Burn-in is an electrical stress test that employs voltage and temperature to accelerate the electrical  failure of a device.  Burn-in essentially simulates the operating life of the device, since the electrical excitation applied during burn-in may mirror the worst-case bias that the device will be subjected to in the course of its useable life.  Depending on the burn-in duration used,  the reliability information obtained  may pertain to the device's early life or its wear-out.  Burn-in may be used as a reliability monitor or as a production screen to weed out potential infant mortalities from the lot.


Burn-in is usually done at 125 deg C, with electrical excitation applied to the samples.  The burn-in process is facilitated by using burn-in boards (see Fig. 1) where the samples are loaded. These burn-in boards are then inserted into the burn-in oven (see Fig. 2), which supplies the necessary voltages to the samples while maintaining the oven temperature at 125 deg C.  The electrical bias applied may either be static or dynamic, depending on the failure mechanism being accelerated.


Figure 1.  Photo of Bare and Socket-populated Burn-in Boards


The operating life cycle distribution of a population of devices may be modeled as a bath tub curve, if the failures are plotted on the y-axis against the operating life in the x-axis.  The bath tub curve shows that the highest failure rates experienced by a population of devices occur during the early stage of the life cycle, or early life, and during the wear-out period of the life cycle.  Between the early life and wear-out stages is a long period wherein the devices fail very sparingly.   


Figure 2.  Two examples of burn-in ovens


Early life failure (ELF) monitor burn-in, as the name implies,  is performed to screen out potential early life failures. It is conducted for a duration of 168 hours or less, and normally for only 48 hours.  Electrical failures after ELF monitor burn-in are known as early life failures or infant mortality, which means that these units will fail prematurely if they were used in their normal operation.


High Temperature Operating Life (HTOL) Test is the opposite of ELF monitor burn-in, testing the  reliability of the samples in their wear-out phase. HTOL is conducted for a duration of 1000 hours, with intermediate read points at 168 H and 500 H.  


Although the electrical excitation applied to the samples are often defined in terms of voltages, failure mechanisms accelerated by current (such as electromigration) and electric fields (such as dielectric rupture) are understandably accelerated by burn-in as well.  


Test Links:  Electrical Test Burn-in Marking Tape and Reel Dry Packing  Boxing and Labeling

See Also:  HTOL Reliability EngineeringDie Failure Mechanisms;  IC Manufacturing




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