What is a BGA?
The B(all) G(rid) A(rray) or BGA package invented by Motorola, is now a mainstream packaging technology. The most common example consists of a thin substrate of PCB material onto which the chip is mounted. Under the substrate is an array of solder balls forming the terminations. During reflow these balls fuse with corresponding pads on the Main PCB and form the joints.
The BGA excels when it comes to high pin count devices, putting all terminations underneath the package instead of around the edges as they are on a QFP saves a lot of space allowing smaller products to be made. Using a 2-dimensional grid means that ball to ball spacing can be quite coarse compared to the lead pitch of a high pin count QFP - so less problems with solder shorts.
Consequently they are easier to solder, no legs to get damaged and they have a huge self centering effect due to the high solder surface tension effects caused by the array of solder balls. High pin count QFP's by contrast either have to be bigger to accommodate the same number of edge mounted pinouts or the legs have to be extremely fine and damage prone. So they are easy to handle and give very high assembly yields - consequently they have started to supplant other package styles in mass production.
If a BGA has to be removed it cannot be done without destroying the balls beneath the device. Usually this means the device is scrapped although high value BGAs can be recovered by specialist companies who can re-ball the package so it can be used again. A typical cost of doing this may be £70 so clearly only worth doing on devices worth much more. We are in the business of low volume manufacture so the BGA device initially presented us with some concerns. However, we have evolved methods of assembly that work and are viable. We have in fact, to date, (2013) placed in excess of 15000 devices – all by hand and without defect. We now have fully automatic placement capability through our MYDATA machine and semi auto placement on our Fritsch MicroPlacer.
From a manufacturing perspective; a BGA is designed to be machine placed using vision systems to align the device to the grid of pads on the PCB. During reflow it has a very strong self centering effect due to the surface tension of all the solder balls – consequently it is quite tolerant of placement errors – as much as half a pitch of misalignment will usually not cause problems. Most machine systems place far more accurately than this.