Failure Mode: Hole Wall Pullaway


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Hole wall pullaway (HWPA) is an insidious defect that is not usually a cause of electrical failure. What happens with HWPA is that the copper plating in a plated through-hole (PTH) is pulled away from the dielectric of the drilled hole wall. The hole must not be filled with any sort of a hole fill in order to see HWPA.

There are two distinct types of HWPA: stress-relieving and stress-inducing. In stress-relieving HWPA, the condition appears to distress the PTH, allowing it to survive hundreds or thousands of thermal cycles without failure. In stress-inducing HWPA, the stress appears to greatly increase, causing the PTH to fail in just a few thermal cycles. What we consider a failure is an increase greater than 10% in the overall resistance in the circuit. A crack that partially bridges the copper at the internal interface is enough to cause a failure.

This column is based on my experience in test reliability of interconnect stress test (IST) coupons. I am addressing HWPA that features moderate to severe outgassing. There may be HWPA due to thermal stressing of the board without any significant outgassing, but this type of HWPA is subtle, and it presents as a dark line between the plating and the dielectric of the hole wall. This type of HWPA is rarely detected.

Stress-Relieving HWPA

Stress-relieving is the most common type of HWPA. It appears that the adhesion of copper plating to the dielectric is reduced most likely due to problems with the application of electroless copper plating adhering to the dielectric of the hole wall. At the same time, the adhesion is strong at the copper’s internal interconnection. In fact, experience suggests that the adhesion of the electroless copper is stronger than the copper plating. This process frequently produces strong interconnections to copper inner layers. This condition may result in a hole wall that looks like a stack of forward or backward “Ds” running the length of the hole where the top and the bottom of the “Ds” is at an internal interconnect.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the August 2015 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here

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