Failure analysis is a discipline typically practiced in fields and industries such as manufacturing, engineering, electronics and transportation. In failure analysis, a product or process that resulted in failure is examined on its various factors and components. These are in turn analyzed and used as a basis for development and improvement plans, for the purpose of failure bending or the avoidance of the risk of another failure. Also, failure analysis can be used as a preventive measure to ensure that a product or device does not have any defects. It should be able to pass the set failure stress tests for it to be deemed successful.
The tools used for failure analysis vary depending on the specific needs and requirements of the product, method or item to be analyzed. If you're in the process of conducting failure investigation, here are some of the basic tools you can use:
- Software. The software tool that you would use depends on the data you want to focus on in your analysis. One example of a software tool is the Fault Tree Analysis (FTA), used in failure testing wherein you can see, via a hierarchical chart, the failure material or the failed result (on top of the chart) and the different factors that contributed to it. The Event Tree Analysis (ETA) on the other hand, is used for failure testing wherein you are able to assess what impact a specific, single failure could have on the system as a whole. Other software includes Automatic Test Pattern Generation (ATPG), which enables you to differentiate between processes, such as electronic circuits, that work properly and those that don't.
- Microscopes. Different microscopes are used as tools for failure analysis since by using them you are able to have an intensive look at a physical structure or system. Microscopes used for this purpose include a Scanning Acoustic Microscope (SAM), which uses sound to investigate an object. It is particularly useful in the detection of minute cracks and damage. Another of its advantages is that it is generally non-invasive so the specimen being examined will remain intact even after thorough investigation. Other microscopes used for failure analysis include infra-red microscopes, atomic force microscopes and optical microscopes.
- Probes. These probe stations can be used in semiconductors. They are able to obtain signals from within the internal structures and workings of a specific device for a more thorough investigation. These probes can also be electrical in nature, such as the Electronic Beam Prober, which is able to produce an image of the internal workings of a semiconductor through the use of an electron beam.
- Laser. Laser as a failure analysis tool is also used mostly with semiconductors It mainly works to produce images through the use of heat and light. For example, a thermal laser simulation could highlight differences in heat characteristics between an apparatus that is working properly and another that has defects. It can also work to identify the specific location of a failure.