A string of failures discovered during final testing after assembly led analysts on a long search for the cause, which turned out to be an unusual form of electrostatic discharge (ESD). Most ESD impacts on ICs occur by way of the pins. Nearly all ESD models, including the widely used human body model, charged-device model, and machine model, are based on this assumption. However, as this case study proves, passivated wafers and unpackaged dies are also susceptible to ESD damage. The authors explain that although this type of failure is difficult to diagnose, they were able to pinpoint the cause using lock-in microthermography and rule out mechanical-, FIB-, and laser-induced failures, which are similar in appearance.

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