Photographing A Display Controller Die

Die image of the PCD8544 display controller

Who doesn’t like integrated circuit porn? After pulling a PCD8544 display controller from an old Nokia phone, [whitequark] disrobed it and took the first public die shot.

As we’ve seen in the past, removing a die from its packaging can be a challenge. It typically involves nasty things like boiling acid. Like many display controllers, the PCD8544 isn’t fully encapsulated in a package. Instead, it is epoxied to a glass substrate.

Removing the glass proved to be difficult. [whitequark] tried a hot plate, a hot air gun, sulphuric acid, and sodium hydroxide with no success. Then the heat was turned up using MAPP gas, which burned the epoxy away.

After some cleaning with isopropanol, the die was ready for its photoshoot. This was done using a standard 30 mm macro lens. Photo processing was done in darktable, an open source photography tool and RAW processor.

[whitequark] plans to take closer photos in the future using more powerful magnification. These high resolution die photos can be useful for a number of things, including finding fake chips and reverse engineering retro hardware.

9 thoughts on “Photographing A Display Controller Die

  1. A, uh, note about the website. Can we make the blog the main page again? I suppose I could stand the rest of the, er, “facelift” (read: ridiculously anonymizing effects of a bland WordPress setup) if we could at least keep the blog as the main focus of things.

    1. It’s not necessary to make the blog the main page again IMHO. Maybe it would suffice to add a link ‘older blog posts’ to the ‘From The Blog’ section on the main page that would take you to the blog chronologically right after the last blog post displayed on the main page.

      1. Sounds like a good compromise. Personally I still find the current offering a little “shouty”, and dont think much of the layout (too cluttered), but I’m risking another flamewar here.

        Back on topic, the die shots are neat, and reminded me, I have a bunch of displays “recovered” from some cordless phones that need a good probing under the microscope to see if they are re-purposable.

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