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A Comprehensive Guide to PCB Burn in Testing

PCB Tests

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When a PCB factory provides you with quick processing PCB or full turnkey PCB assembly, have they introduced you to the burn-in test of the PCB board?

PCB Burn-in testing, also known as stress testing, is a process that evaluates the components and connections of PCBs under extreme conditions to identify potential defects. It simulates the most significant periods in a PCB’s life cycle when failures are most likely to occur during manufacturing, transportation, installation, operation, and maintenance.
 
ELEPCB‘s PCB manufacturing process always attaches great importance to any tests conducted for the quality of PCB, including burn-in testing. We provide articles for other PCB tests, including X-ray Inspection, AVI Inspection, AOI Inspection, etc. We hope to give customers the utmost trust to choose our PCBA services. Contact us if you have any interest about our service at info@elepcb.com

The importance of burn-in testing

Burn-in testing is an important part of PCB quality control processes. It has several benefits and advantages for ensuring PCB quality, such as:

Reduce warranty issues and production costs. Burn-in testing can identify and eliminate any defects or faults that might cause PCB failures during or after deployment. This can save time, effort, and resources that would otherwise be wasted on troubleshooting, repairing, or replacing faulty PCBs. It can also prevent customer dissatisfaction, complaints, or lawsuits that might arise from faulty PCBs.
Ensure that PCBs meet the requirements for different applications. Burn-in testing can verify that PCBs can operate and function properly under various conditions, such as high temperature, humidity, vibration, shock, or power fluctuations. This can ensure that PCBs can meet the expectations and standards of the customers and the end-users.
Reveal manufacturing and component defects. Burn-in testing can expose any issues that might arise from the PCB design, development, or fabrication processes, such as poor soldering, misalignment, contamination, or component degradation. It can also detect any defects or faults that might originate from the components themselves, such as ICs, resistors, capacitors, or connectors.
 
Some of the common failure modes and causes that can affect PCB performance are:
          • Solder joint failures
          • Component failures
          • Connection failures
Three failures on PCB Burn in Testing

What is PCB burn-in testing?

The definition, the purpose and the machine

Burn-in testing is a process that subjects PCBs to conditions that are more extreme than the normal operating conditions. These conditions can include high temperature, high voltage, high current, high frequency, or high power. The duration of burn-in testing can vary depending on the PCB requirements, but it typically ranges from 40 to 160 hours. The purpose of burn-in testing is to stress the components and connections of PCBs to the point of failure or near-failure, and then inspect and analyze the results.

Burn-in testing requires specialized equipment and machines that can generate and control the desired conditions. These equipment and machines are called burn-in testing machines or chambers. They can vary in size, shape, and features, depending on the type and number of PCBs that need to be tested. Some of the common features of burn-in testing chambers are:
FeatureDescription
Temperature Control-40°C to 150°C. Wider ranges accommodate more stress profiles.
Voltage Control0V to 1000V. Higher voltages induce more electrical stresses.
Current Control0A to 100A. Higher currents generate enhanced thermal aging effects.
Frequency Control0Hz to 100MHz. Higher frequencies emulate RF environments.
Environmental ConditionsTemperature, humidity, altitude. Replicate climatic conditions PCBs may face.
Monitoring SensorsTemperature, voltage, current, vibration
Sensor InputsDetect and log parameter changes over time to catch degradation trends.
Control ModesManual, programmed profiles
ProfilesCustomizable stress sequences for static or dynamic accelerated aging simulations.

#Notice: This table shows key technical specifications and capabilities commonly found across various burn-in testing equipment to subject PCBs to rigorous controlled stresses.

PCB Burn-in testing preparation

Before conducting burn-in testing, it is important to prepare the PCBs properly. Some of the steps and procedures involved in preparing PCBs for burn-in testing are:

  • Installing the ICs on the PCBs. The ICs are the main components that are tested during burn-in testing. They are installed on the PCBs using sockets, clips, or soldering.
  • Setting the temperature, voltage, current, frequency, and power levels. Remember not to stress the PCBs too high to damage them irreversibly.
  • Loading the PCBs into the burn-in testing chamber. The PCBs should be loaded securely and properly into the burn-in testing chamber, connected to the power supply and the signal source, as well as the monitoring and measuring devices. The PCBs should be arranged in a way that allows adequate airflow and heat dissipation.

How is burn-in testing done?

Burn-in testing is done by subjecting the PCBs to the set conditions for the set duration, and then inspecting and analyzing the results. Some of the steps and procedures involved in conducting burn-in testing are:

✔ Starting the burn-in testing process

The burn-in testing chamber is turned on and the conditions are applied to the PCBs. The PCBs are stressed under the controlled conditions and the power supply and the signal source are activated.

