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Data Recovery

Our Decapsulation processes use the latest techniques to decapsulate all types of plastic encapsulated parts in order to expose the die in today's integrated circuits (IC). This procedure is done so that analysis testing and probing can be carried out the IC after the decapsulation.

Decapsulation exposes the integrated circuit for ussually for the purpose of direct probe connection to the silicon die. Various techniques have been developed to achieve this, suitable methods are selected to be compatible with the particular packaging configuration in order to minimize complications from introduction of foreign matter or damage to the silicon device.

Some de-capsulation techniques are as basic as breaking a package open or heating to melt the encapsulant, these are NOT recommended.

Chemical removal of polymeric encapsulating material with acid, or mixtures of acids and solvents, is a very common method that gives good results if carried out correctly. However the acids involved are used in a concentrated form and significant health and safety issues are associated with this methodology.

We favour the use of a proprietary mix of organic solvents, formulated to breakdown the molecular bonds within the encapsulant without damage to the die or bond wires, resulting in a very clean die, with reduced health and safety issues and a non aggressive action on the exposed die and bond wires.

Once the die is electrically accessible via any of the aforementioned methods, micro positioners can be utilised to attach probes to the bond wires or bond pads to provide a low impedance connection to the silicon chip.


Decapped IC.



Practical Use 1

The number of counterfeit semiconductors being introduced into the supply chain is on the increase, and as the numbers increase, so does the sophistication of the counterfeiters themselves. Organisations strive to reduce cost and stay compatitive. In doing so, some, may purchase devices from unorthadox sources.

Challenged with the problem of how to effectively detect counterfeit semiconductor parts. Companies are increasingly turning to detailed visual inspection to ensure counterfeit or defective devices do not make it to their production line.

A visual inspection is performed on a sampling of devices from a given lot. Device markings and dimensions are compared with the manufacturer’s datasheet for authenticity. The lead finish is examined for evidence of previous use or refinishing. The body of the device is examined for evidence of improper handling or previous use. With more sophisticated counterfeits, a visual inspection is often insufficient. Being able to look inside the package is often required. De-capsulation is destructive, but can reveal many hidden features.

If you see a high percentage of DOA components purchased from an unorthadox source, how do you know if the devices really carry die or are simply empty shells designed to increase your suppliers margin?


Practical use 2

Some flash memory and eeprom devices protect the code image with internal lock bits, set as a final step at the end of programming. When set, these bits prevent the microcontroller programmer from "downloading" or "reading" the inetrnal program. In practice, the only way to erase the lock bits is by erasing all memory, which allows the device to be reprogrammed but destroys the program memory contents in the process.

The lock bit approach can be easily defeated. A careful study of the die layout and selective erasing of areas of the die with a UV source or eprom eraser can reveal the location of the security lock bits. This technique is often performed on UVerasable EPROMs. After decapsulation, the die is painted with opaque paint or even electrical tape, and pinholes carefully made over the location of the lock bits. Exposing the device to a strong UV light then erases the security lock bits, yet leaves the main memory array unaffected. The device can then be read in a standard programmer as though the lock bits were never set Pictures below show a device with the code area protected with opaque material proir to UV exposure to remove the security protection.



This simple procedure is routinely performed in semiconductor companies to analyze failures.



Prices range from 50 UK pounds to 500 UK Pounds for most parts.

Depackaging to bare die: from 25 UK Pounds per device.

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