Thursday, July 30, 2009

In the Belly of the Beast

I have now been working at my new job for about one month now and my first impressions are along the lines of, Whoa...

This company is much larger than my previous employer and I am finding the sheer scale of operations to be a bit daunting. I now realize that previously I was performing the tasks of people who fill 5 or 6 (more like 10ish) positions at this new place. I now can focus more directly on my own role in the lab, rather than on keeping track of all the different responsibilities I had before. This has its pros and cons. I am able to get more done and in a faster fashion, but at the same time, I'm not juggling as many balls, which had it's own invigorating merits. I have to say that I am lucky for my previous multi-faceted work experience because it gave me a good overview of how a company is run internally through many different departments and will be a huge asset moving forward. Not to mention that now I am mainly dealing with ICs (integrated circuits), where as before I was dealing with everything high tech, across all sectors and fields. This too will really allow me to remain broad within the narrow field of Failure Analysis (though not too narrow to be fair).

My second major revealation comes from how I as an individual am being treated here- like a Grownup of all things! I mean I know that 28 is still rather young, but not having to take competancy tests, not needing to fill out a time card, and having my opinions honestly considered really makes me feel like a professional adult. I guess what it really boils down to is trust. I am being trusted to be intelligent and not waste time. Before, I was being trusted to not screw up the lab while my boss was out, but not trusted to be intelligent and not waste time. I always found that juxtaposition to be rather daunting.

Finally, THE DRAMA! It is amazing how the amount of drama goes like the number of people cubed, well, acutally I think it's more like n! b/c it probably scales with the number of relationships that are possible and I think that is n! in math terms. You go from 24 possible relationships with 4 people (ie groupings of people who can talk and generate drama) up to 120 possible relationships when there are 5 people involved. I am working with approximately 6 people who directly affect my life which is approximately 360 possible relationships, mmm drama. There isn't even that much drama, just a few conflicts of personality (by others around me, but not actually me btw, I love everyone!) that affect my life, but it is still very stark in comparision to zero drama (well, near zero drama).

Anywho, I just thought I'd share some of my first impressions on going from a small company to a medium company. It has been an interesting experience and I am still learning loads everyday about business, failure analysis, engineering, and myself. (The above image is an x-ray image of the cross-sectional view of a wire bonding to a lead.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Does Jesse DO?

People ask me what do you do? It's often a hard question because there is so much to this industry, that when I say, well I work in high tech, it doesn't quite capture it. It's really more like, I try to figure out whether/why a high tech thing is breaking, broken, or otherwise messed up in various ways. There is a number of techniques that can be used. At my lab we can use optical microscopy, x-ray transmission microscopy, and acoustic microscopy to look at something without messing with it. However, to get a more complete picture of what's going on, you have to mess with it. This is done by removing parts to directly inspect what is left with things like an optical microscope, or a scanning electron microscope (which will be coming soon). Basically I'm making pretty pictures, so I thought I'd show some of them to illustrate what it is that I do.

These are all optical images:

This is a typical BGA (Ball Grid Array) package. From the top down you have the copper heat sink, followed mold compound (plasticy stuff) with filler particles (SiO2 particles), and that's followed by the brains of the operation- the leads connecting to the silicon die. The bottom of the die is attached to the ground though the "die attach" which also dissipates heat.

Here is a closer view of the leads, silicon die, die attach, and the via (metal filled with plastic) that grounds the die. However, in this image you can see that there is a "void" in the plastic filling the via.

This is what's called a "dark field" image. Basically instead of looking at the direct reflections of the light, which makes all of the metal bits very bright, this looks at the sides of the beam rather than the center of the beam. Here you can really see that void.
This is the higher magnifications of the leads connecting to the active side of the silicon die. If you look close you can see the transistors and the pad that the lead frame.

Here you can see the individual transistors (or whatever it may be) which here which look to be about 5um thick. There is an empty pad, or something, off to the far left. You can see the boxed in area on the right is something like 20 um2, and is the pad has now become an intermetalic mixture or alloy.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trolls Live Under the Bridges

This is our bridge, the Richland Ave bridge over San Jose Ave (which becomes Guerrero St a few hundred yards up). It is a nice bridge and I think it looks cool. However, there is more here than the eye can see. Notice the area between the hillside and the bridge abutment? Trolls live there. I'm serious. Real-life honest-to-goodness, trolls.

Here is a slightly better shot of the space to which I am referring. They don't exactly extract a toll from crossers, but there is an unusually high rate of car vandalisation and break-ins on the bridge. I had both of my locks messed with, the driver's side no longer works ($200 to fix), you often see broken windows and glass in the parking areas, and even Liz's old school 1984 Accord was broken into (they didn't get anything but left the door open and the battery went dead).

One hole in the fence means a troll infestation on the order of dozens. Liz has counted between 10 and 20 people going in and out of this space under the bridge during a typical day. During the nights you can hear them yell and shout and scream, sometimes they will throw glass bottles down into the abutment for 5 or 10 minutes creating quite a racket. The sounds that echo up from these spaces makes me think of how it will sound when civilization comes apart at the seams. But who knows...

What do they do under here? Drugs? Sex? A little of both? You can see in this picture that they have made a bit of a nest under there for themselves. The other day we saw a perfectly normal looking red head skulking around our Troll hole. What did she need? She kept darting up and down from below. Was she waiting for her dealer, her hookup, a hookup, to hookup, or what?

Are they just poor sad homeless people who need some shelter from the wind and fog? I have spoken to a couple of them, typical immigrants from Mexico or Central America, down on their luck. I truly feel for these poor folks, but that doesn't change the facts, they are our very own, modern day- Trolls.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ray's First Show

Great job Ray!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Desolation Crew

Brian in true form.
Liz soaking up the last rays.

Anne reading on a split rock.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Desolation Wilderness

This weekend I went away with Liz, Brian and Anne to do some backpacking in Desolation Wilderness. This was my second time going, but it was just as beautiful as I remember. Here's what the hike looked/felt like. I will be posting some pictures later.