Component Packages - Let's Get Small

I've been on a bit of a package binge lately. First talking about metric vs. US passive sizes, and then a very tiny ARM Cortex M0 from Freescale.

The Freescale BGA part checks in at 1.6mm x 2mm. That's cool and I'm almost always in favor of making things as small as possible, but, as I wrote in my prior blog on the subject, it's not always possible. The 0.4mm pitch BGA is problematic unless you can spend a lot of money on the raw PC boards, or will have super high volume.

Small boardAll is not lost, though. You still can use a tiny ARM Cortex M0 part. Just not quite as tiny. That same part also comes in a 3mm x 3mm QFN package. You lose four pins (16 vs. 20) going from the BGA to the QGN, but if you can handle that, it's a very viable option that doesn't require any exotic PC board technologies.

A few years ago, QFN's were scary, but not so much any more. I've designed a few of them in using Eagle CAD. Just be sure to pay attention to the footprint. A 6 mil trace is more than small enough for a 0.5mm pitch QFN.

Duane Benson
Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle and mutilate

Beginning FPGAs

An hour later, you can join me to explore the very basics of Field Programmable Gate Arrays in FPGAs - Light at the End of the Learning Curve.

The session is on Tuesday, April 1st, from 3:30 - 4:30, in SJCC 210C

FPGA talk EELive 2014

Best Practices in PCB design

If you do happen to end up at the EE Live show, be sure to catch my session: Best Practices in Circuit Board Design. I'll show the most common traps we see that can cause manufacturability issues.

The session is on Tuesday, April 1st, from 2:15 - 3:15, in SJCC 210D.

Best practices talk EELive 2014

Screaming Circuits at EE Live

If you're in San Jose, CA this week, stop by and see us at the EELive show. We'll be in booth 927 - just a short walk, and a left turn from the entrance.

Show hours are:

Tuesday, April 1,    10:30 - 5:00
Wednesday            10:30 - 5:00
Thursday                10:30 - 1:30

Map to booth 2014

0.4mm Pitch BGA is Awesome

I recently had a conversation with a friend about 0.4mm pitch BGAs. The specific part is the Freescale FreescaleKL03KL03 ARM Coretex-M0+ microcontroller in a 1.6mm x 2mm, pitch package. That's a 20 ball wafer scale BGA form factor.

I don't have an actual part to photograph next to a grain of sand, but trust me (or don't), it's really small.

Ti 0.44 pitch dimensionsThe challenge, and the reason I suggested a QFN form factor instead, is the costs
involved. If you have the extra budget money for more expensive PC boards, then go ahead and use this form factor. You probably won't be able to use this package in cost constrained situations.

The simple reason is that you can't escape route the inner six pins without using super small vias between pads, or in pads and filled and plated over. The page on the left is from a Ti doc, but any variations in geometry will be minor.

You can see that you can't put a trace between the pads. Maybe a 2 mil trace, but maybe not. There just isn't much room. The recommended method is to put micro vias in the pads and have them filled and plated over at the board fab house. Never put a via in a micro BGA pad unless it's filled, plated over, and flat.

Duane Benson
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
But open vias in pads aren't one of them

When is an 0201 Not an 0201?

Metric vs US resistor packageI'm working on a special project here that involves some 0402 LEDs and 0201 resistors. When doing such a thing, you should always check the footprint you're using against the data sheet. When using extra small parts, like this, I recommend making a custom footprint unless the one you picked is exact, and I mean exact. There just isn't an margin for error at these geometries.

Take a look at the table on the right. The dimensions are in mm. Spot anything a bit off? Counter to most data sheets, the sizes listed in the "Type" column are metric sizes. At DigiKey, the package was listed as "0201 (0603 Metric)." I see that all the time, but for some reason, most data sheets Metric vs US resistor package Conversionshow the package name in US size while listing the dimensions in metric.

The first table was at the front of this data sheet (page 5). The second table was on page 35 - the opposite end of the data sheet.

