In a previous tutorial, we provided an overview of copper electroplating for advanced packaging applications, including both via filling and copper pillars. The requirements and processing considerations for electroplated copper pillars for flip chip applications are somewhat different than those for via filling, and warrant additional discussion.
Figure 1: Bumping technology generations
Copper pillars are now common in flip chip interconnection, usually with a lead-free SnAg solder cap on top. The transition to copper pillars has been driven by the limitations related to size and pitch (space between features) of traditional controlled collapse chip connection (C4) bumping. As pitch requirements continue to shrink, copper pillars can enable higher-density designs while maintaining sufficient bump height. The next-generation technology will feature pillars as narrow as 10 to 30 µm.
Figure 2: Illustration of the tin-silver capped copper pillar plating
Copper pillars are electroplated over a Cu seed layer at the base, with photoresist defining the diameter of the pillar. A nickel diffusion barrier between the pillar and the solder cap limits formation of a copper-tin intermetallic layer at the interface or prevents formation of microvoids. Excessive intermetallic growth and microvoids can both negatively affect reliability. When used with copper chemistry that has exceptionally high purity, this nickel barrier may or may not be needed, depending on customer preferences.
|Design Goal||RDL Target||20 μm Pillar Target||50 μm Pillar Target||200 μm Pillar Target|
|%TIR Doming||-5% to 5%||-5% to 5%||-5% to 5%||-5% to 5%|
|Plating current desities||2 to 12 ASD||4.5 to 12 ASD||4.5 to 18 ASD||20 to 40 ASD|
|Total Doping |
|<20 ppm||<20 ppm||<20 ppm||<20 ppm|
|Solder Compatibility||Void-free w/o Ni Barrier||Void-free w/o Ni Barrier||Void-free w/o Ni Barrier||Void-free w/o Ni Barrier|
Figure 3: Typical design goals and performance targets for copper
Proper choice of electroplating materials and
processes ensures that pillars meet certain design
goals, chosen to optimize quality and reliability.
Keeping the impurity level in the plating bath as low as possible
minimizes the risk of developing voids at the pillar-solder
interface. If dopants such as carbon, sulfur, chlorine and other
impurities are kept below 20 ppm, it is possible to form a void-free
capped pillar even without using a nickel barrier layer.
Figure 4: Within-die uniformity
Pillar height needs to be consistent for proper die attach, but electrochemical potential is not uniform across each die on a wafer. It will be higher at the edges and corners, resulting in taller bumps at the edge and therefore insufficient contact at the center of the die, where the pillars are lower. The higher the bump density, the greater the challenge.
Figure 5: Calculating within-die uniformity
Within-die (WID) co-planarity or uniformity, calculated as shown in figure 5, should usually be less than 5%, although the target may be higher for larger pillars. A lack of WID uniformity within these parameters will cause reliability issues.
Figure 6: Role of additives in controlling
Optimized additives in the electroplating bath can help achieve appropriate WID uniformity. Levelers are preferentially attracted to regions of higher current density, where they suppress electroplating rate and create a more uniform array of pillars.
Figure 7: TIR calculation and examples of
copper pillar shapes
Achieving a uniform pillar shape that will be optimum for subsequent solder plating and consistent across a die presents an engineering challenge. Most customers will prefer flat pillars, though occasionally a slightly domed shape may be helpful. The best electroplating materials and processes allow engineers to tailor the profile for each application. In any case, total indicated runout (TIR) should be kept within a range of ± 5%.
Figure 8: Shown are domed tin-silver capped
copper pillars with void-free intermetallic compound (left) and flat
copper pillars exhibiting extensive voiding between the copper and
It is not difficult to achieve flat pillars with the use of additives, but unfortunately, this sometimes comes with a poor pillar-solder interface, also commonly known as intermetallic compound (IMC), that contains multiple voids. Many commercially-available plating baths that produce high-quality interfaces often create pillars that are excessively domed.
Figure 9: Void-free capped micro and standard
copper pillars with and without Ni
Plating baths with optimized additives and copper purity can enable the best of both worlds: a flat pillar with a smooth, continuous interface, with or without a nickel barrier.