In order to eliminate the chip cratering for copper wire applications in IC packaging, it is worthwhile to develop new Cu wire chemistries to obtain a soft copper wire with a soft free-air ball (FAB). The conventional hardness characterization of a new bonding wire is a labour intensive, time-consuming work. Therefore an on-line hardness characterization method is presented that enables the hardness comparison of a larger number of different wires within a shorter time. The influences of capillary change, bonding substrate metallization and temperature on this method is quantified. It is found these influences need to be held constant during a hardness comparison study. With this method, the wire and FAB hardness comparison of nine novel 2-mil copper bonding wires, Cu 1 to Cu 9, and one 2-mil Au wire are performed. The wire hardness (wireside) and FAB hardness are characterized. It is found that the Cu 4 and Cu 5 have the softest wireside hardness and FAB hardness.

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