Have you've ever wondered what it might take to start your own semiconductor Failure Analysis (F/A) lab, whether as an internal lab or as an independent lab? There are many considerations, most importantly, the main purpose or goal of the lab.
For example, the need for Integrated Circuit (IC) cross sectioning has dramatically different requirements than if you needed Focused Ion Beam (FIB) edit capability. Although they seem at the extreme ends of complexity, both have their challenges.
In order to establish the capability to cross section ICs, the equipment needs are often understated. Obviously there are the lapping wheels, which can easily cost as much as $20,000 new, or older used models may be purchased off the internet for at a more modest price (about $6,000). The complexity of the technology is a major factor in this decision. A second wheel should also be seriously considered to better facilitate the lapping process by allowing multiple grit papers/solutions to be available at the same time.
But before one can begin cross sectioning the part, it often must be removed from its package (a depot is a procedure to remove the plastic packaging material, leaving the silicon die unscathed). The most straight-forward method to depot a plastic encapsulated IC is through wet chemical etching, using a small quantity of nitric acid or a mixture of nitric and sulfuric acids. Naturally a chemical hood is required, plus a minimal number of acids and solvents, vented cabinets for the chemicals, glassware, personal protective equipment, and a book of Safety Data Sheets for each of the chemicals.
Local agencies will require inspections of the wet chemical area and a plan to neutralize the acid waste and to dispose of the solvent waste must also be developed.