How to Test an IC Using a Multimeter

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Have you ever thought about what goes into making your favorite gadgets? Electronic circuits are composed of different transistors created with diodes and resistors on a piece of silicon. The individual parts are typically connected via aluminum wires on the chip’s surface.

That process leads to the creation of IC or integrated units. Those ICs have several or millions of transistors. Take note that ICs are accountable for creating your digital watches, computers, video games, and most of today’s high-tech gadgets. 

What is an Integrated Circuit? 

An integrated circuit, or IC for short, is a series of electronic circuits on a tiny plate of semiconductor material. It works as the core part of all types of electric equipment in use across the globe today. 

In fact, did you know that integrated circuits have transformed electronics? These days, mobile phones, computers, and other digital appliances are a mainstream necessity. They are present in each aspect of people’s lives. It could be said that the modern world as you know it would stop existing without the presence of such devices. 

Hence, the modern age is made possible because of the low cost of integrated circuits, making such devices economically possible. 

Technology has revolutionized substantially throughout the years. That’s a piece of substantial news for the electronics sector. Presently, the most advanced integrated circuits are microprocessors. These devices control everything from mobile phones to computers to digital microwave ovens. 

On top of that, digital memory chips are also essential to today’s modern information society. The cost of creating a complicated integrated circuit is high. However, the cost is significantly lowered when production is expanded across millions of units. 

You see, ICs have slowly become tinier, which enables more circuitry to be packaged on every chip. You may not know it yet, but at least several billion transistors and other electronic parts could be fit into an area that is no bigger than a fingernail. 

What Causes Defects on Integrated Circuits? 

You will find many reasons as to why your ICs fail to work properly. Below are the common causes you need to know:

  1. Electrical Overstress

Also known as EOS, this defect happens when a device is exposed to high voltage levels that it can endure. That exposure could be advantageous because of electrostatic discharge or negligent because of misuse of their uses.

In such scenarios, the damage might be more challenging to locate. Finding flaws may need more innovative methods. Nonetheless, failure analysts can find too many currents through separating heat by using precise methods and tools. 

  1. Error because of damage related to packaging

Chips and cracks on the ICs packaging can lower the integrated circuit’s reliability and cause malfunctions during operation. Cleaning chemicals and moisture absorbed through such cracks could short internal components as well. That will lead to malfunction, not to mention the packaging could be harmed during transit or because of wrong handling. 

  1. Damages induced by ESD

ESD is a subgroup of EOS. Resistor-metal interface damage, contact damage, leakage, and gate oxide rupture are all types of damages made by ESD. Such errors occur when equipment or people mishandles devices during IC manufacture, transit, and application. Further, high-speed circuit operation and shrinking chip sizes, among other factors, contribute to that sensitivity.

Locating ESD could be a typical concern for IC designers. Remember that ESD causes over 1/3 of the field mistakes within the semiconductor sector. To lower such mistakes, IC designers need efficient failure analysis testing as well as robust circuit protection. 

  1. Faults on the manufacturing

Keep in mind that contaminants and impurities in the crystal defects, bulk silicon, and design problems throughout the fabrication of the integrated circuit contribute to stability problems in the final chip.

Trivial clearances between the substrate and the die could lessen the die’s thermal conductivity. That issue could cause a die to overheat and crack under standard operation, resulting in premature failure.

On top of that, small holes at the interface between the bond wire and dire can negatively impact IC’s reliability because of excessive bonding pressure. 

  1. Imperfections on the open circuit

Defects on the open circuit could be in different forms, such as scratches and cracks on the surface, poorly connected wire bonding, and inappropriately etched metal traces. Other flaws such as misalignment between dice and drilling between metal layers are more complicated to locate.

Sometimes, open circuit flaws are a result of incorrect manufacturing and could lessen product yield. These flaws differ in severity, location, and shape. That’s why utilizing conventional inspection strategies might not be sufficient to locate device errors. 

How Do You Test an IC Using a Multimeter?

If you are working with an integrated circuit and thinking whether it is working or not, this section will help you find out. You are going to need a multimeter in this procedure, which is accessible at any electronics store.

A digital multimeter can test many different electronic devices, and integrated circuits are one you can test. 

But before you resort to using a multimeter, make sure you conduct a thorough visual check first. Remember that any physical damage to your integrated circuit could cause it to malfunction. Therefore, doing a thorough visual check to find chippings, charring, and cracks is very necessary. 

Here’s how you can check your IC for a potential short circuit problem.

  • Set your digital multimeter to its continuity function
  • Connect all the pins on one side of the integrated circuit. Connect it again to one of the test probes of your digital multimeter.
  • Test every integrated circuit pin along with the rest of the multimeter test probe. Your IC is more likely to be shorted if you find a continuity in over fifty percent of the pins. 

Final Thoughts

Bear in mind that integrated circuits are susceptible to failure during use like all circuit components. Electrostatic discharge, physical damage, and manufacturing defects are just some of the common aspects that influence these small parts’ dependability.

We hope you find this article informative and that it helped you find the answers to your concerns. Share your thoughts with us by leaving your comments below.

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