Lead frames are one of the foundations behind electronic components and ensuring their reliability and quality is essential for any component.
What is a Lead Frame and why are they critical in electronics?
Of all industries that exist today, one that has had the biggest impact on modern life is the electronics industry. Anyone involved with electronics design understands that high-quality electronics are essential to the development of reliable products. Engineers also understand that all aspects of every component must be of high-quality, not just the functional part of a component (i.e. the silicon die or material that provides the component with its functional properties).
Lead frames are the metal structures that hold semiconductor dies in place, provide mechanical strengthening, and connect the semiconductor to the outside world. During the final stages of manufacture, the semiconductor die is glued to the lead frame, bond wires attached between the die and the lead frame pin pads. Then, the lead frame with the bonded die is encapsulated into a plastic or ceramic package.
The need for high-quality lead frames is essential for producing reliable semiconductor products for many reasons. Firstly, lead frames are responsible for electrically connecting the semiconductor die to the outside world. If the lead frame’s material quality is poor (i.e. oxidised and high resistance), then the performance of the final component will be hindered (resistance will increase the operating temperature whereas poor quality surfaces can result in poor connections).
Secondly, lead frames provide mechanical security to the attached die, and by extension, the chip itself. If the lead frame manufacturer cannot provide proper mechanical protection, then the resulting components will either be limited in application (i.e. cannot be used in automotive or industrial applications) or will be too unreliable.
Thirdly, poor quality frames built from inferior materials could cause manufacturing issues for semiconductor foundries. Brittle materials could result in cracking of the metal, while materials that are too soft can create sharp edges when pressed and bent. Simultaneously, some materials may not be able to handle bending and thus result in broken pins.