitable for interconnect application.
In either type of wire bonding, the wire is attached at both ends using a combination of downward pressure, ultrasonic energy, and in some cases heat, to make a weld. Heat is used to make the metal softer. The correct combination of temperature and ultrasonic energy is used in order to maximize the reliability and strength of a wire bond. If heat and ultrasonic energy is used, the process is called thermosonic bonding.
In wedge bonding, the wire must be drawn in a straight line according to the first bond. This slows down the process due to time needed for tool alignment. Ball bonding, however, creates its first bond in a ball shape with the wire sticking out at the top, having no directional preference. Thus, the wire can be drawn in any direction, making it a faster process.
Compliant bondingtransmits heat and pressure through a compliant or indentable aluminum tape and therefore is applicable in bonding gold wires and the beam leads that have been electroformed to the silicon integrated circuit (known as the beam leaded integrated circuit).
There are multiple challenges when it comes to wire bond manufacturing and reliability. These challenges tend of be a function of several parameters such as the material systems, bonding parameters, and use environment. Different wire bond-bond pad metal systems such as Aluminum-Aluminum (Al-Al), Gold-Aluminum (Au-Al), and Copper-Aluminum (Cu-Al) require different manufacturing parameters and behave differently under the same use environments.
Much work has been done to characterize various metal systems, review critical manufacturing parameters, and identify typical reliability issues that occur in wire bonding.When it comes to material selection, the application and use environment will dictate the metal system. Often the electrical properties, mechanical properties, and cost are taken into account when making a decision. For example, a high current device for a space application might require a large diameter aluminum wire bond in a hermetically sealed ceramic package. If cost is a large constraint, then avoiding gold wire bonds may be a necessity. Some recent work has been done to look at copper wire bonds in automotive applications. This is only a small sampling, as there is a vast body of work reviewing and testing what material systems work best in different applications.
From a manufacturing perspective, the bonding parameters play a critical role in bond formation and bond quality. Parameters such bond force, ultrasonic energy, temperature, and loop geometry, to name a few, can have a significant effect on bond quality. There are various wire bonding techniques (thermosonic bonding, ultrasonic bonding, thermocompression bonding) and types of wire bonds (ball bonding, wedge bonding) that affect susceptibility to manufacturing defects and reliability issues. Certain materials and wire diameters are more practical for fine pitch or complex layouts. The bond pad also plays an important role as the metallization and barrier layer(s) stackup will impact the bond formation.
Typical failure modes that result from poor bond quality and manufacturing defects include: fracture at the ball bond neck, heel cracking (wedge bonds), pad liftoff, pad peel, overcompression, and improper intermetallic formation. A combination of wire bond pull/shear testing, nondestructive testing, and destructive physical analysis (DPA) can be used to screen manufacturing and quality issues.
While wirebond manufacturing tends to focus on bond quality, it often does not account for wearout mechanisms related to wire bond reliability. In this case, an understanding of the application and use environment can help prevent reliability issues. Common examples of environments that lead to wire bond failures include elevated temperatures, elevated temperature and humidity, and temperature cycling.
Under elevated temperatures, excessive intermetallics (IMC) growth can create brittle points of fracture. Lots of work that has been done to characterize the intermetallic formation and aging for various metal systems. This not a problem in metal systems where the wire bond and bond pad are the same material such as Al-Al. This does become a concern in dissimilar metal systems. One of the most well known examples is the brittle intermetallics formed in gold-aluminum IMCs such as purple plague. Additionally, diffusion related issues, such as Kirkendall voiding and Horsting voiding, can also lead to wire bond failures.
Under elevated temperature and humidity environments, corrosion can be a concern. This is most common in Au-Al metal systems and is driven by galvanic corrosion. The presence of halides such as chlorine can accelerate this behavior. This Au-Al corrosion is often characterized with Peck's law for temperature and humidity. This is not as common in other metal systems.
Under temperature cycling, thermomechanical stress is generated in the wire bond as a result of coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) mismatch between the epoxy molding compound (EMC), the leadframe, the die, the die adhesive, and the wire bond. This leads to low cycle fatigue due to shear or tensile stresses in the wire bond. Various fatigue models have been used to predict the fatigue life of wire bonds under such conditions.
Proper understanding of the use environment and metal systems are often the most important factors for increasing wire bond reliability.
While there are some wire bond pull and shear testing techniques,these tend to be applicable for manufacturing quality rather than reliability. They are often monotonic overstress techniques, where peak force and fracture location are the critical outputs. In this case the damage is plasticity dominated, and does not reflect some wearout mechanisms that might be seen under environmental conditions.
Wire pull testing applies an upward force under the wire, effectively pulling it away from the substrate or die.The purpose of the test is as MIL-STD-883 2011.9 describes it: "To measure bond strengths, evaluate bond strength distributions, or determine compliance with specified bond strength requirements". A wire can be pulled to destruction, but there are also non-destructive variants whereby one tests whether the wire can withstand a certain force. Non-destructive test methods are typically used for 100% testing of safety critical, high quality and high cost products, avoiding damage to the acceptable wired bonds tested.
The term wire pull usually refers to the act of pulling a wire with a hook mounted on a pull sensor on a bond tester. However, to promote certain failure modes, wires can be cut and then pulled by tweezers, also mounted on a pull sensor on a bond tester. Usually wires up to 75 µm diameter (3 mil) are classified as thin wire. Beyond that size, we speak about thick wire testing.
Semiconductor device fabrication is the process used to create the integrated circuits that are present in everyday electrical and electronic devices. It is a multiple-step sequence of photolithographic and chemical processing steps during which electronic circuits are gradually created on a wafer made of pure semiconducting material. Silicon is almost always used, but various compound semiconductors are used for specialized applications.
