If you’ve ever wanted to open up an IC to see what’s inside it, you have a few options. The ceramic packages with a metal lid will succumb to a hobby knife. That’s easy. The common epoxy packages are harder, and usually require a mix of mechanical milling and the use of an acid (like fuming nitric, for example). [Robert Baruch] wanted to open a fully ceramic package so he used the “cooler” part of a MAP gas torch. If you like seeing things get hot in an open flame, you might enjoy the video below.
Spoiler alert: [Robert] found out the hard way that dropping the hot part isn’t a great idea. Also, we are not sure what the heat does if you want to do more than just inspect the die. It would be interesting to measure a junction on the die during the process to see how much heat actually goes to the device.
The process is really fast: only about 20 seconds. We wondered if a larger part might take a little longer. However, compared to chemical methods, this looked very fast and easy, as long as you don’t mind the heat.
If you get the urge to start opening parts and want to actually probe the surface of the die, don’t forget there is a thin layer of glass over almost the entire chip. This layer–the passivation–is relatively thick and usually only has cutaways around the bonding pads. Getting rid of that layer requires hydrofluoric acid (nasty stuff). You can tell when you got it all by focusing a microscope up and down the edge of bond pad. When you can’t find the edge of the passivation, you are done.
Some people expose ICs dies to study, and some are looking for fake chips. Other times, it is electronic archeology. The last time we saw [Robert] he was building a CPU on an FPGA, so he’s clearly a hacker of wide-ranging interests.