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Electronics reliability

Analysing in-field failures

Identifying electronics failures fast

At some stage every company will experience in-field product failures. In some instances, it can be difficult to pinpoint the cause and predict the timing or frequency of failures across the in-field population. The cost to remediate – for example a product recall – can be very high and can damage to a company's brand and business. The stakes are even higher in safety critical environments, where the consequence of failures can be especially serious.

Our customers typically turn to us when:

  • the potential impact of failure is especially high
  • the environment is harsh, often high temperature, humidity or voltage
  • the nature of the failure is notoriously hard to profile, such as intermittent faults or NFF (No Fault Found)

We provide a prompt and efficient initial triage process, usually completed within two working days:

  1. Customer provides PCB assemblies (production and failed samples) with details of environmental context and initial findings
  2. Initial review of available samples and documentation
  3. Application of NPL's knowledge of known failure modes and identifying those that are most relevant
  4. Summary of findings and recommendations

We can then carry out a full investigation according to agreed scope, cost and timings.

We have a track record working across a broad range of industries, including automotive, aerospace, defence, energy and medical, testing the widest possible variety of PCB assemblies.

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Our testing and analysis capability

Our experts are able to stress electronics and continuously monitor the effect of varying temperature, current and environment. Rapid analysis of faults enables changes to be made and designs adapted to make the devices more reliable and robust.

Conditioning monitoring analysis

Stress and condition

Thermal shock (to 300°C)
Thermal cycling (-65 to 200°C)
Thermal ageing (to 300°C)
Humidity-bias (5 to 98%RH / up to 1000V)
Condensation testing
Power cycling (incl low vacuum)
Reflow soldering (simulated manufacturing)

Monitor and measure

Constant continuity monitoring (max 900 channels)
Electrical monitoring
Solvent extract conductivity (Ionic contamination)
Solderability testing
Tin whisker propensity
Adhesion testing (coatings)
Mechanical shock / Hot mechanical shock (to 250°C)
Shear / Hot shear
Pull / Hot pull
Solder joint reliability

Characterise and analyse

FIB (Focused Ion Beam)
XRF (X-Ray Florescence)
SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy)
SAM (Scanning Acoustic Microscopy)
EDX (Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectra)
FTIR (Fourier-transform Infrared Spectroscopy)
EIS (Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy)
DSC (Differential Scanning Calorimetry)
DMA (Dynamic Mechanical Analysis)
TMA (Thermo Mechanical Analysis)
Micro-sectioning
Optical microscopy
X-ray radiography
Surface profiling
Surface free energy
Electrokinetic analyser

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Work with us

Our research and measurement solutions support innovation and product development. We work with companies to deliver business advantage and commercial success.
Contact our Customer Services team on +44 20 8943 7070