We do occasionally get boards with metric size pads for a US size part, or vice verse. Sometimes we can make it fit, but not always. Bottom line, is to check and double check. I caught this one because the dimension .54 mm is about 21 mils, which is too small for an 0402. That, and the fact that the table doesn't list an 0201 size.

Duane Benson
Is it Bigfoot or Sasquatch?


EELive The Show is On it's Way

If you're going to be in San Jose during the first week in April,stop by the EELive show (formerly known as the Embedded Systems Conference). We'll be in booth 972. Stop by and see what we can do for you. Maybe earn a fabulous T-Shirt.

While you're there, check out my two sessions:

"FPGAs - Light at the End of the Learning Curve", at 3:30 on Tuesday. It's not exactly PCB Assembly, but FPGAs are quite cool and getting more useful by the minute. Get some basic knowledge and see how to avoid many beginner traps.

My second session: "Best Practices in Circuit Board Design", part of the "Hardware Startup Engineering Summit," is set for 2:15 on Tuesday. You can watch that one and then run with me to my FPGA session at 3:30. Place bets on whether I can make it in time.

Duane Benson
Ach, Captain. She Canna Go Any Faster



Possible Weather Caused Delays

Sign on 2-6-14UPDATE Feb 11, 2014

We are back to our usual 40 degrees and drizzling - so business as usual. No more weather delays from this storm. Just dampness. Never... ending... dampness...


Yes, we here in the Portland area can get snow too. I know it's not as deep as everywhere else, but it still gets in the way. That means that some parts shipments in to our plant may be late and some finished board shipments going out may be late.

Unfortunately, I have to pop up a reminder that  weather related days do not count toward your turn-time. I'll let you know as soon as I can if anything changes. Unless it gets worse, Bob the cat will attempt to keep on delivering, but may be late.

Duane Benson
Eli The Ice Man says "What?"


UPDATE Feb 7, 2014:

We're here. We're working. But we still may have some weather caused delays. I know, Minnesota has ten more feet of snow than we do, but they also have things like snow plows and mittens.

Here's proof positive that Bob the Cat is attempting to get parts in and out of here.

Bob the cat prints

Old and New: 60 Years at Milwaukee Electronics

In 1954, one of my favorite movies, "THEM!", premiered in U.S. theatres. An even more significant (to us, anyway) event took place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: The founding of Milwaukee Electronics.

We are excited to announce that our parent company, Milwaukee Electronics has been in business for 60 years! After six decades of dedicated service to customers, and several name and logo changes, Milwaukee Electronics is updating it's image. Click here to view more details.

Without Milwaukee Electronics, Screaming Circuits would not be possible. 60 years of expertise, plus our unique perspective, gives us the ability to offer something that no one else can: real-time, on-line turn-key quote and order of quick-turn prototype and small-lot production assembly.

Duane Benson

Open The Pod Bay Doors, HASL

Does anyone use HASL (Hot Air Surface Leveling) anymore? It's also known as HAL.

Prior to the RoHS days, HASL was probably the most common surface finish. You can get it lead free, but most boards seem to use immersion silver or ENIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold). HASL has traditionally come at a lower cost than those other two finishes, but immersion silver can generally be found at the same price now.

Our friends at, for example, charge the same for silver and tin/lead HASL. ENIG is still more BGA on HASL closeexpensive no matter where you go though.

One of the chief disadvantages of HASL these days, is the lack of planarity on the surface. (Note the bumps on the BGA land pattern in the image on the right.) With thru-hole or large components, an uneven surface doesn't matter so much. With the increasingly smaller BGAs and QFNs, however, surface irregularities can cause big problems.

Both Immersion silver and ENIG have nice flat surfaces. OSP (Organic Surface Preservative) has a pretty flat surface too, but it's not used much except in high volume consumer goods or specialized applications.

By Duane Benson
Oh, the pain! Save me, William.