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Silicon Investigations Integrated Circuit Decapsulation Service & Nippon Scientific Decapsulation Machine Repair Information


Decapsulation is a chemical etching technique for opening IC plastic packages in order to expose their internal components for examination. Although physically destructive in nature, the process leaves the die, bond pads, and wire bonds intact.  In most cases, the functionality of the device remains unchanged and suitable for failure analysis or functionality analysis (reverse engineering).
  Decapsulated integrated circuit package
IC decapped on PCB



Several methods of decapsulation are available depending upon the device and the customers requirements. Such methods include jet etching, manual cavity etching, and total package removal. Fuming nitric acid (HNO3), sulfuric acid (H2SO4) or a mixture of the two acids are used.


Jet etching is an automated version of chemical decapsulation. The jet etcher dispenses a stream of acid onto the package creating a cavity and exposing the die. At Silicon Investigations, we use the Nippon Scientific Company's PA-103 acid decaposulation tool.

With manual etching, a depression is first milled into the surface of the package after which acid is dropped into the cavity to dissolve the encapsulant over the die.  This is accomplished with an end mill to make the depression, then the device is heated on a hot plate while the chemicals are dripped into the cavity. This method is rarely used with today's advanced devices, as the package epoxy is very thin and likely to crack or otherwise damage the die if improperly done.


Jet etched IC - Acid decapsulated IC package


Total package removal is performed by using a special attachment to the PA-103 that allows acid to circulate around the entire package, thus removing all epoxy and the lead frame, leaving only the silicon die and some amount of undissolved metal (usually only the gold bond wire attached to the die). This technique is primarily used to inspect for cracks on the back of die or to document die features where no post decapsulation chip functionality is required.


Silicon Investigations IC decapsulation page & Nipon Scientific Corporation PA103 decapsulation machine rebuild service

Last Modified: September 21, 2020
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