With flexible leaded parts, the solder-joint failure process involves a complex interplay of creep and fatigue mechanisms. To better understand the role of creep in typical multi-hour cyclic loading conditions, a specialized non-linear finite-element creep simulation computer program has been formulated. The numerical algorithm includes the complete part-lead-solder-PWB system, accounting for strain-rate dependence of creep on applied stress and temperature, and the role of the part-lead dimensions and flexibility that determine the total creep deflection (solder strain range) during stress relaxation. The computer program has been used to explore the effects of various solder creep-fatigue parameters such as lead height and stiffness, thermal-cycle test profile, and part/board differential thermal expansion properties. One of the most interesting findings is the strong presence of unidirectional creep-ratcheting that occurs during thermal cycling due to temperature dominated strain-rate effects. To corroborate the solder fatigue model predictions, a number of carefully controlled thermal-cycle tests have been conducted using special bimetallic test boards.

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