Low Stress Dielectric Layers for Wafer Level Packages to Reduce Wafer Warpage and Improve Board-Level Temperature-Cycle Reliability


This paper presents a neg­a­tive-tone pho­toim­age­able spin-on dielec­tric mate­r­i­al that is based on a unique mol­e­cule for wafer lev­el pack­ag­ing appli­ca­tion. The mol­e­cule is an extend­ed poly­imide hav­ing pho­toac­tive maleimide end groups. It is an ide­al alter­na­tive to con­ven­tion­al dielec­tric mate­ri­als for solv­ing both the wafer warpage and tem­per­a­ture cycle RDL crack issues.


The trend to big­ger wafer size and thin­ner wafer thick­ness is aggra­vat­ing wafer warpage due to resid­ual film stress from the poly­mer lay­ers on the wafer as shown in Fig. 1.

Larger and thinner wafer aggravates wafer warpage

Con­ven­tion­al dielec­tric lay­ers used in wafer-lev­el pack­ag­ing are based on PBO/polyimides that are formed by way of a con­den­sa­tion reac­tion which requires a “hard bake” step at a tem­per­a­ture of 300°C.

Dur­ing this con­den­sa­tion reac­tion, new chem­i­cal bonds are formed as the mate­r­i­al crosslinks into a ther­moset poly­mer and the fugi­tive con­den­sate is dri­ven out of the coat­ing to result in high vol­ume shrink­age stress (Fig. 2).

Generalized reaction mechanism of conventional aromatic Polyimide Formation

As the ther­moset mate­r­i­al cools from “hard bake” tem­per­a­ture to room tem­per­a­ture, CTE mis­match between the ther­moset mate­r­i­al and sil­i­con induces strain over a large tem­per­a­ture range. This, cou­pled with the high mod­u­lus of the mate­r­i­al, results in high CTE mis­match stress on the wafer. The shrink­age and CTE mis­match stress pro­duce sig­nif­i­cant wafer warpage on thin and large diam­e­ter wafers.

On the oth­er hand, when a fin­ished wafer lev­el pack­age, such as a fan-out WLP, is sol­dered onto a PCB and sub­ject­ed to tem­per­a­ture cycling, the sol­der joints and dielec­tric lay­ers see CTE mis­match stress between the board and the sil­i­con. High mod­u­lus con­ven­tion­al dielec­tric lay­ers are poor stress absorbers. With stan­dard SAC sol­der ball, the cyclic stress man­i­fests itself in fatigue crack­ing of the sol­der. With new sol­der alloy with improved met­al­lur­gi­cal prop­er­ties, how­ev­er, the fail­ure mode is shift­ed to “crack in RDL dielec­tric layers”.

In addi­tion, the dielec­tric con­stants and dielec­tric dis­si­pa­tion of con­ven­tion­al PI/PBO are rel­a­tive­ly high in the low k world. This is a lim­it­ing fac­tor for high-fre­quen­cy applications.

Molecular level approach

To resolve the above-men­tioned prob­lems, a unique imide- extend­ed liq­uid bis maleimide monomer as shown in the block dia­gram in Fig. 3 was prepared.

imide-extended liquid bismaleimide monomer

Like con­ven­tion­al poly­imides, the mol­e­cule uses dian­hy­drides and diamines to pro­duce the back­bone; except the amic acid-to-poly­imide con­ver­sion is per­formed in a reac­tor and the water con­den­sa­tion is extract­ed. This elim­i­nates the need for the high-tem­per­a­ture hard bake step and high vol­ume shrink­age dur­ing cure from the end-user process. Essen­tial­ly, it removes the stress­es asso­ci­at­ed with the high-tem­per­a­ture hard bake and vol­ume shrink­age. The Gen­er­al­ized reac­tion mech­a­nism of the con­ven­tion­al aro­mat­ic Poly­imide Formation
imide func­tion­al group is one of the most ther­mal­ly sta­ble groups known. Thus, the monomer pro­vides a maleimide func­tion­al­ized ther­moset com­po­si­tion with­out com­pro­mis­ing supe­ri­or ther­mal stability.

