Multiple, independent, system level test failures that occurred around the same time were traced back to a short circuit on the same type of printed circuit board (PCB). The PCBs were removed from the application and sent to the authors' lab for analysis. This paper reviews the analysis techniques and results that led to the failure mechanism being identified. The discussion focuses on steps taken to exonerate the authors' lab and processes as possible sources of contamination. Additional investigation that leads to the conclusion that the issue is systemic is also covered. The paper then focuses on the containment effort as well as root cause identification at the manufacturers. It was concluded that the failure mechanism causing the short circuit in the failed PCB is due to ionic contamination trapped inside the PCB. The normal chemistry required to process the plated through holes contaminated the voids/fractures created by drilling process.

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