✔ Monitoring and measuring the burn-in testing process

The burn-in testing chamber is equipped with various devices and sensors that can monitor and measure the parameters and performance of the PCBs during the testing process. These devices and sensors can include
  • Thermocouples
  • Voltmeters
  • Ammeters
  • Oscilloscopes
  • Multimeters
The devices and sensors can record and display the data and information about the temperature, voltage, current, frequency, power, resistance, capacitance, or signal integrity of the PCBs. The data and information can be stored and transmitted to a computer or a software for further analysis and evaluation.

✔ Inspecting and analyzing the burn-in testing results

After the testing process is completed, the PCBs are removed from the burn-in testing chamber and inspected for any failures or anomalies. The failures or anomalies can include cracks, burns, discoloration, deformation, or corrosion. The failures or anomalies can indicate the weak points or potential defects of the PCBs.
 
The data and information collected from the monitoring and measuring devices and sensors are also analyzed and evaluated to determine the time to failure, the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures), and the root cause of the failures or anomalies. The analysis and evaluation can help to improve the PCB design and development processes, as well as the component selection and sourcing processes.

Types of PCB Burn-In testing

Let me continue to talk about the types of PCB Burn-in tests. There are two main types of burn-in testing methods that can be used for PCBs: static and dynamic. These methods differ in the way they apply and vary the conditions to the PCBs. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, and its own applications.

Static burn-in testing

Static burn-in testing is a method that tests the PCBs against a single criterion, typically heat or voltage. Static burn-in testing involves setting the burn-in testing chamber at the desired temperature or voltage level, and then running the PCBs under that condition for the set duration.
 
Static burn-in testing does not vary the temperature or voltage level during the testing process. It is a cheaper and quicker option than dynamic burn-in testing, as it requires less equipment and less time. Static burn-in testing is suitable for testing the PCBs for their resistance and durability against constant exposure to or stage within extreme temperatures or voltages. It can reveal the effects of thermal stress or electrical stress on PCBs. Here are some applications that are suitable for static burn-in testing:
 
  • Thermal resistance. It can test the ability to withstand high temperatures or temperature cycles without cracking, burning, or deforming. This can ensure that the PCBs can operate properly in environments that have high or varying temperatures, such as automotive, aerospace, or industrial applications.
  • Electrical resistance. This can ensure that the PCBs can function correctly in situations that have high or fluctuating voltages, such as power supply, communication, or medical applications.

Dynamic burn-in testing

Dynamic burn-in testing is a process that puts PCBs through various tests, including voltage and temperature, and allows for adjustments to these factors throughout the testing. It entails placing the PCBs in a specially designed chamber where the temperature and voltage are set to the desired levels. The PCBs are then operated under these conditions for a specific period of time.
 
Dynamic burn-in testing varies the temperature and voltage levels during the testing process, either randomly or according to a predefined pattern. It is a more expensive and time-consuming option than static burn-in testing, as it requires more equipment and more time.
 
It helps us understand how thermal cycling and electrical cycling impact PCBs. It also reveals how components and connections within the PCBs interact and interfere with each other. This is particularly important for critical industries like defense, medical, and automotive, where reliability is crucial.

Common applications of Burn-in Testing

Defense

Military electronics face harsh environments. Burn-in screens for defects by subjecting PCBs to thermal shocks, high voltages and inspections to ensure reliable functionality in battlefield conditions. This validates designs withstand real-world deployment stresses.

Medical

Burn-in testing is used to ensure that PCBs can perform the critical and sensitive functions that are required in medical applications, such as diagnostic, therapeutic, or surgical applications. Inspections guarantee circuit stability to eliminate risks to patients from premature failures in healthcare settings.

Automotive

Burn-in testing is used to ensure that PCBs can support the complex and advanced systems and features that are integrated in automotive applications, such as engine, transmission, navigation, or entertainment systems. Burn-in reliability data also helps certification.

Conclusion

Burn-in testing is vital for ensuring PCB reliability and quality. Its purpose is to detect any weaknesses or potential defects that could impact the PCB’s future performance. By doing burn-in testing, we can ensure they meet the necessary performance for any applications.It is used in various industries like defense, medical, and automotive.
 
At ELEPCB, we understand how critical burn-in testing is for our clients working in reliability-sensitive industries. With our assembly and testing methods, clients can be sure things will work as planned. It’s cool knowing we enable technologies through solid burn-in validation. Check our information here and contact us to get our support.

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About Michael

Michael is the general manager of ELEPCB, a leading PCB design and manufacturing company based in China. He has over 10 years of experience in the PCB industry, and has been involved in various projects.

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