Journal of Electronic Materials

, Volume 38, Issue 12, pp 2685-2693

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Microstructure and Orientation Evolution of the Sn Phase as a Function of Position in Ball Grid Arrays in Sn-Ag-Cu Solder Joints

  • Tae-Kyu LeeAffiliated withComponent Quality and Technology Group, Cisco Systems, Inc. Email author 
  • , Kuo-Chuan LiuAffiliated withComponent Quality and Technology Group, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • , Thomas R. BielerAffiliated withMichigan State University


The microstructure evolution of Sn-Ag-Cu solder joints during aging and thermal cycling is studied, with a focus on the Sn grain orientation in plastic ball grid array (PBGA) packages. Thermally cycled PBGA packages with a full array of 196 solder joints were examined after being subjected to various pre-conditions. Each PBGA package was polished to obtain plan-view cross- sections of each solder joint. Solder joints were characterized using both polarized optical microscopy and orientation imaging microscopy (OIM). The observations reveal that the distribution of single and multigrain Sn microstructure as a function of position in the package is dependent on the sample’s preconditions and thermal cycle history. Based on distribution maps from polarized optical microscopy observation, thermal aging has a relatively small impact on the overall fraction of single-grained solder joints. Thermal cycling, however, can cause many single-grained joints to transform into multigrained solder joints. The dependence of the grain structure distribution on different preconditions and evolution of the grain structures during thermal cycling are discussed.


Lead-free solder Sn grain orientation polarized image microstructure orientation image microscopy (OIM)