Using the Coffin-Manson Equation to Calculate Thermal Cycles


Let’s look in on Patty and friends ….

Patty, Rob and Pete were headed to their regular monthly meeting where they, along with the Professor, discussed a book they were all reading.  This month’s book was about General Leslie R. GrovesRacing for the Bomb

“This was one of the most interesting books we have read,” Pete said starting the meeting.  “I think most people are aware of the technical genius of the scientists involved in the Manhattan Project, such as J. Robert Oppenhiemer and Richard Feynman, but few appreciate the contributions of Gen. Groves,” Pete continued.

“I agree,” Rob said.  “Without Grove’s orchestrating of the overwhelming number of small and large details of the program, it would have taken three times as long,” he went on.

“Right!” the Professor chimed in. “He set up a $20 billion enterprise to produce the components of the bomb in less than three years.  Who else could have done that?”

“One of the things that I found almost comical was that he was so good at the secrecy of the project that his family had no idea he was working on the bomb until it came out in the newspapers,” Patty exclaimed.

The four book club members chatted about the book for about 20 more minutes.  Patty felt her cellphone vibrate.  It was a text from Mike Madigan.

“Rob, Pete, it looks like we may have another assignment from Mike. He wants us to call, so let’s go to my office,” Patty suggested.

Even though the three of them were all at the engineering school at Ivy U, Mike Madigan, the CEO of ACME, established a blank contract with them to do part-time consulting.  Part-time consulting is quite a common thing in the academic world as it helps the profs and technical staff keep current and also earn a little money.

Patty called Mike’s number and activated the speakerphone.

“We have a customer who we assemble TVs for.  Each TV goes through 10,000 on/off cycles in its field life.  The temperature change from these on/off cycles is from 20°C to 50°C.  We are performing thermal cycle testing of the PCBs from 0°C to 100°C.  How many thermal cycles will we need to perform to equal the 10,000 field cycles?” Madigan asked.

Patty chuckled to herself as she had just solved a problem like this for a reliability workshop that she was developing. So, the technique was fresh in her mind.

“You need to use the Coffin-Manson equation,” Patty explained.

“Whoa!” Mike chuckled, “Is the problem so serious that we need to worry about coffins?”

“Coffin-Manson is used to relate strain to temperature changes. It will help us to calculate the right number of cycles,” Rob chimed in.

Rob, Patty, and Pete all got calculators out to see who could get the answer first.  Pete won the contest.

“I get an acceleration factor (AF) of 25,” Pete announced victoriously.

“Agreed,” Patty and Rob sighed in unison.

“The equation is quite simple,” Patty shared.  See the figure below.




“The Coffin-Manson acceleration factor for lead-free solder, m, is about 2.7,” Patty finished.

“So, you need to perform about 400 (10,000/25) cycles in the test chamber,” Pete said.

“Wow! I’m really relieved,” Mike said, “I thought it might take 2,500 thermal cycles or more.”

“There is no way we had enough time for that number of cycles, but 400 is easily doable,” Mike concluded as he sighed a breath of relief.

The four of them chatted for a while more and then went their ways after having mastered another electronics assembly problem.


Dr. Ron

Thoughts for the New Year


I thought I would post a few short thoughts as the new year begins. Here it goes:

1. A billion hours ago the Stone Age was the future, a billion minutes ago Caesar ruled Rome, a billion seconds ago Jimmy Carter was the US president, a billion passives ago you took your last break (about 4 hours ago). As exciting as the latest quad core microprocessor is, the largest number of components that we assemble is passives, approaching two trillion per year. That is about six billion a day. If you lined up all the seven billion people in the world, each year you could give every man, woman and child several hundred passives from all of the passives that are produced. If two trillion passives (assume 0402s) were lined up end to end they would circle the earth 50 times!

2.    Schools in Indiana are no longer required to teach cursive writing. Keyboard skills are considered more important. Yikes! I’m all for keyboard skills, but I want my grandkids to be able to write in cursive. If not, how do they write their names? Are we less than a generation away from people writing their names as an “X?”

3. Thoughts on lead-free solder reliability in long-term mission critical environments from a NASA study:

“Test vehicles assembled with lead-free materials (notably tin-silver-copper) exhibited lower reliability under some test conditions.”

Some people would respond to this statement by saying, “I told you that lead-free solder was no good.” However, another way of stating the results would be, “Lead-free solder performed better in more tests than tin-lead solder did.” The ratio, by my count, was about 5 to 3 in favor of lead-free. However, I agree that lead-free is not ready for mission critical (>20-year) service life. The main reason being that, in some cases, when lead-free solder joints failed in these types of studies, the results were much, much worse than for tin-lead solder joints. These failure modes need to be understood and addressed. In addition, tin whiskers and pad cratering are looming problems in these, mission critical, long service life quadrant D applications as discussed in the US Navy’s Manhattan Project.

4. I had not planned on reading Steve Job’s biography , as I thought I knew quite a bit about him from reading recent articles in Forbes, Fortune and Business Week. But I went ahead and downloaded it to my Kindle anyway. This work by Walter Isaacson is a masterpiece. To share one tidbit from it that relates to those of us in electronic assembly:

In almost all cases electrical engineers first design the circuits that perform the functions of some device like a mobile phone or tablet. Mechanical Engineers are then left to fit the circuits into the “box.” (Hence MEs are often called “box stuffers” by EEs). Jobs completely changed this approach. He told the engineering team how he wanted the product to look and function first, then they had to determine how to make it work that way. I’m convinced that only through this approach are the revolutionary design concepts that Jobs and Apple came up with possible.

The book also points out his many flaws (e.g., Jobs would regularly park in handicap spots; the author reports several times that Jobs just didn’t think the rules applied to him, etc.). Another interesting thought (read it and see if you agree with me) that if Steve was not Paul Jobs’ adopted son, Apple would have never happened.

Dr. Ron