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Infrared thermography as applied to thermal testing of power systems circuit boards

Jonathan James Miles, University of Massachusetts Amherst


All operational electronic equipment dissipates some amount of energy in the form of infrared radiation. Faulty electronic components on a printed circuit board can be categorized as hard (functional) or soft (latent functional). Hard faults are those which are detected during a conventional manufacturing electronic test process. Soft failures, in contrast, are those which are undetectable through conventional testing, but which manifest themselves after a product has been placed into service. Such field defective modules ultimately result in operational failure and subsequently enter a manufacturer's costly repair process. While thermal imaging systems are being used increasingly in the electronic equipment industry as a product-testing tool, applications have primarily been limited to product design or repair processes, with minimal use in a volume manufacturing environment. Use of thermal imaging systems in such an environment has mostly been limited to low-volume products or random screening of high-volume products. Thermal measurements taken in a manufacturing environment are often taken manually, thus defeating their capability of rapid data acquisition and constraining their full potential in a high-volume manufacturing process. Integration of a thermal measurement system with automated testing equipment is essential for optimal use of expensive infrared measurement tools in a high-volume manufacturing environment. However, such a marriage presents problems with respect to both existing manufacturing test processes and infrared measurement techniques. Methods are presented in this dissertation to test automatically for latent faults, those which elude detection during conventional electronic testing, on printed circuit boards. These methods are intended for implementation in a volume manufacturing environment and involve the application of infrared imaging tools. Successful incorporation of infrared testing into existing test processes requires that: PASS/FAIL criteria be established; a procedure for dealing with variable radiation heat transfer properties across a printed circuit board be developed; and a thermally-controlled enclosure in which testing is performed be provided. These tasks are addressed and positive results are presented. Testing procedures and software developed to perform analyses are described. The feasibility of an infrared test process is demonstrated. A description of acquired experimental data, results, and analyses designed to verify measurement and fault analysis techniques are also presented. There are a number of phenomena which are known to contribute undesirably, and often unpredictably, to results. Methods for reducing random error in results and suggestions for establishing PASS/FAIL criteria and improving measurement techniques are addressed.

Subject Area

Mechanical engineering|Physics|Electrical engineering

Recommended Citation

Miles, Jonathan James, "Infrared thermography as applied to thermal testing of power systems circuit boards" (1994). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9510506.