The standard requirement for FA Engineers needing to remove components from a board, prior to decapsulation or sample preparation, is shown to be greatly reduced, by the methods discussed here. By using a mechanical selected area preparation system with an open-design it is possible to reach all required areas of a large printed circuit board (PCB) or module to prepare a single component ‘in situ’. This makes subsequent optical or electrical testing faster and often more convenient to accomplish. Electronic End-pointing and 3D curvature compensation methods can often be used in parallel with sample prep techniques to further improve the consistency and efficacy of the decapsulation and thinning uniformity and final remaining silicon thickness (RST). Board level prep eliminates the worry of rework removal of BGA packages and the subsequent risk of damage to the device. Since the entire board is mounted, the contamination is restricted to the die surface and can be kept from the underside ball connections unlike current liquid immersion methods of package thinning or delayering. Since the camera is in line with the abrasion interface, imaging is real time during the entire milling and thinning process. Recent advances in automated tilt-table design have meant that a specific component’s angular orientation can be optimized for sample preparation. Improved tilt table technology also allows for improved mounting capability for boards of many types and sizes. The paper describes methods for decapsulation, thinning and backside polishing of a part ‘in situ’ on the polishing machine and allows the system to operate as a probe station for monitoring electrical characteristics while thinning. Considerations for designing board-level workholders are described – for boards that that are populated with components on one or even both sides. Using the techniques described, the quality of sample preparation and control is on a par with the processing of single package-level devices.

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