Researching PCB failure analysis labs?

Are you experiencing Printed Circuit Board (PCB) failures, yield problems or unexpected performance? Are you suffering with production delays and costs due to PCBs failing or not performing as expected?

IAL’s failure analysis lab will quickly find your PCB defects and identify the root cause. We will report back to you with an accurate and detailed analysis that will allow you to take immediate corrective actions and get back on your schedule. 

Phased Approach for Optimal Flexibility

We offer a three-tiered PCB assembly failure analysis service to provide you the optimal combination of speed, quality and price. This phased approach typically involves the following steps.

  • Non-destructive testing (NDT) to provide more info for moving forward
  • Destructive testing to allow isolation of the PCB failure
  • Root cause failure analysis to identify the conditions and specific phenomena behind the PCB failure

Failure Analysis Methods, Equipment and Skills

The failure analysis of a PCB requires the right combination of methods, testing equipment and FA engineering skills. Since 1994 we have been a leader in the electronic failure analysis across a broad spectrum of industries.  

Here is quick snapshot of the electronic FA methods and equipment we can bring to bear for solving your PCB failure or performance problems:

  • Curve Trace
  • X-Ray
  • C-SAM
  • Decapsulation
  • Probing
  • Liquid Crystal Analysis
  • Emission Microscopy
  • Thermal Emissions
  • Cross Section
  • Parallel Lapping
  • Chemical Deprocessing
  • Multipurpose Bond Tester
  • Focused Ion Beam (FIB)
  • SEM/EDX analysis
  • Dye Penetrant (Dye-Pry) Test 

Why choose IAL for PCB failure analysis?

Fast Response

You get your quote fast! We can usually respond within one business day with a detailed quote showing every step we plan to take. Upon agreement to work together our expert FA team goes to work swiftly to identify your PCB defects and root cause. The majority of our PCB failure analysis projects are completed in 7-10 business days. Need it sooner? Ask about our expedited 3-day service.

Superior FA Techniques

Is your PCB failure something new or unique? IAL’s engineers will work with you to identify the problem and then adapt our extensive tools to isolate the failure to root cause.  Today's powerful FA tools are only as good as the person using them, and IAL’s FA engineers are widely known for their creativity in using the standard PCB FA equipment in unique ways to reveal and resolve issues other labs may miss.

Excellent Communication and Service

One of our core values is excellent customer communications. We emphasize “engineer to engineer interaction” which means our FA engineers communicate directly with your engineers. This allows for better understanding of the problem, leading to quicker resolutions. An additional benefit we offer is in-process status updates if desired.

Uniquely Qualified Team

Our team’s rare blend of industry experience often saves our customers time, energy and money. We have extensive experience in all major electronic components including semiconductors, capacitors, MEMs, power supplies, gallium arsenide, etc.

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Today's semiconductors and electronic devices are in a constant state of evolution. With this evolution comes ever increasing complexity in both manufacturing and analysis. To address this reality IAL maintains a comprehensive set of analytical tools and techniques both in-house at our facility and through a network of highly qualified partner labs. 

Our Capabilities

Initial inspections often utilize a number of non-destructive techniques including:

  • X-ray Inspection, 2-D Real-Time and 3-D*
  • Scanning Acoustic Microscopy or SAM (including c-mode scanning)
  • Optical Inspection (Dark Field, Bright Field, Polarized, High Resolution Mosaic Funtionality)
  • Electrical Test Equipment 
  • Infrared (IR) Microscopy
  • X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) 
  • Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) 
  • Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS) 
  • Hi-pot and Insulation Resistance Testing

Deep dive failure analysis requires a variety of more invasive or destructive techniques, including:

  • Cross Sectioning of ICs and PCBs (Mechanical and FIB)
  • FIB Editing*
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM and FE-SEM)
  • IC Deprocessing, including:
    • Parallel Lapping
    • Dry and Wet Etching
    • Reactive Ion Etching
  • STEM Prep and Imaging
  • Dye and Pry (BGA devices)
  • Decapping and depotting (ICs)
  • Solderability Analysis 

For fault isolation IAL relies on a variety of techniques, including:

  • Photo Emission Microscopy (PEM)
  • Liquid Crystal Analysis
  • LIVA/TIVA Analysis 
  • Thermal Imaging
  • Electrical Probing 

*Contact for Specific Capabilities


Far outside the realm of typical integrated circuits, there exists a myriad of devices with astonishing properties that are nonetheless fabricated in silicon and other semiconducting materials. Microscopic membranes deflect and deform under fluctuations in atmospheric pressure, creating an electrical signal that can be digitized as sound; an extensive array of silicon springs and plates shift under the influence of external forces, serving as an accelerometer; an infinitesimally small array of metallic mirrors actuated by electrostatic forces can serve as one of the primary components in a theater projector or television. Though these devices have widely divergent purposes, they all have one thing in common: all are Micro-Electro-Mechanical systems (MEMS), and all pose a significant challenge for a failure analyst.


In addition to the potential issues faced by any integrated circuit - electrical and mechanical stresses, contaminants, and so on - failure analysis of a MEMS is complicated by the fact that these devices are comprised of microscopic moving elements, adding an entirely new dimension to the analysis. For example, a device may fail as a result of “stiction” - an element failing to move properly, perhaps as a result of an incomplete release etch, a foreign particle, electrostatic attraction, or other mechanisms - or from mechanical fatigue, the natural wear and tear of constant motion resulting in a drift in performance over a product’s lifetime. Further complicating matters, many MEMS devices are securely sealed, as a way to protect their fragile elements; to successfully disassemble such a product, an analyst must be familiar with a wide variety of chemical and mechanical preparation methods, always keeping in mind the delicate nature of the sample. Many of an analyst’s tools can be adapted for MEMS work: infrared microscopy can often be used to inspect the MEMS elements for damage or anomalous material without breaking the device seal, as device lids are often made of silicon which is somewhat transparent to short wave infrared light; the focused ion beam can be used to cut windows in the lid of a MEMS to perform a high magnification inspection; and so on.

