Electroless nickel bumping of aluminium bondpads. Part 1 - surface pre-treatment and activation

Electroless nickel bumping of aluminum (Al) bondpads followed by solder paste printing is seen as one of the lowest cost routes for the bumping of wafers prior to flip-chip assembly. However, the electroless nickel bumping of Al bondpads is not straightforward and a number of activation steps are necessary to enable the nickel deposit to form a strong, electrically conductive bond with the Al. For the electroless nickel coating of mechanical components made of aluminum, a zincate activation process has been used for many years, however extension of these techniques to semiconductor wafers requires careful control over these pretreatments to avoid damage to the very thin bondpads. This paper reports a number of experiments designed to characterize the activation of Al bondpads to electroless nickel plating, focusing on the effects of solution exposure time and bondpad composition. In addition, the results are discussed in the context of other studies presented in the literature to provide an understanding of the mechanism of the zincate activation process applied to Al bondpads.