Conductive Anodic Filament Failure: A Materials Perspective


March 16, 2023


Laura J. Turbini and W. Jud Ready


Conductive anodic filament (CAF) formation was first reported in 1976.1 This electrochemical failure mode of electronic substrates involves the growth of a copper containing filament subsurface along the epoxy-glass interface, from anode to cathode. Despite the projected lifetime reduction due to CAF, field failures were not identified in the 1980s. Recently, however, field failures of critical equipment have been reported.2 A thorough understanding of the nature of CAF is needed in order to prevent this catastrophic failure from affecting electronic assemblies in the future. Such an understanding requires a comprehensive evaluation of the factors that enhance CAF formation. These factors can be grouped into two types: (1) internal variables and (2) external influences. Internal variables include the composition of the circuit board material, and the conductor metallization and configuration (i.e. via to via, via to surface conductor or surface conductors to surface conductors). External influences can be due to (1) production and (2) storage and use. During production, the flux or hot air solder leveling (HASL) fluid choice, number and severity of temperature cycles, and the method of cleaning may influence CAF resistance. During storage and use, the principal concern is moisture uptake resulting from the ambient humidity. This paper will report on the relationship between these various factors and the formation of CAF. Specifically, we will explore the influences of printed wiring board (PWB) substrate choice as well as the influence of the soldering flux and HASL fluid choices. Due to the ever-increasing circuit density of electronic assemblies, CAF field failures are expected to increase unless careful attention is focused on material and processing choices....

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Company Information:

Center for Board Assembly Research CBAR- advanced research on board assembly processes and systems

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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