By chang­ing the anhy­dride and amine start­ing mate­ri­als, a wide vari­ety of prop­er­ties, liq­uids, rub­ber-like films, and stiff glassy solids, can be prepared.

For RDL dielec­tric appli­ca­tion, an aliphat­ic back­bone monomer is cho­sen to yield a low mod­u­lus, low Dk/Df, and hydropho­bic mate­r­i­al when cured. The for­mu­lat­ed mate­r­i­al is UV cur­able, pho­toim­age­able, and can be processed using stan­dard wafer coat­ing meth­ods as shown in Fig. 4.

Formulated material can be processed using standard wafer coating method without high temperature hard bake

The sur­face is non-tacky after spin coat­ing and dry­ing. Imag­ing is a neg­a­tive tone and requires 500 mJ/cm2. Crosslink­ing of the pho­toim­age­able monomer occurs when the coat­ing is exposed to UV I‑line which ini­ti­ates a chain reac­tion that prop­a­gates through the addi­tion of chem­i­cal bonds between the pho­toac­tive maleimide end groups. No high tem­per­a­ture “hard bake” is required. The final step is a “post devel­op bake” at 125°C to 175°C to remove any remain­ing sol­vents and to pro­mote bond­ing of cou­pling agents for bet­ter adhesion.

Fig. 5 shows expo­sure of 500 mJ/cm2 pro­vides suf­fi­cient cross-link­ing to achieve >80% thickness.

Residual thickness vs UV energy

Fig. 6 shows the unex­posed mate­r­i­al can be eas­i­ly washed away by the devel­op­ing solvent.

Residual thickness vs develop time

Fig. 7 shows an exam­ple of via holes with an aspect ratio of 0.5 (20 μm diam­e­ter, 10 μm thick­ness) on SiN pas­si­va­tion. With fur­ther opti­miza­tion in for­mu­la­tion and equip­ment set­up, the aspect ratio of 2.0 (5 μm diam­e­ter, 10 μm thick­ness) has been reported.

Photolithograph of imide-linked BMI material

As shown in Fig. 8, the over­all cure shrink­age is very low com­pared to con­ven­tion­al mate­ri­als. This is because the back­bone of the oligomer is ful­ly imidized and no fur­ther con­den­sa­tion is required dur­ing processing.

Volume shrinkage comparison

The aliphat­ic back­bone yields a low mod­u­lus mate­r­i­al. As shown in Table 1, the mate­r­i­al has less than one-tenth mod­u­lus of con­ven­tion­al PBO and PI resins.

Once cured, the mate­r­i­al con­tains only ther­mal­ly sta­ble imide moi­eties which have sim­i­lar ther­mal sta­bil­i­ty and decom­po­si­tion tem­per­a­ture com­pared to con­ven­tion­al poly­imide as shown in Fig. 9.

Thermal stability of imide-linked BMI

Dur­ing pho­topoly­mer­iza­tion, the BMI func­tion­al units cross-link to become a ful­ly cured ther­moset. No volatiles are gen­er­at­ed on the cure. The cured mate­r­i­al is ther­mal­ly sta­ble at 150°C high-tem­per­a­ture stor­age. As shown in Fig. 10, the mod­u­lus of the cured film remains sta­ble over 1000 hours.

150°C HTS of imide-linked BMI

Free-rad­i­cal cure poly­mer­iza­tion allows a wide range of cou­pling agents to be used. By select­ing the appro­pri­ate cou­pling agents, excel­lent adhe­sion is obtained on sil­i­con and cop­per before and after 96 hours of 121°C pres­sure cook­er as mea­sured using the cross-cut adhe­sion tests fol­low­ing the ISO 2409 method in Fig. 11.

Tape peel test on silicon and copper substrates after 96 hours of PTC

With its hydropho­bic back­bone, the imide-linked BMI has low mois­ture uptake. As shown in Fig. 12, it per­forms very well in 1000 hour of 85°C /85%RH elec­tri­cal migration.

