Wafer-Level Packaging (WLP) and its Applications

Abstract: This application note discusses Maxim Integrated’s wafer-level package (WLP) and provides the PCB design and SMT assembly guidelines for the WLP.


The WLP offers advantages of small size and low inductance. Maxim Integrated's WLP are manufactured on wafers. Backside lamination is applied to enhance the mechanical strength of WLP body. Pb-free solder balls are used as die to PCB interconnects. An example package outline is shown in Figure 1.

SEM photo of a WLPFigure 1. SEM photo of a WLP.

Additional T&R information

Maxim Integrated ships WLPs in tape-and-reel (T&R) format. T&R requirements are based on the EIA-481 standard.

Package outline drawing of a 0.4mm pitch WLPFigure 2. Package outline drawing of a 0.4mm pitch WLP.

PCB Design

Two types of land patterns are used for surface-mount packages (Figure 3):

  • Non-solder Mask Defined (NSMD) pads – The solder mask opening is larger than the metal pads. The NSMD pad size is the same as the metal pad.
  • Solder mask Defined (SMD) pads – The solder mask opening is smaller than the metal pad. The SMD pad size refers to the size of solder mask opening.

Illustration of NSMD and SMD land pad patternsFigure 3. Illustration of NSMD and SMD land pad patterns.

Although both NSMD and SMD pads are used in applications, NSMD pads are recommended. NSMD pads have the advantages of more precise pad dimension and better solder joint reliability at the board side. Only one type of a pad (NSMD or SMD) and one type of pad surface finish should be used at a given footprint. The recommended pad sizes are listed in Table 1. The width of the trace should not be more than 100µm to avoid excessive wetting of the solder onto the trace at entry to a NSMD pad, which can change the solder joint shape. A teardrop is recommended at the trace entry to lower the risk of a trace crack.

SMD pads can be used when wide trace entry to a pad is required for reasons such as high current carrying. Larger metal pads and wider metal traces can be used for SMD pads.

Via in pad (VIP) is acceptable. The dimple at VIP can cause solder voiding at assembly. Small voids at VIP do not significantly degrade the solder joint reliability. The user can assess the acceptable via quality. Complete flat VIP can be achieved via capping although it is not required. It is recommended to put VIP at the corner ball location to improve the PCB reliability.

Table 1. Recommended NSMD Pad Designs Table 1. Recommended NSMD Pad Designs

Ball Pitch (mm) Acceptable PCB Pad Diameter (µm) Recommended PCB Pad Diameter (µm)
0.5 220 to 280 250
0.4 200 to 260 250
0.35 190 to 220 200
0.3 160 to 190 180

PCB Surface Finish

Organic Solderability Preservative (OSP), Electroless Nickel/Immersion Gold (ENIG), Electrolytic Nickel/Gold, Electroless Nickel Electroless Palladium/Immersion Gold (ENEPIG), Immersion Silver and Immersion Tin finishes are used in the industry. OSP is recommended for applications that require drop test reliability.

SMT Assembly

Standard SMT equipment and process are used for WLP assembly. The process flow is as follows:

Incoming WLP inspection

Paste deposition

WLP pick and placement

Solder reflow

Flux cleaning (optional)


Both solders paste or flux printing and dipping approaches provide acceptable assembly quality and reliability. Maxim Integrated WLP meets Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC) level 1 moisture sensitivity classification. No baking is needed before assembly.

Stencil Design

Solder paste, paste flux, or liquid flux can be printed on the PCB with a stencil prior to the assembly. High-quality laser-cut stainless-steel stencil with nano coating improves transfer efficiency and consistency. It is recommended for WLPs, especially those with pitch smaller than 0.4mm. The solder paste inspection (SPI) is also recommended for such fine-pitch WLP assembly. The optimum stencil aperture size depends on stencil manufacturing technology, printing equipment, solder paste type, and process parameters. Recommended stencil thickness and reference aperture sizes are listed in Table 2.

WLP Ball Pitch 0.5mm Pitch 0.4mm Pitch 0.35mm Pitch
Recommended stencil thickness 4 mils 4 mils 4 mils
Reference stencil aperture size 250µm 250µm 200µm

Paste printing for 0.3mm pitch WLP is challenging. Users should determine stencil design based on the equipment capability, solder paste choice, and stencil technology. Alternatively, flux dipping can be used.