Solder is a fusible metal alloy used to create a permanent bond between metal workpieces. The word solder comes from the Middle English word soudur, via Old French solduree and soulder, from the Latin solidare, meaning "to make solid". In fact, solder must first be melted in order to adhere to and connect the pieces together after cooling, which requires that an alloy suitable for use as solder have a lower melting point than the pieces being joined. The solder should also be resistant to oxidative and corrosive effects that would degrade the joint over time. Solder used in making electrical connections also needs to have favorable electrical characteristics.
The Kirkendall effect is the motion of the interface between two metals that occurs as a consequence of the difference in diffusion rates of the metal atoms. The effect can be observed for example by placing insoluble markers at the interface between a pure metal and an alloy containing that metal, and heating to a temperature where atomic diffusion is possible; the boundary will move relative to the markers.
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.
Ball bonding is a type of wire bonding, and is the most common way to make the electrical interconnections between a chip and the outside world as part of semiconductor device fabrication.
Ultrasonic welding is an industrial technique whereby high-frequency ultrasonic acoustic vibrations are locally applied to workpieces being held together under pressure to create a solid-state weld. It is commonly used for plastics and metals, and especially for joining dissimilar materials. In ultrasonic welding, there are no connective bolts, nails, soldering materials, or adhesives necessary to bind the materials together. When applied to metals, a notable characteristic of this method is that the temperature stays well below the melting point of the involved materials.
An intermetallic is a type of metallic alloy that forms a solid-state compound exhibiting defined stoichiometry and ordered crystal structure.
Gold plating is a method of depositing a thin layer of gold onto the surface of another metal, most often copper or silver, by chemical or electrochemical plating. This article covers plating methods used in the modern electronics industry; for more traditional methods, often used for much larger objects, see gilding.
A diffusion barrier is a thin layer of metal usually placed between two other metals. It is done to act as a barrier to protect either one of the metals from corrupting the other.
Glass-coating is a process invented in 1924 by G. F. Taylor and converted into production machine by Ulitovski for producing fine glass-coated metal filaments only a few micrometres in diameter.
Aluminized steel is steel that has been hot-dip coated on both sides with aluminium-silicon alloy. This process assures a tight metallurgical bond between the steel sheet and its aluminium coating, producing a material with a unique combination of properties possessed neither by steel nor by aluminium alone. Aluminized steel shows a better behavior against corrosion and keeps the properties of the base material steel for temperature lower than 800 °C (1,470 °F). For example, it is commonly used for heat exchangers in residential furnaces, commercial rooftop HVAC units, automotive mufflers, ovens, kitchen ranges, water heaters, fireplaces, barbecue burners, and baking pans. This steel is very useful for heating things up because it transfers heat faster than most other steels.
Thermosonic bonding is widely used to wire bond silicon integrated circuits into computers. Alexander Coucoulas was named "Father Of Thermosonic Bonding" by George Harman, the world's foremost authority on wire bonding, where he referenced Coucoulas's leading edge publications in his book, Wire Bonding In Microelectronics. Owing to the well proven reliability of thermosonic bonds, it is extensively used to connect the central processing units (CPUs), which are encapsulated silicon integrated circuits that serve as the "brains" of today's computers.
Thermocompression bonding describes a wafer bonding technique and is also referred to as diffusion bonding, pressure joining, thermocompression welding or solid-state welding. Two metals, e.g. gold (Au)-gold (Au), are brought into atomic contact applying force and heat simultaneously. The diffusion requires atomic contact between the surfaces due to the atomic motion. The atoms migrate from one crystal lattice to the other one based on crystal lattice vibration. This atomic interaction sticks the interface together. The diffusion process is described by the following three processes:
Electronic components have a wide range of failure modes. These can be classified in various ways, such as by time or cause. Failures can be caused by excess temperature, excess current or voltage, ionizing radiation, mechanical shock, stress or impact, and many other causes. In semiconductor devices, problems in the device package may cause failures due to contamination, mechanical stress of the device, or open or short circuits.
Copper has been used in electrical wiring since the invention of the electromagnet and the telegraph in the 1820s. The invention of the telephone in 1876 created further demand for copper wire as an electrical conductor.
Alexander Coucoulas is an American inventor, research engineer, and author. He was named "Father Of Thermosonic Bonding" by George Harman, the world's foremost authority on wire bonding, where he referenced Coucoulas's leading edge publications in his book, Wire Bonding In Microelectronics. A Thermosonic bond is formed using a set of parameters which include ultrasonic, thermal and mechanical (force) energies. Figure 1 (below) shows a diagram of a Thermosonic Bonding machine which includes a magnetostrictive or piezoelectric-type transducer which is used to convert electrical energy into vibratory motion. The vibratory motion travels along the coupler system, a portion which is tapered to serve as the velocity transformer. The velocity transformer amplifies the oscilliatory motion and delivers it to a heated bonding tip.
Compliant bonding is used to connect gold wires to electrical components such as integrated circuit "chips". It was invented by Alexander Coucoulas in the 1960s. The bond is formed well below the melting point of the mating gold surfaces and is therefore referred to as a solid-state type bond. The compliant bond is formed by transmitting heat and pressure to the bond region through a relatively thick indentable or compliant medium, generally an aluminum tape.
A bond tester is a scientific instrument used to measure the mechanical strength of bonds, evaluate bond strength distributions or determine compliance with specified bond strength requirements of the applicable acquisition document. Typically a load is applied to a bond by a hook or shear tool, whereafter a force measurement is taken and the failure mode of the tested sample is recorded. More often than not bond tests are destructive and samples are scrapped after testing. In aerospace and medical applications, non destructive testing is common, whereby the bond is loaded up to a point to reveal nonacceptable bonds while avoiding damage to acceptable bonds.