Electrical migration test with bias voltage

Table 2 lists the mate­r­i­al prop­er­ties. As shown, it is a low mod­u­lus (260 MPa) mate­r­i­al. It has the high ther­mal sta­bil­i­ty (5% weight loss at 428°C) of con­ven­tion­al mate­ri­als but with the advan­tage of bet­ter high-fre­quen­cy elec­tri­cal per­for­mance in terms of much low­er Dk and Df, and bet­ter leak­age cur­rent and elec­tro-migra­tion in terms of much low­er water absorption.

Wafer Warpage

Wafer warpage due to film stress can be explained by

Stoney equa­tion:

r= Es  * Ts2/ (1‑v) * 6*σf *Tf


r = radius of cur­va­ture of the wafer

Es = Elas­tic Mod­u­lus of silicon,

ts = thick­ness of the wafer

v = Pois­son’s ratio of silicon,

tf = thick­ness of film

σf = film stress =Ef*εf where

Ef = Elas­tic Mod­u­lus of film

εf = film strain

1. For strain due to CTE mismatch

εf=(αf-αs) ΔT


αf = CTE of film,

αs = CTE of silicon,

ΔT= tem­per­a­ture difference

2. For strain due to Cure shrinkage



ΔV= vol­ume shrinkage

UV cur­ing at near room-tem­per­a­ture results in a much small­er cool­ing tem­per­a­ture excur­sion. As such, the ΔT term in the equa­tion above is small com­pared to the large tem­per­a­ture excur­sion between cur­ing at 350°C and test­ing warpage at 25°C. Fur­ther­more, since cure shrink­age from the free rad­i­cal poly­mer­iza­tion of BMI is much small­er than from con­den­sa­tion cure, the ΔV term is also small. The over­all film strain εf from UV cur­ing of imide-linked BMI is small and hence the film stress σf is much less than con­ven­tion­al PIs. Since σf is in the denom­i­na­tor of the Radius of Cur­va­ture equa­tion, it fol­lows that the radius of cur­va­ture is large and wafer warpage is sig­nif­i­cant­ly low­er than that of con­ven­tion­al wafer coat­ing materials.

As shown in Fig. 13, 200 mm wafers were used for wafer warpage comparison.

Wafer warpage comparison

One wafer was coat­ed with low- tem­per­a­ture cure con­ven­tion­al mate­r­i­al and cured at 200°C fol­lowed by PDD at 175°C. Cured film thick­ness was around 10 μm. Both wafers were thinned to 50 μm using the same back grind­ing con­di­tions, DISCO DGP8761, #320  #2000  Dry pol­ish. The 200°C cure mate­r­i­al reg­is­tered 19 mm of warpage while the BMI wafer was almost flat.

Stress Buffering

As a low mod­u­lus mate­r­i­al, the imide-linked BMI improves reli­a­bil­i­ty through self-defor­ma­tion there­by act­ing as a stress buffer lay­er. The defor­ma­tion of the dielec­tric lay­ers absorbs cyclic stress dur­ing board-lev­el tem­per­a­ture cycle test and mechan­i­cal shock dur­ing drop test to extend sol­der joint life.

To demon­strate the stress buffer­ing effect of the low mod­u­lus mate­r­i­al, stress buffer lay­ers of dif­fer­ent thick­ness­es were added to a BSI CMOS sen­sor CSP [1]. The CSPs were tem­per­a­ture cycles. Fig. 14 shows the inclu­sion of the stress buffer at where sol­dered bump will be placed.

Using imide-linked BMI as stress buffer layer underneath solder bump

Fig. 15 shows the aver­age resis­tance mea­sure­ments dur­ing board-lev­el tem­per­a­ture cycling.

Without stress buffer layer, increase in resistance seen before 1000 cycles

As shown, the ref­er­ence leg that was with­out any stress buffer lay­er, start­ed to reg­is­ter an increase in aver­age resis­tance before 1000 cycles. The three legs with 5μm, 10μm, and 15μm stress buffer lay­er showed no sig­nif­i­cant increase.

Fig. 16 is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the tem­per­a­ture cycle test with an ampli­fied Y axis. As shown, the 5μm start­ed show­ing an increase in resis­tance after 4000 cycles, while the thick­er buffer lay­er legs con­tin­ued to show low resis­tance even up to 6000 cycles.

