Skip to content

High-Power Burn-In Testing in 2023: How to Overcome the Extreme

Banner Image ALT

Today’s consumers have an unflinching expectation for reliability in their devices, especially critical ones like those in the military or medical fields.

To ensure the reliability of these devices, they have to be tested in the same extreme environments they will be used in. And to ensure these devices fulfill their purpose, the internal components must successfully withstand the extreme temperatures and conditions we’re seeing today.

Semiconductor devices are running at such heat, it can be difficult to establish that balance of temperature with the right components within the application. Which internal pieces will be able to ensure high functionality and longevity through the heat? As an industry, we look to next-generation electronics to fill that gap with reliable high-power burn-in sockets that can withstand these unprecedented temperatures and conditions. 

Let’s talk about burn-in testing today, how it’s multi-faceted, and how it should come with an answer to overcoming the extreme.


Thermal Simulation and Analysis Prior to Burn-In

A common gap in today’s semiconductor reliability testing is thermal simulation and analysis of the problem. Why is the device overheating or not functioning as it should? You can’t move forward into testing and prototyping without a firm grasp of the issue – no matter how complex. 

This lack of knowledge impacts businesses from the ground up, especially in industries like edge computing (which is a part of many other industries). One mistake could take down an entire system, wasting valuable time and money, and losing customers. 

In the past, getting this knowledge was a great deal of iterative guesswork. Today, we conduct thermal testing, which helps us witness the engineering behavior of the inner components and predict on the front end where the efficiency level could go up – no more guessing. This took away a lot of the extra iteration, and now we know specifically where to make changes and adjustments for the best outcome.


Burn-In Testing 101

Once we know the problem and establish solutions unique to your application, we start putting your product to the test, moving into the burn-in phase. Burn-in testing – or high-temperature operating life (HTOL) testing – is a testing process designed to detect early failures in components and reduce the potential for defects and failures in the field. During burn-in, the component endures extreme operating conditions, including temperature extremes, high-use cycles, and high voltages. 

Through this process, we aim to eliminate defective components or those with short lifespans before they can become a factor in a system failure. Components have the potential to fail at three points in their lifespan. 

  1. First stage: Typically due to improper specification or a manufacturing problem with the component
  2. Second state: Often a random failure attributable to a materials problem or an operational irregularity
  3. Third stage: Components fail due to age as the product reaches the end of its useful lifespan 

Burn-In Testing Components and the Role of High-Power Sockets 

To conduct a burn-in test, you need the device you’re testing, a printed circuit board (PCB), a socket, and a burn-in oven. The key to ensuring the device’s success lies in the high-power socket – a non-permanent connection from a PCB to a semiconductor device. 

The interface at the PCB can either be permanent (soldered) or compression-mounted (semi-permanent). The interface to the device under test (DUT) is always semi-permanent. This means the DUT can be removed and replaced with another DUT when the test interval has been completed. The burn-in process can then be repeated. 

In some burn-in processes, the DUT is removed after a few minutes and then the process is repeated with a different DUT. In other cases, the DUT is only removed after thousands of hours of testing. 

Whether testing is a few minutes or hours, the socket used must work each time another DUT is attached. Sockets typically are made with high-temperature plastics, conductive metal contacts, and various springs and hardware. 


Looking for reliable socket solutions for your test and burn-in challenges?

Explore Sockets


Testing Under Today’s Extreme Semiconductor Temperatures

A burn-in oven, one of the other components needed in semiconductor reliability testing, provides a stressful test environment by circulating heat around the DUT. The DUT will also generate its own heat within the oven as it processes electrical signals. This is another part of the burn-in test adapting to the times.

Our burn-in ovens have evolved to accommodate the increasing temperatures needed to simulate harsh environmental operating conditions. In the recent past, temperatures ranged between 125°C (257°F) and 150°C (150°F), with an occasional 180°C (356°F). The automotive industry, for example, has been regularly pushing for burn-in temperatures of up to 175°C (347°F).

At Smiths Interconnect, we’re now handling devices that run 15 to 20 times hotter than ever before – up to 200°C (392°F), for packages that have up to 2,000 watts.


What to Look for in Semiconductor Burn-In Reliability Testing 

Some of the most impactful tech companies today, like Apple, Dell, IBM, LG, HP, and more, are facing the strictest standards. Device failures are nearly out of the question, but if they happen, they can lead to costly repairs, recalls, negative customer feedback, and damage to a business’s reputation. 

Choose a partner who takes a unique step-by-step approach that keeps costs down and starts from where you’re at, and gets you where you want to go.

Uniquely, Our High-Power Burn-In Testing Process and Solutions Include: 

  • Thermal simulations: We conduct thermal simulations early to identify the issue and make solid predictions for improving efficiency within each socket’s makeup.
  • Components built to handle the extreme: Our socket solutions can handle up to 200°C (392°F) and accommodate higher pin counts, making them suitable for high-performance electronic devices.
  • Improved electrical performance: Plastronic socket solutions offer enhanced electrical performance, with better signal integrity, lower crosstalk, and better impedance control. 
  • Customization: We offer greater design flexibility, allowing for customization and optimization of the socket design to meet specific application requirements (for cooling and heating inter components, for example).
  • Cost- and time-effectiveness: Sockets are produced through automated assembly, reducing manufacturing time and costs. 
  • Expert engineering support: Our US-based experts can work real-time (also global).


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the process of a burn-in test? 

Burn-in testing is designed to detect early device failures to avoid defects in the field. During burn-in, the component endures extreme operating conditions, including temperature extremes, high-use cycles, and high voltages. 

Is a burn-in test necessary? 

Yes. Burn-in testing is critical to the success of a business and its electronic products. Without proper burn-in testing, there’s a high probability of failures in products, especially critical devices used in extreme environments (like medical or military).

What is the burn-in temperature for electronics?

In the recent past, temperatures have most commonly ranged between 125°C (257°F) and 150°C (150°F), with an occasional 180°C (356°F). However, at Smiths Interconnect for example, we’re now handling devices that run 15 to 20 times hotter than ever before – up to 200°C (392°F), for packages of up to 2,000 watts. 

Share this article