What are QFN Packages?

PCB Fabrication 
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Editorial Team - PCB Directory

Jan 20, 2023

A QFN (Quad-Flat-No-Lead) package is a semiconductor package used to connect an ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) to a PCB using the Surface-Mount Technology. It is a small, lead-free package that provides average heat dissipation in the PCBs. QFN is a lead frame-based package, also known as a CSP (Chip Scale Package) that allows leads to be seen and touched after assembly.

The QFN packages go by different names depending on the manufacturer, such as MLF (micro lead frames) and FL (flat no lead). 

Structure of a QFN Package

The die in the QFN Package is enclosed in a lead frame. The copper alloy that makes up the lead frame has a matte tin coating. Wire bonding is used to affix the die and frame together. Flip-chip technology is employed by some manufacturers for this interconnection because it provides superior electrical performance to the traditional one. The bottom surfaces have metalized terminal pads. These terminal pads offer electrical connections to the PCB and are located along the bottom surface's four edges.

An exposed pad is located on the package's bottom side. This pad offers the PCB an effective heat path and also allows for ground connection. The exposed pad is soldered to the circuit board. QFNs can operate at 2–3W without the need for forced air cooling.

The epoxy material used to secure the die to the exposed pad is known as the die attach.

Types of QFN Packages 

Punch-Type: The package is formed into a single mould cavity and separated using a punch tool in punch-type singulation. This means that when using this technique, only one package is moulded into shape.

Sawn-Type: The mould array process (MAP) is used to mould these containers. With this technique, numerous packages are divided into smaller pieces. The sawn-type packages are divided into individual packages with the aid of a final saw process.

Plastic-Molded QFNs: This package is quite affordable. The two components of the plastic-molded QFN are a copper lead frame and a plastic compound; it lacks a lid. However, it is only compatible with applications that use 2 to 3 GHz. 

Air-Cavity QFN: The package of this QFN has an air cavity. It also has three components: a copper lead frame, a plastic-molded body, and a lid made of ceramic or plastic (without seal and opened). Furthermore, due to the nature of its construction, this type of QFN is expensive. However, it can be utilized for microwave applications between 20 and 25 GHz.

Flip Chip QFN: The flip-chip is moulded into a low-cost package. Additionally, the box connects flip-chips to a substrate (copper lead frame). It is the best Quad Flat No-Lead for electrical performance because of its short electrical path. 

Wire Bond QFN: This package is directly connected to PCB tracks, semiconductors, or integrated circuits via wires to the chip terminals.

QFN Assembly 

The fundamental procedures for the surface-mount assembly of the QFN components are as follows: 

  • Solder-Paste Printing: Before attaching components to the board, solder paste is uniformly spread across it in a process known as "solder-paste printing."
  • Component Placement: The QFN IC components are mounted on the printed circuit board in accordance with the layout selected during the PCB design stage. Due to the high interconnection density of these components, precise and accurate pick and place tools are required.
  • Pre-reflow inspection: This step verifies that the board is prepared to enter the reflow oven. This aids in removing contaminants from the board's surface that might obstruct the soldering procedure.
  • Reflow soldering: Reflow soldering is commonly used to connect QFN components.

Advantages of QFN Packages 

  • There are no lead co-planarity issues with this package.
  • Its small footprint allows for space-saving on PCBs.
  • QFN assembles PCBs using standard surface mount tools and processes.
  • Because the QFN has a package height of less than 1mm, the device is relatively thin.
  • It exhibits outstanding thermal performance (considering that it offers an excellent route for heat transfer from the die to the board when soldering).
  • The small size, location, and form factor of the contact pads allow the components on the board to be close to the QFN's components.
  • The lead inductance of the QFN package is marginal.
  • Outstanding electrical performance.
  • The semiconductor package is inexpensive.

Drawbacks of QFN Packages

The QFN is an excellent package, but it has certain drawbacks which include: 

  • Issues in Manufacturing: Manufacturability is one of the main issues with the QFN. Having a lower defect rate when placing and reflowing the QFNs could be difficult. With the high-mix, low-volume operations, the package frequently has potential issues. Additionally, this problem crosses over into the board and stencil design fields.
  • Issues with Soldering: The package's small pad-to-pad pitch increases the possibility of solder-bridging. Additionally, there is no lead in the QFN. So if you have to desolder the package, it might be difficult. 
  • Compatibility Issue with Some OEM Processes: Dimensional changes at the board or part could affect the QFN packaging. And typically, this occurs because the package lacks lead. As a result, it is less resilient when this IC package is exposed to a wide range of OEM practices or standard CM.
    Another dimension change that this package may experience is board flexure. In other words, the components will be under a lot of stress if you subject the QFN (flat package) to things like in-circuit testing, board attachment, etc. This is due to the absence of long, flexible copper leads in the package.
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