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Mass Production of a New Type of Probe Pin for Ultra-narrow Pitches Using the Increasingly Popular Minute Electroformed Component (EFC) Technology


The electroformed component (EFC) technology for mass production that was uniquely developed by OMRON is finding an even wider range of applications.OMRON previously achieved results by applying EFC technology to FPC (flexible printed circuit) connectors and battery connectors and now has expanded EFC technology to develop a probe pin with a new structure for semiconductor inspection devices and has developed a mass production system. The newly developed probe pin can be used for inspection of semiconductor devices with ultra-narrow pitches, something that was difficult with previous pins. The new probe pin will help to increase the reliability of inspection data.

OMRON announced the start of mass production of FPC connectors and battery connectors using EFC in 2011. These connectors attracted the attention of many technicians as soon as they were announced.

Mr. Kotake

Product Management Section,
Connector Division,
OMRON Corporation

We introduced electroforming technology into the fabrication of the metal parts of connectors, which were previously formed with presswork. This enabled forming narrow parts with an aspect ratio (sheet thickness to sheet width) of 1 or less, and parts with a small radius with bending characteristics (radius divided by sheet thickness) of 2 more. These were not possible with traditional presswork.Furthermore, with EFC technology, burs on cut edges and warping (undercutting) that are unavoidable with presswork do not occur.

These characteristics enable narrower terminal pitches and extensive reductions in overall connector size than previously possible. And contact force and other mechanical and electrical characteristics are also improved.

“Battery connectors with terminals that were downsized through the use of EFC technology allowed us to suppress contact failures by increasing terminal followability of the battery for drop vibrations. As a result, system operation is further stabilized. This advantage has been highly praised by many cell phone manufacturers. The trend to use battery connectors with terminals that use EFC technology is steadily spreading. These parts are also used in smart phones that were recently marketed.” (Mr. Kotake)

Pursuing the New Possibilities of Electroforming

Ever since OMRON started EFC mass production, we have worked aggressively to develop EFC applications. And the fruits of those efforts include the new probe pin for semiconductor inspection devices and other applications (see Figure 1).

A probe pin is a slender pin-like part that is used to read electric signals from minute test points when measuring the electrical characteristics of ICs and other electronic parts. It is a key part that is essential in the test sockets that hold the ICs in the inspection devices and the probe cards that are built into the inspection devices.

OMRON developed a probe pin with EFC technology because of the increasing narrowness of terminals on semiconductor devices, which made it difficult to take measurements with previous probe pins. “The increasing density of the electronic components mounted in devices and the increased downsizing of IC packages are continuing to reduce the terminal pitch in PCB-IC connections.” (Mr. Teranishi)

The package unit pitch for recent BGAs (ball grid arrays) is only 0.4 to 0.5 mm.「In a few years, it is expected to be 0.3 mm or less. “Even now, the previous probe pins are too large. It has already become difficult to touch terminals with adjacent probe pins without them coming into contact with each other. We started development because we saw the possibility of overcoming this problem with EFC technology, which is suitable for minute fabrication.” (Mr. Teranishi)

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