When a complex electronic component malfunctions, it's important to understand what exactly has gone wrong and more importantly, why. The entire branch of quality control revolves around reducing error rates in manufacturing. Faulty chips not only lose money directly, but can also lead to unforeseen lawsuits. In order to get a clear idea of the problem, misbehaving components are sent for inspection to failure analysis labs.
A failure analysis laboratory is a place which is dedicated to finding out why certain chips are defective. Over the years, the field of forensic engineering has evolved to a point where there is a systematic way of drilling down to the root of the problem.
Electronic Failure Analysis Lab
Though there are many failure analysis techniques for finding out why a particular chip is defective, an analysis doesn't start with them. Instead, the first step is to find out more about the defect by analyzing error reports, error rates, histories of failure and circumstances surrounding the error. This way, a lab can extract important information about the error which can pinpoint the source and what kind of problem has occurred.
Therefore even before labs put the chip under a microscope, it has a general idea of what it is looking for. This makes it easy to choose the correct analysis technique since each type of analysis reveals a different fault. Stress faults for example can't be detected using microthermography techniques. The idea is to save as much time, effort and money as possible and increase the efficiency of the detection technique at the same time.
A good lab has technicians that really understand how the chips work. This expertise is necessary for many failure analysis techniques such as the Fault Tree Analysis (FTA) developed by Bell in 1962. Only when we've looked at all the available information, do we start applying the scientific analysis techniques which failure analysis labs are typically famous for.
Such labs also use their expertise with previous situations to make recommendations about why that particular error was caused and what can be done to prevent it. Sometimes it all boils down to human error in some stage of manufacturing and in this way, the process looks a lot like detective work. Quality control in chip manufacturing is meaningless without good failure analysis labs to back them up.
The failure analysis labs perform the key function of determining why a certain component of an electronic equipment has malfunctioned. Even before the component, say a chip, is placed under a microscope, error reports, error rates, histories of failure and circumstances surrounding the error are examined. Only when that information has been considered then scientific analysis techniques are applied to the chip. The ultimate purpose is to find out why the particular error occurred and recommend what to do to prevent it.