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Reliability of unencapsulated SMD plastic film capacitors

Anne Seppala Tampere University of Technology, Electronics Laboratory, Tampere, Finland Kimmo Saarinen Evox Rifa Group, Virkkala, Finland Eero Ristolainen Tampere University of Technology, Electronics Laboratory, Tampere, Finland

Keywords

Surface mount technology, Lead-free soldering, Reliability

Introduction
Resistance to heat, moisture and most common solvents is an important aspect of an electronic component. Plastic encapsulated components usually satisfy these requirements. However, encapsulation can account for more than 50 percent of the component's volume. Small size and high volume efficiency are essential in today's trend towards miniaturization, such as in portable electronics. By leaving out the encapsulation process, the price of the component can also be reduced due to savings in cost of labour and materials. The dielectric film in an unencapsulated SMD plastic film capacitor has to resist temperatures up to 2608C and has to have resistance to the most common chemicals used in soldering processes, since there is no protective shield as a thermal or chemical barrier. Furthermore, terminal metals have to be suitable for new lead-free soldering processes. In addition to solderability, the terminal metals have to have good corrosion resistance to avoid degradation in electrical conductivity. Solderability of the components is a complex parameter. There are three main aspects to solderability (Lea, 1988): 1 thermal demand; 2 wettability; and 3 resistance to soldering heat. The thermal characteristics of the component must enable the solder joint areas to be heated to the desired temperature for soldering. A clean metallic surface on the substrates is required for good wetting by molten solder to occur. On the other hand, many solderability problems are due to choice of terminal or lead materials, which, in air, rapidly form tough oxides that do not wet well. The wettability can be determined by several factors, such as the surface energy of the material surface, with metals with low surface energies being more difficult to solder (Strauss, 1998). The wettability of common substrates can be ranked in the order of Sn > Sn/Pb > Cu > Ag/Pd > Ni (Hwang, 1996). Surface roughening and texturing control the wetting of the substrate (Lea, 1988). In addition, the solderability can be affected by the porosity of the base material and the metallurgical affinity between the metal to be soldered and the constituents of the solder (Hwang, 1996; Strauss, 1998). The most commonly used solder is eutectic tin-lead alloy. Two factors are, however, driving the change away from lead. One is the environmental issue of lead as it is an environmental pollutant. The other factor is the health and safety in the workplace as lead is a toxic metal. Virtually all of the lead-free solder alternatives utilize tin as one of the primary constituents. The other elements which could be incorporated in the alloy systems are, for example, Ag, Au, Bi, Cd, Cu, Ga, Hg, In, Sb, Tl, and Zn (Hwang, 1996; Lee, 1997). The research register for this journal is available at http://www.mcbup.com/research_registers/elec.asp

Experimental
Production of the test capacitors
Unencapsulated plastic film capacitors were produced using a winding method. Polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) film was used as a dielectric. The manufacturing process started with vacuum metallization, which was used to coat the PEN film with aluminum. During metallization, the strips or margins which were not to be coated were protected by an oil masking system or by tapes which prevented metallization. After metallization, films were slitted and two polymeric tapes, which had metallized electrodes on one surface and a non-metallized margin on one side, were offset in opposite directions so that the non-metallized margins lined up with the opposite sides of the tapes. Then the two tapes together were wound into cylindrical rolls. Flat windings were produced by pressing the cylindrical rolls. The opposite sides of the windings, or terminals, were electroded by using the Schoop process for flame spraying of metal. During spraying capacitors were masked so that the sides of the windings were protected from metallization. Appropriateness of the selective plating process was also tested in metallizing the terminals with nickel. The production of the test capacitors is schematically presented in Figure 1. Flame spraying is an industrial coating process first invented in 1910 by Schoop in Switzerland (Ingham and Shepard, 1969). Pure or alloyed metal in wire form is fed continually into a fuel gas-oxygen flame where it is melted. Compressed air surrounds the flame and atomizes the molten tip of the wire. This accelerates the spray of molten particles toward the surface to be coated. The surface is at low temperature, which is an advantage of this method.

Small and low cost unencapsulated SMD plastic film capacitors were manufactured with different terminal metal compositions and dielectric materials. Capacitors made with a polyethylene naphthalate film dielectric were produced using a winding method. The terminals were metallized using the flame spraying process. The terminals of the test capacitors consisted of three different metal layers. The base metal layer, which was aluminum, was coated with brass or copper. The top layer was a sprayed lead-free, tin-based solder to ensure the solderability of the terminals. The reliability of the unencapsulated test capacitors was evaluated using standard temperature cycling, humidity storage, and high temperature environmental tests. Solderability and resistance to soldering heat were tested by mounting the test capacitors using the reflow soldering technique. The electrical properties including capacitance, insulation resistance, and dissipation factors at 1kHz and 100kHz were verified.

