RoHS, WEE, Pb-Free,
Lead-Free, all buzzwords in this era of ultra green sensitivities. Many obstacles have had to be overcome on the
path to compliance, not the least of which was an entire new line of processing equipment and processes (reflow,
assembly, rework, materials development, etc.) that is necessary to work with the higher temperatures required by
lead-free solders. One problem looms as a potential major issue in years to come: Tin whiskers.
Tin whiskers are the crystalline tendrils that "grow" out of the relatively high concentrations of tin in the
solder alloy. NASA experimented with tin-based solders back in the 1970s for weight savings over lead-based
solders. Everyone was excited, until suddenly for no apparent reason, short circuits were being discovered.
Failure analysis determined that what infamously became known as "tin whiskers" were developing and were actually
growing between different nodes in electrical circuit boards and connectors, and even inside integrated circuit
What was intended to be a panacea for the aerospace program circuit weight reduction efforts
became a nightmare since a lot of equipment was deployed before the phenomenon was discovered.
years later, the electronics industry is re-visiting tin-based solders in order to comply with the RoHS
directives. Materials sciences and metallurgy has advanced considerably since the early tin whiskers problems, so
hopefully most - preferably all - of the problems have been solved. But, don't be too sure. Not that long ago
articles and letters to editors were being written by old-timers who "were there" to remind the new crop of
developers about their experiences. More than a few appeared to have been previously unaware of this lurking tin
whiskers menace. Yikes.
Fortunately for most of the early adopter manufacturers, we do not expect our
consumer devices to last more than two or three years anyway and are never surprised if they just stop working for
no apparent reason - we simply go buy a newer model that we really wanted an excuse to buy anyway. In a perverse
kind of way, tin whiskers are good for the consumer market.
Avoiding Tin Whisker
Reliability Problems | circuitsassembly.com/pdf/0408/0408nemi.pdf
By G.T. Galyon and Ron Gedney, in Circuits Assembly.
Can Nickel Barriers Eliminate Tin Whiskers? |
Article by John Baliga, in Semiconductor International.
Cause of Tin Whiskers Remains Elusive | ap.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?Section=Articles&Subsection=Display&ARTICLE_ID=216213
By George Galyon, Joe Smetana, and Nick Vo, in Advanced
Controlling Tin Whiskers in Pb-free Assemblies |
Two process refinements help mitigate whisker growth
- in Electronic Products, by Michael Hundt.
Evaluation of Conformal Coatings as a Tin Whisker Mitigation Strategy
By Thomas A. Woodrow and
Eugene A. Ledbury.
GEIA Tin Whisker Industry Standard | empf.org/empfasis/2006/mar06/geia-tin_whiskers.html
From Empfasis, by Fred Verdi.
Get Used To Tin Whiskers |
By Ed Sperling, in Electronic News.
Mitigation Strategies for Tin Whiskers | calce.umd.edu/lead-free/tin-whiskers/TINWHISKERMITIGATION.pdf
Prepared by M. Osterman CALCE-EPSC.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Tin Whisker (and
Other Metal Whisker) Homepage | nepp.nasa.gov/whisker
Information about tin whiskers and related research.
Overcoming Tin Whisker Problems on
Lead-free Packaging | ap.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?Section=Articles&Subsection=Display&ARTICLE_ID=205979
By Melissa Grupen-Shemansky, in Advanced Packaging.
for Tin Whisker Formation in Lead-free Connector Terminal Finishes
Defines the test procedure &
criteria for qualifying the plating finish for lead-free (Pb-free) connector terminals with respect to tin
Risks of Conductive Whiskers in High-reliability Electronics and Associated Hardware from Pure Tin
From the Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering.
RoHS and Tin Whiskers: The Industry’s
Next 10-Year Problem | mvme.com/RoHS-tin-whiskers.pdf
By Chris A. Ciufo, VMEbus Systems online.
Tin Whisker Alert | calce.umd.edu/lead-free/tin-whiskers/TINWHISKERALERT.pdf
Position paper on risks to high-reliability electronics and associated hardware
from pure tin coatings.
Tin Whisker Basic Info/FAQ |
From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
"Tin Whisker" Crisis Threatens Global Electronic Systems |
From Engadget, by Marc Perton.
Tin Whisker Debate Roars On | designnews.com/article/CA6298006.html
By Rob Spiegel, in Design News.
Tin Whisker Formation – Results, Test
Methods and Countermeasures | v
Abstract by Dittes, M.; Oberndorff, P.; and Petit, L. from
Tin Whisker Formation
on Lead-Free Coatings | molex.com/cmc_upload/0/000/-12/201/molxwskr.pdf
Prepared by Pete Elgren, Molex, Inc.
Tin Whisker Formation – Results,
Test Methods and Countermeasures | st.com/stonline/leadfree/tin.pdf
Abstract by M. Dittes, P. Oberndorff, and L. Petit.
Tin Whisker Info "Brief" | onsemi.com/pub/Collateral/TND311-D.PDF
Application note from ON Semiconductor.
Tin Whisker Risks | calce.umd.edu/lead-free/tin-whiskers/TINWHISKERRISKS.pdf
Risks of conductive whiskers in high-reliability electronics and associated
hardware from pure tin coatings.
Tin Whiskers | empf.org/empfasis/sept03/tinwisk1.htm
A publication of the National Electronics Manufacturing Center of Excellence, by Tim Ellis.
Tin Whiskers & Packaging | national.com/analog/packaging/tin_whiskers
From National Semiconductor Corp.
Tin Whisker User Group |
The iNEMI Tin Whisker User Group has defined tin whisker mitigation
practices and acceptance testing to minimize the exposure of tin whiskers in high-reliability
Understanding and Minimizing Tin Whiskers |
By Qian Sun and Guna Selvaduray, Chemical & Materials
Engineering Department, San Jose State University.
Whisker Evaluation of Tin-Plated Logic
Component Leads | psma.com/ul_files/forums/leadfree/ti_article_sn_plating.pdf
Application Report by Douglas W. Romm, Donald C. Abbott, Stu Grenney, and Muhammad
Whisker Formation &
Growth | atmel.com/green/documents/whisker_report_0306.pdf
Test procedure and investigation results from Atmel.