Harman Receives IEEE Award for Wire Bonding Improvements

(May 13, 2009) PISCATAWAY, NJ — George G. Harman, a researcher at NIST, contributed enormously to wire bonding technology that led to an understanding of the process, and improved its reliability. His work helped transform a labor-intensive, manual procedure into the present automated, reliable process capable of producing hundreds of billions of packaged semiconductor devices/year. The IEEE with the 2009 IEEE Components, Packaging, and Manufacturing Technology Award is honoring Harman.

The award, sponsored by the IEEE Components, Packaging and Manufacturing Technology (CPMT) Society, recognizes Harman for achievements in wire bonding technologies. The award will be presented on May 28, 2009, at the 59th IEEE Electronic Components and Technology Conference in San Diego, Calif.

Wire bonding is the primary method of electrically connecting microchips and other electronics during semiconductor device assembly and packaging, where the tiny wire (as small as 18 µm diameter) is connected at both ends using a combination of heat, pressure and ultrasonic energy. The components that make up today’s electronic devices often contain thousands of wire-bonded interconnections to each, carrying the electrical current required to make the devices work. It is estimated that over 90% of all semiconductor devices today are interconnected via wire bonding.

Harman’s first contributions came in the defense industry. In 1968 the Poseidon strategic missile was experiencing unpredictable wire bond reliability problems. The missile contained thousands of small aluminum wire electrical connections, and if one wire failed, the entire device/system could fail. Harman investigated this problem with a goal of improving ultrasonic wire bonding and the ability to evaluate its reliability. He developed a 60- to 120-kHz floating-cone capacitor microphone system to plot the ultrasonic vibration modes of bonding tools. It was found that aspects of the tools, such as the heat produced by lights used to aid the operator’s vision, could cause the highly sensitive bond setups to move out of specification, and that vibration from the bonding machines themselves could also cause unreliable bonds. The results of this work were applied to improve process control and measurement methods and yield a better understanding of other problems in the ultrasonic bonding machines/processes.

Harman started the ASTM F-01.07 committee in 1971 to standardize wire bond testing methods and was responsible for updating these standards in 2006. He also wrote the first version of the nondestructive bond pull test used for MIL-STD-833, and his 1974 paper, “A Metallurgical Basis for the Non-Destructive Bond Pull-Test,” stands alone as the statistical and metallurgical understanding of that test method. The nondestructive bond pull test is currently required for critical space parts used by NASA.

He is well known worldwide for his books and papers on wire bonding as well as numerous 8-hour professional courses he has taught on the subject. A major contribution to the field is his book, “Wire Bonding in Microelectronics: Materials, Processes, Reliability, and Yield” which is considered the “wire bond bible” and is used by most wire bond engineers. A third edition of the book is currently being written.

An IEEE Life Fellow, he holds four patents, and his numerous awards include the IEEE Centennial Medal (1984), IEEE Third Millennium Medal (2000), Outstanding Contributions Award [David Feldman Award] (1992), IEEE CPMT Outstanding Sustained Technical Contributions Award (2001), and the U.S. Department of Commerce/National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Silver (1973) and Gold (1979) medals. Harman received a bachelor’s of science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1949 and a master’s of science from the University of Maryland in 1959. He was a research fellow at the University of Reading (UK) 1962–1963. He is a retired NIST Fellow, Scientist Emeritus, and consultant.

For more information, visit www.ieee.org.

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