Abstract

Materials

Received: April 1999 Revised: October 1999

Soldering & Surface Mount Technology 12/1 [2000] 1522 # MCB University Press [ISSN 0954-0911]

The capacitance value of the specimens was approximately 1"F. The spacing between the terminals of the capacitor was 14mm and the rated voltage was 100V. The terminals of the capacitors consisted of three different metal layers. The choice for the base layer was aluminum, due to its good adhesion to the dielectric film and its high melting point. Since the base layer exhibits poor solderability, a solderable intermediate layer must be added, particularly when the top layer dissolves in the solder during the soldering process. Alternatives for the intermediate metal layer were brass and copper. The top layer was a sprayed tin-based solder such as tin-zinc, tin-copper or pure tin. Tin-lead solder was not used due to the harmfulness of lead. For a few specimens, a barrier layer of nickel was used between the top layer and the intermediate layer. Copper is widely used in electrical contacts because of its high electrical and thermal conductivity, low cost, and ease of fabrication. High purity copper is used for the The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at http://www.emerald-library.com

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Anne Seppala, Kimmo Saarinen and Eero Ristolainen Reliability of unencapsulated SMD plastic film capacitors Soldering & Surface Mount Technology 12/1 [2000] 1522

conductors on printed circuit boards. Copper and its alloys are also used as materials for electrical contacts, for terminals and in electromechanical components. However, the melting temperature of pure copper is 1,0838C. Tin is non-toxic, ductile, and corrosion resistant metal used in electronic applications. Tin's ability to protect, for example, copper from oxidation preserves the solderability of the basis metal. The melting temperature of pure tin is 2328C. Tin-zinc alloys are used as solders. An alloy containing 91 percent tin and 9 percent zinc is a eutectic composition and is a candidate for lead free solder. It has good strength, but poor wetting and corrosion properties (Lee, 1997). The tin-zinc alloy tested contained 20 percent zinc and 80 percent tin for productional reasons. The liquidus of the alloy is approximately 2358C. Solder with a 99.3 percent Sn and 0.7 percent Cu eutectic composition has shown good potential as a replacement for Sn-Pb solder in lead-free soldering processes. An advantage of the alloy is good fatigue resistance (Lee, 1997). The tested alloy of 3 percent copper and 97 percent tin has a liquidus of 3308C. Brass is a copper-zinc alloy containing up to 40 percent zinc. The tested brass wire contained 27 percent zinc and 73 percent oxygen-free copper. The liquidus of the alloy was approximately 9758C. The properties of brasses vary widely depending on the specific alloy. As the zinc content increases in the alloy, the melting point, density, electric and thermal conductivity, and modulus of elasticity decrease while the coefficient of expansion, strength, and hardness increase (Brady et al., 1997). Brass can be coated with nickel to avoid diffusion of zinc. A problem arises when a diffusion barrier, such as nickel, is too thin and cannot stop the migration of zinc from a brass base material into the solderable layer. Zinc can then accumulate on the surface of the solderable layer and form zinc oxide, which is not solderable (MacLeod Ross, 1996). The appropriateness of selective plating, which is an electrochemical deposition method, was tested in metallizing the terminals of the capacitors with nickel and tin, since there were some difficulties in spraying nickelbased alloy due to the high melting temperature of the alloy. However, the electrical properties of the capacitors decreased markedly during the selective plating process. As a consequence of that, no further testing was performed with the nickel-plated capacitors. The material combinations that were tested are presented in Table I.

After initial measurements the reliability of the capacitors was tested by several aging tests. The measured electrical properties were capacitance, insulation resistance, and dissipation factor. For capacitance and dissipation factor measurements an HP 4284A precision LCR meter was used and a DB601 insulation resistance meter with DB640 scanner was used when the insulation resistance was measured. After the tests, and a period of at least two hours of stabilisation at room temperature, the same measurements were carried out to determine the changes in the properties during the tests. Solderability and resistance to soldering heat were tested by mounting the capacitors using the reflow soldering technique. Reflow was performed in a convection reflow oven. The soldering process was a no-clean process performed by using SnPb solder. The number of specimens was ten. After soldering, the capacitors were visually examined to see the quality of the solder joint and final measurements were performed. The endurance of the same specimens was tested at a temperature of 1258C for a duration of 2,000 hours. Resistance to thermal shock was tested by subjecting the specimens, which were mounted on the printed circuit board, to a rapid change of temperature. The test was a twochamber test with transition time less than ten seconds. The duration of exposure at the temperature limits was 15 minutes and the number of cycles was 100. The test temperatures were 558C and 1258C and the number of specimens in the test was 20. After the thermal shock test, the same specimens were subjected to a damp heat test, where the capacitors were exposed to a relative humidity of 93 percent at a temperature of 408C for 56 days.