Solder Paste

Conventional Pb-free solder pastes can be used for WLP assembly. Type 3 pastes can be used for 0.5mm and 0.4mm pitch WLP assembly, while a type 4 paste is preferred for 0.35mm and 0.3mm pitch WLP. SnPb solder paste should not be used for Pb-free WLP assembly.

Automated Component Pick and Place

Standard pick and place equipment can be used for placing Maxim Integrated WLP. A fine-pitch IC packaging placement equipment is preferred for better accuracy. Plastic pick-up nozzles are recommended. Pick and place force should not exceed 2N.

WLP body outline can be used for component recognition. For better placement accuracy, solder balls can be used for alignment. With this approach, a look-up camera is used to recognize the solder balls. The equipment enters the ball array itself to the footprint for better alignment accuracy.

Marking Inspection for Thin WLP and Ultra-Thin WLP

More and more demands on thinner packages are driven by mobile or wearable applications. For WLP, a special process is needed after wafer thinning to certain thickness to handle large warpage. Marking through tape (on 2-in-1 backside laminate) is adopted in Thin-WLP or Ultra-Thin WLP, and the marks are shallower than normal.

Scattered light (not straight) is highly recommended for marking inspection. The equipment set up with either light-emitting diode (LED) ring light or side lamp or dark field function can achieve scattered light effect easily.


All Maxim Integrated WLPs are compatible with industry-standard solder reflow processes. An optimized reflow profile considers of flux type and all components to be soldered to the board. The use of nitrogen inert atmosphere reflow is optional. It has demonstrated a better centering of the Pb-free WLP on the pads and less solder oxidation compared to air reflow.

Flux Cleaning

Post reflow cleaning is not recommended, especially when a no-clean type solder paste is used. If cleaning is required, a spray-under-immersion or ultrasonic-immersion cleaning method is recommended. A thorough study of flux, paste, and cleaning solvent compatibility must be evaluated.


In general, underfill material is not required for WLP. In certain applications, underfill can enhance WLP mechanical robustness when proper underfill material is selected.


Rework is not recommended. It should only be performed using a controlled and qualified process that prevents mechanical and electrostatic discharge (ESD) damage.


Reliability requirements are listed in Table 3.

Table 3. Reliability Qualification Requirements

Stress Specification Abbv Condition No. of Lots/SS per Lot Duration/Acceptance
MSL Preconditioning JESTD20 PC MSL1 3 lots/150 units Visual and Electrical test
High Temperature Storage JESD22-A103 HTS 150°C 3 lots/77 units 1000hrs/0 Fail
Temperature Cycling JESD22-A104 TC -40°C to +125°C, 1 cycle/hr 3 lots/77 units 1000 cycles for array size ≤ 6×6/note
500 cycles for array size > 6×6/note
Operating Life Test JESD22-A108 HTOL TJ = 135°C 3 lots/77 units 1000hrs/0 Fail
Drop test JESD22-B111 DT Cond B 1 lot/60 units 150 drops/note

Note: Meet less than 5% failure rate at 90% confidence level at the number of cycles specified for the reliability stress.

Thermal Performance

Thermal modeling is performed with JEDEC still air conditions. The junction-to-ambient thermal resistance values for 0.5mm and 0.4mm pitch WLP are listed in Table 4 and Table 5, respectively.

Table 4. Thermal Resistance of 0.5mm pitch WLP

Array Size Pitch (mm) θJA (°C/W) for 1S0P Board θJA (°C/W) for 2S2P Board
2×2 0.5 329.2 87.4
4×4 0.5 154.8 49.1
6×6 0.5 110.4 37.7
8×8 0.5 87.8 31.6
10×10 0.5 73.4 27.7
12×12 0.5 63.4 24.8
14×14 0.5 55.9 22.5

Table 5. Thermal Resistance of 0.4mm pitch WLP

Array Size Pitch (mm) θJA (°C/W) for 1S0P Board θJA (°C/W) for 2S2P Board
2×2 0.4 434.5 102.6
4×4 0.4 209.7 57.9
6×6 0.4 151.3 45.7
8×8 0.4 121.2 38.2
10×10 0.4 101.9 33.6
12×12 0.4 88.4 30.2
14×14 0.4 78.1 27.5


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