One method of reducing costs in the packaging sector is to switch from gold bond wires to copper. Thicker copper wires (over 2 mils) can be safely decapsulated using a ratio mixture of fuming acids. Some surface etching of the copper will occur, but the wire will remain electrically viable. Microwave Plasma can provide a safer alternative for decapsulating packages with copper bondwires and exposed copper metallization. In this paper, experimental deprocessing of copper bond wire and copper metallization using laser ablation and downstream microwave plasma has found that 1 mil stressed wires can be safely exposed and examined, showing slip plane fractures in the corner wires. Topside copper metallization remains intact, even the thin protective nickel plating. Sensitive copper metal structures on top of the passivation (such as antennas) will remain electrically viable following decapsulation with plasma, but are often lost and defective following acid decapsulation.

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