Ball grid array Disadvantages Noncompliant
A disadvantage of BGAs is that the solder balls cannot flex in the way that longer leads can, so they are not mechanically compliant. As with all surface mount devices, bending due to a difference in coefficient of thermal expansion between PCB substrate and BGA (thermal stress) or flexing and vibration (mechanical stress) can cause the solder joints to fracture.
Thermal expansion issues can be overcome by matching the mechanical and thermal characteristics of the PCB to those of the package. Typically, plastic BGA devices more closely match PCB thermal characteristics than ceramic devices.
The predominant use of RoHS compliant lead-free solder alloy assemblies has presented some further challenges to BGAs including "head in pillow" soldering phenomenon, "pad cratering" problems as well as their decreased reliability versus lead-based solder BGAs in extreme operating conditions such as high temperature, high thermal shock and high gravitational force environments, in part due to lower ductility of RoHS-compliant solders.
Mechanical stress issues can be overcome by bonding the devices to the board through a process called "underfilling", which injects an epoxy mixture under the device after it is soldered to the PCB, effectively gluing the BGA device to the PCB. There are several types of underfill materials in use with differing properties relative to workability and thermal transfer. An additional advantage of underfill is that it limits tin whisker growth.
Another solution to non-compliant connections is to put a "compliant layer" in the package that allows the balls to physically move in relation to the package. This technique has become standard for packaging DRAMs in BGA packages.
Other techniques for increasing the board-level reliability of packages include use of low-expansion PCBs for ceramic BGA (CBGA) packages, interposers between the package and PCB, and re-packaging a device.