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Study on video card failures: "It's the solder, stupid"

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A couple weeks ago we posted about allegations of widespread solder failure in NVIDIA graphics cards. This is further confirmation of that, as a study done at my alma mater comparing high-lead (90% lead, 10% tin) and eutectic (60% lead, 40% tin) found that under controlled circumstances,

“…plastic energy produced in the high-lead layer is about 100 times larger than in the eutectic SnPb joint – which leads the scientist to believe that “cycle times needs to fail” are “100 times longer” with the eutectic solder bump.”

I’m no materials engineer, but they reduced it to plain language, saying that in a non-controlled system, eutectic solder was likely to last at least 10 times longer under similar high-energy conditions. Of course, it’s not as simple as switching out the solder material; eutectic solder has its own weaknesses, albeit ones that can be designed around. I understand this is all a bit obscure, but I think it’s interesting that these super-nerdy little issues can lead to industry upheavals. Or at least they would if ATI wasn’t having similar problems at the same time.

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