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Exploring the Failure Modes of Electronic Components

Posted by on Apr 6, 2018

If you’re learning about electronics and how to repair them, then one thing that you’ll find yourself thinking a lot about is the three main failure modes of electronic components. There are several things that can cause a device to fail, but when you’re looking at the reliability of the components themselves, you can usually narrow down what broke the component to one of these things.

PCB Failures

The three main failure modes of electronic components are packaging failures, contact failures, and PCB failures. The packating serves as the barrier between the electronic parts and the environment. Heat, liquid, and contact shorting can all cause a component to fail. Packaging sometimes breaks due to thermal cycling causing fatigue. Sometimes, components can fail if the packaging is knocked or damaged, or if humidity gets into the component.

Electrical contacts can fail for any one of a number of reasons. If the soldered joint fails because it has been knocked or moved, or because the solder has broken due to excessive thermal cycling, then this can make the component appear to stop working. Thermal solder failures can be hard to detect except at the extreme end of the temperature (low or high) that brings on the failure, which makes it hard to debug these issues. Corrosion, loose particles and frayed cables can also cause issues with contacts either by blocking a contact, or by shorting something. These, again, can sometimes only be noticed if the device is moved. Intermittent faults like this can be hard to diagnose.

Replacing A Damaged Component

PCB damage can cause components to fail. Traces are often vulnerable to corrosion, and it can be hard to diagnose these issues if they occur only when the device is warm, cool, or held at a certain angle. Thin cracks that occur when a device is under mechanical load can be problematic, and sometimes devices can fail due to exposure to solder flux residue that shorts out a device.

There are other things that can cause components to fail, but it is not always easy to determine whether a failure is due to simple wear and tear, or something like this. In some cases, replacing a damaged component makes the most sense, in other cases, it may be that it is simply too hard to work out exactly which component is broken. A lot of modern devices claim that they have no user serviceable parts, and while that claim is sometimes exaggerated (it is not hard to re-solder a resistor if the contacts have come loose, for example), it is often made for safety reasons (especially with old TVs with large capacitors that will hold charge for a long time) and it is also sometimes true in that the board is full of tiny chips that may be very hard to work with, and attempting to fix the PCB could simply end up damaging it further. Before you start ripping anything open and voiding the warranty, make sure you have a good idea of what it will actually look like inside. To know more about us click here or visit the website.