Reliability tests

Results and discussion


An important property of the terminal metallisation of the capacitor is its solderability. The solderability of the capacitors was tested by mounting the capacitors using the reflow soldering technique. The solderability of the specimens with a sprayed copper or brass intermediate layer was good while the sprayed nickel-based alloy turned out to be non-solderable, probably due to tough oxides that formed during the spraying process. Poor solderability is said to be a disadvantage of nickel even with activated fluxes (Harper and Sampson, 1994). In addition, the high temperature used in the flame spraying process of nickel caused degradation of capacitors. In consequence of that, no testing was performed for these specimens. Solderable terminals were achieved by protecting the plated, clean nickel layer with a selectively plated thin tin layer. However, the electrical properties such as capacitance, dissipation factor, and insulation resistance of the capacitors were degraded markedly during the plating and subsequent soldering processes. As a result, it is not appropriate to replace the flame spray process with the selective plating process. The results of the reliability tests are shown in Figures 2-17. The average values are indicated by asterisks in the Figures. The maximum and minimum values of the test results are also indicated. The change of capacitance is expressed in percent. The change of dissipation factor is expressed as absolute value of increase or decrease. The insulation resistance after the test is compared to the specification insulation resistance, which is 3,000M, and the ratio of these values is indicated in the Figures. The change in the insulation resistance value during the testing was insignificant for all the specimens. There is no international test specification for polyethylene naphthalate SMD capacitors, but the test results should meet the requirements generally used in the industry. These requirements are also the draft limits of IEC specification under development. The requirements are presented in Table II.

Figure 1 Schematic presentation of the production of the test capacitors. Two metallized polymer films (a) were wound into cylindrical rolls (b). The rolls were pressed and opposite sides of the windings were electroded (c)

Table I The construction of the specimens Specimen group Cu+Sn Cu+SnCu Cu+SnZn Brass+Sn Brass+SnCu Brass+SnZn Base layer Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Intermediate layer Copper Copper Copper Brass (27 percent Zn) Brass (27 percent Zn) Brass (27 percent Zn) Top layer Tin Tin-copper (3 percent Cu) Tin-zinc (20 percent Zn) Tin Tin-copper (3 percent Cu) Tin-zinc (20 percent Zn)

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Anne Seppala, Kimmo Saarinen and Eero Ristolainen Reliability of unencapsulated SMD plastic film capacitors Soldering & Surface Mount Technology 12/1 [2000] 1522

Figure 2 Change of capacitance in resistance to soldering heat test

The results of the resistance to soldering heat test showed that the change of capacitance value of some specimens with a sprayed Sn-Zn top layer exceeded the accepted limit of 2 percent, as shown in Figure 2. However, the average value was within the recommended region for all the specimens. On the other hand, the increase of dissipation factor was always below the specified limit, as shown in Figures 3 and 4. In some cases, the dissipation factor had even decreased. Finally, the best results at 100kHz were achieved with the specimens sprayed with Sn and Sn-Cu alloys, as shown in Figure 4. The results of insulation resistance measurements in Figure 5 showed better results for the specimens with Sn-Zn top layer. All of the test results in the endurance test were within the acceptable range. The change of capacitance for all specimens was very similar, as shown in Figure 6. The dissipation factor at 1kHz was again decreased with the specimens sprayed with Sn and Sn-Cu, as shown in Figure 7, but at 100kHz the best results were achieved with the specimens sprayed with Sn-Zn, as shown in Figure 8. Figure 9 shows that the ratio of insulation resistance and specification insulation resistance is well above the minimum limit. The results of capacitance measurements following thermal shock testing are presented in Figure 10. The results were within the accepted region for all the specimens. The change of dissipation factor at 1kHz was also acceptable, and showed similar behavior for all the

