Though equipment is important when hiring an electronics failure analysis service, it is not the sole consideration; equally important is determining whether the lab personnel have the experience not only to run the equipment, but to correctly interpret the results. The issue of proper interpretation can become especially pronounced when sending parts to overseas test or FA facilities; though, inevitably, their services may be much cheaper, and some may indeed provide a quality service, their work often fails to go into the level of detail necessary for a truly beneficial failure analysis. Keeping this in mind, it is absolutely necessary to vet the background of a lab’s employees; fortunately, many of the best labs will publish the curriculum vitae of their key employees, allowing potential customers to easily see the breadth and depth of products that the FA engineers have had direct, in-depth exposure to. As an example, a lab boasting an employee who has published several papers on inspecting electronic components for counterfeiting will almost certainly be an excellent source for performing authenticity assessments on samples from a suspect supplier.
Finally, another consideration in evaluating a lab when outsourcing electronics failure analysis is examining their track record of successes and failures. Naturally, coming out and directly asking the marketing staff of the lab is an exercise in futility (unless of course the particular marketing rep is in a particularly disgruntled mood); however, one of the best ways to determine a lab’s history is through word of mouth. Given the vast array of manufacturers and the relatively small number of electronics failure analysis labs, there is a good likelihood that a colleague or other professional contact has used a given lab at some point in the past, and can give a frank evaluation of their capabilities. Indeed, this effect helps to ensure that independent FA labs perform all due diligence and explore all failures to the extent of their capabilities - the last thing any lab wants is to be associated with bad results.
Finally, once the painstaking process of evaluating and choosing a lab has borne fruit, the failing sample can be sent off to be torn down into its constituent parts, deconstructed in detail in order to determine the root cause of the given failure and allowing constructive corrective action to be taken to prevent any further fallout. Choosing a lab for outsourcing electronics failure analysis services is certainly a daunting task, especially given all the various elements that must be considered; fortunately, some labs have taken much of the effort out of the equation, collecting a great deal of the necessary information in one place for the convenience of any potential customers.
Derek Snider is a failure analyst at Insight Analytical Labs, where he has worked since 2004. He is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, where he is pursuing a Bachelors of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.
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Specializing in Electronic Failure Analysis. ISO 9001:2008 Certified!
Insight Analytical Labs, Inc.
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Colorado Springs, CO 80915-1612
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