Sample types

IAL has experience with a wide range of MEMS devices, including extensive work with accelerometers, microphones, and pressure sensors, among others. As long as we can develop a method for replicating a failure on our test bench, chances are good that we can delve into the microscopic beams and gears of your MEMS and come out with the root cause of failure.


  • Analyzing “dead pixels” on a mirror-based imager array
  • Troubleshooting bad outputs from a silicon accelerometer

Scanning Electron Microscopy Lab Services - Failure Analysis

Are you searching for the services of a scanning electron microscopy (SEM) lab for help with electroics failure analysis and root cause analysis?  Insight Analytical Lab’s (IAL) offers scanning electron microscopy lab services to clients world-wide in support of electronic component failure analysis and root cause analysis.    

Call now to speak with an expert in SEM failure analysis at (719) 570-9549 or click to request a free quote for SEM or any type of electronics failure analysis services.

What is Scanning Electron Microscopy?

Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) is a electronics failure analysis tool used to examine surfaces and particles of electronic components and materials.   SEM is a technique capable of imaging structures and materials at resolutions well beyond the limits of optical microscopy.

A scanning electron microscope is a microscope that can produce images of an object as small as 1nm. The microscope’s electron beam interacts with the object's surface creating signals of x-rays, secondary electrons and backscatter electrons. These signals are used to form a high resolution image that appears 3D.

Scanning Electron Microscopy and Electronics Failure Analysis

The process of interpreting SEM images to track down defects in electronic components requires extensive training and experience.

SEM is an extremely powerful technique in the hands of experienced microscopists that specialize in electronics failure anlaysis. 

SEM is used to identify many types of defects and failure mechanisms in a vast array of electronic components. The IAL's SEM department has decades of experience using SEM to identify numerous failure mechanisms, including:

  • Metallurgical Failure Analysis
  • Wafer Lot Acceptance
  • Elemental Analysis (EDS)
  • Large area image acquisition (SEM Mosaics)
  • Solder Analysis
  • Circuit Extraction
  • Process Analysis
  • Intellectual Property Analysis
    • Reverse Engineering
    • Patent Research

Contact Us for Help with Electronics Failure Analysis and Root Cause Analysis

When an electric component fails, our engineers utilize various failure analysis processes, tools and techniques including SEM. With a very high degree of accuracy, they will determine why your device failed and how to prevent future failures. Scanning electron microscopy is one of our most powerful tools for identifying electronic component defects.

Our team of SEM experts possess unsurpassed industry experience and accumulated knowledge. The IAL scanning electron microscopy lab services team routinely support failure analysis and root cause analysis to a global array of clients.

Do you need the services of a Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) lab? IAL is a electronics failure analysis lab specializing in use of SEM for defect and root cause analysis. Call now to speak with an expert in SEM failure analysis at (719) 570-9549 or click to request a free quote for SEM failure analysis services.


Though perhaps not as glamorous as highly integrated microprocessors or specialized ASICs, discrete components - thin-film resistors, chip capacitors, individual transistors, and so on - are still a vital part of modern electronics. A failing bipolar transistor or shorted capacitor can be just as catastrophic as a malfunctioning IC; fortunately, the tools and techniques of IC failure analysis are equally applicable to FA of discrete components.


Discrete component failure analysis follows much the same path as an integrated circuit FA; indeed, analysis of a bipolar transistor or power MOSFET uses exactly the same tools, techniques, and procedures as more complex IC FA projects. Analysis of discrete components begins with non-destructive testing, where tools like x-ray imaging and acoustic microscopy are used to examine the device under test for damage or anomalous processing - for example, cracking in a ceramic capacitor, or irregularities in the laser trim on a precision metal film resistor. Next comes fault verification, where an analyst confirms that the reported problem - for example, a short circuit - is still present. After confirming the failure, the analyst applies a variety of different tools to preform fault isolation, identifying the most likely location of the defect. Depending on the type of device and the defect in question, different tools might be used. For example, thermal imaging is commonly used on leaky capacitors or thin film resistors with anomalous values (either too high or too low of a resistance value may be the result of a defect that will emit heat when biased), while photoemission microscopy (PEM) often reveals defects on semiconductor-based discrete devices. Finally, destructive analysis and documentation wraps everything up neatly: protective coatings or passivation layers are stripped away, the defect is photographed in all its glory, and the root cause of the failure is identified.

Sample types

From thermistors to capacitors, LEDs to FETs, and all points between, IAL’s failure analysis expertise extends to all varieties of discrete components. Our suite of test equipment and preparation tools is adaptable across any range of different samples; regardless of your product, be confident that IAL has applicable experience and can successfully identify the source of your troubles.


  • Determining root cause of insufficient light output of LEDs
  • Analyzing out-of-spec passives to determine lot disposition
  • Post-mortem analysis of power semiconductor devices - MOSFETs, IGBTs, and others



Need to Determine the Root Cause of a Failure in an Electronic Component?  We get back to you with a quote in 24 hours once we have your information.

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