specimens, as shown in Figure 11. However, the increase of dissipation factor at 100kHz for some specimens exceeded the specified limit of 0.003, as shown in Figure 12. The average values were still below the specified limit. In Figure 13 it can be seen that the ratio of insulation resistance and specification insulation resistance was again well above the minimum limit. The results of the damp heat test show that the change of capacitance, which was within the accepted region for all the specimens, is less for the specimens sprayed with brass, as shown in Figure 14. A similar trend is shown in Figure 15, which presents the results for change of dissipation factor at 1kHz. The increase of dissipation factor at 100kHz for some specimens with Sn-Cu top layer exceeded the specified limit in damp heat test also, but the average value was again below the limit, as shown in Figure 16. The ratio of insulation resistance and specification insulation resistance is still well above the minimum accepted limit, as shown in Figure 17. As a result of the reliability tests it can be seen that there are no significant differences between specimens sprayed with copper and specimens sprayed with brass. The test results for specimens with different top layers were also quite similar. However, brass may cause some problems in the long term because of out-diffusion of zinc. In addition, the tin-zinc alloy may have poor wetting and corrosion properties. The use of tin-copper may be advisable, because the strength of tin-copper is greater than that of pure tin.

Figure 3 Change of dissipation factor at 1kHz in resistance to soldering heat test

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Anne Seppala, Kimmo Saarinen and Eero Ristolainen Reliability of unencapsulated SMD plastic film capacitors Soldering & Surface Mount Technology 12/1 [2000] 1522

Figure 4 Change of dissipation factor at 100kHz in resistance to soldering heat test

Figure 5 Ratio of insulation resistance and specification insulation resistance determined after resistance to soldering heat test

Figure 6 Change of capacitance in endurance test

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Anne Seppala, Kimmo Saarinen and Eero Ristolainen Reliability of unencapsulated SMD plastic film capacitors Soldering & Surface Mount Technology 12/1 [2000] 1522

Figure 7 Change of dissipation factor at 1kHz in endurance test

Figure 8 Change of dissipation factor at 100kHz in endurance test

Figure 9 Ratio of insulation resistance and specification insulation resistance determined after endurance test

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Anne Seppala, Kimmo Saarinen and Eero Ristolainen Reliability of unencapsulated SMD plastic film capacitors Soldering & Surface Mount Technology 12/1 [2000] 1522

Figure 10 Change of capacitance in rapid change of temperature test

Figure 11 Change of dissipation factor at 1kHz in rapid change of temperature test

Figure 12 Change of dissipation factor at 100kHz in rapid change of temperature test

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Anne Seppala, Kimmo Saarinen and Eero Ristolainen Reliability of unencapsulated SMD plastic film capacitors Soldering & Surface Mount Technology 12/1 [2000] 1522

Figure 13 Ratio of insulation resistance and specification insulation resistance determined after rapid change of temperature test

Figure 14 Change of capacitance in damp heat test

Figure 15 Change of dissipation factor at 1kHz in damp heat test

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Anne Seppala, Kimmo Saarinen and Eero Ristolainen Reliability of unencapsulated SMD plastic film capacitors Soldering & Surface Mount Technology 12/1 [2000] 1522

Figure 16 Change of dissipation factor at 100kHz in damp heat test

Figure 17 Ratio of insulation resistance and specification insulation resistance determined after damp heat test

Table II Requirements for test results Requirements Change of capacitance Increase of dissipation factor at 1kHz Increase of dissipation factor at 100kHz Insulation resistance/spec. insulation resistance 2 percent 0.002 0.003 !0.5 (50 percent)

test results were within the acceptable range. It should be noticed that the test limits used are the draft-limits of IEC specification for an encapsulated polyethylene naphthalate SMD capacitor, and thus may be too strict for unencapsulated capacitors. Finally, the results were promising and the development of smaller and cheaper lead-free SMD plastic film capacitor families for the higher temperature soldering process can be finalized in due course to satisfy the market demands.

Conclusion
Different materials for terminal metal layers of the unencapsulated capacitors were tested. The terminals of the unencapsulated capacitors consisted of three different metal layers. Aluminum was used as a base layer to make a good adhesion bond with aluminum metallizing on the dielectric polymer of polyethylene naphthalate. The alternatives for the solderable intermediate layer were copper and brass. Tin-based lead-free solders were used as a top layer. Resistance to soldering heat was tested and it yielded good results. Although there was no case protecting the dielectric polymer, the change of the electrical properties of the capacitors was acceptable. The reliability of the capacitors was studied by subjecting the specimens to the rapid change of temperature test, the damp heat test, and the endurance test. In some cases, the increase of dissipation factor at 100kHz exceeded the specified limit, but the other

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References

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