Resistance VS temp cycle

Fig. 17 is a log-log plot on the fail­ure rate. The sol­der bump life was esti­mat­ed to be 4000 cycles with just 5 μm of a stress buffer layer.

Solder bump life of 4000 cycles

Other Applications

As men­tioned pre­vi­ous­ly in the mol­e­c­u­lar design sec­tion, a wide vari­ety of imide-linked BMI can be pre­pared with dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties by chang­ing the anhy­dride and amine start­ing mate­ri­als. The mol­e­cule in Fig. 3 can also be designed to have very low CTE, while main­tain­ing the low Dk and Df advan­tages. Table 3 shows the prop­er­ties of one such molecule.

By dis­solv­ing in a sol­vent, adding ther­mal ini­tia­tor and addi­tives, this mol­e­cule can be for­mu­lat­ed into a filler-free, 175°C ther­mal cure, low CTE mate­r­i­al suit­able for poly­mer col­lar type of appli­ca­tions to improve drop test per­for­mance [2]. Com­pared to epoxy-based poly­mer col­lars, the BMI offers high ther­mal sta­bil­i­ty, low Dk/Df and low mois­ture absorption.


Maleimide-ter­mi­nat­ed aliphat­ic poly­imide has key pro­cess­ing and per­for­mance advan­tages over con­ven­tion­al wafer coat­ing mate­ri­als while main­tain­ing the high ther­mal sta­bil­i­ty and excel­lent chem­i­cal resis­tance of con­ven­tion­al mate­ri­als. The UV cure capa­bil­i­ty allows the low­est pos­si­ble wafer warpage at room tem­per­a­ture. “Post devel­op­ment dry” to dri­ving out resid­ual sol­vent and improve bond­ing of cou­pling agents can be done at the tem­per­a­ture from 125°C to 175°C. The low mod­u­lus prop­er­ty of aliphat­ic back­bone is ben­e­fi­cial in mak­ing an RDL dielec­tric lay­er, dou­bling up as a stress buffer lay­er to extend sol­der life and delay crack ini­ti­a­tion. Its excel­lent dielec­tric prop­er­ties (Dk = 2.45, Df =0.001) are ben­e­fi­cial for high fre­quen­cy WLP.


The authors would like to thank ZyCube Co. for test­ing the mate­ri­als; espe­cial­ly to Hiro­fu­mi Naka­mu­ra san for pro­vid­ing the tem­per­a­ture cycling results and his advice on the inter­pre­ta­tion of the test data.


  1. Naka­mu­ra, H., “Using three-dimen­sion­al pack­ag­ing tech­nol­o­gy for auto­mo­tive image sen­sor CSP,” 2196th Elec­tron­ic Jour­nal, Tech­ni­cal Sem­i­nar, Japan, Apr. 2014.
  2. D Bhupin­der Singh, Vanes­sa Smet, Jae­sik Lee, Gary Menezes, Mako­to Kobayashi, Pulugurtha Markondeya Raj, Venky Sun­daram, Bri­an Rogge­man, Urmi Ray, Riko Rado­j­cic, Rao Tum­mala, “First Demon­stra­tion of Drop- test Reli­a­bil­i­ty of Ultra-thin Glass BGA Pack­ages Direct­ly Assem­bled on Boards for Smart­phone Appli­ca­tions,” 65th IEEE Elec­tron­ic Com­po­nents & Tech­nol­o­gy Con­fer­ence, 2015, pp. 1566–1573.

To know more regard­ing Low-Stress Dielec­tric Lay­ers for Wafer Lev­el Pack­ages, vis­it www.caplinq.com. You can also con­tact us if you any queries regard­ing CAPLIN­Q’s adhe­sive, seal­ings, and coat­ings.

About Chris Perabo

Chris is an energetic and enthusiastic engineer and entrepreneur. He is always interested in taking highly technical subjects and distilling these to their essence so that even the layman can understand. He loves to get into the technical details of an issue and then understand how it can be useful for specific customers and applications. Chris is currently the Director of Business Development at CAPLINQ.

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