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What’s in your SIM card?

by Christopher Jimenez in Applications, Creative Electron Comments: 0

A subscriber identity module, or SIM, is present in many cellphones in the U.S., and indeed around the world. What exactly is a SIM? And what can x-rays reveal about their inner workings? We popped a SIM into our TruView Prime X-ray inspection and looked! Our x-rays revealed a simple, yet elegant IC design. A SIM is used to authenticate a user with the cellular providers service. Most SIM cards are built with traditional die packaging. In our x-ray we can see the die and the bond wires connecting it to the different component interfaces e.g. I/O and clock. The x-ray images also reveal that some of the interface modules aren’t used; this is evident in the lack of any bond wire connections.


SIM 000011 XRAY
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How far did the Apple fall from the tree?

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

Apple will mark a decade of iPhones with their latest flagship iteration, iPhone X. The iPhone X will represent the work of countless engineers, visionary leaders, industry changes, and customer feedback. Creative Electron will be x-raying the device on launch day with the intent to gauge exactly where the design and manufacturing behind Apple is currently situated. While most of the keynote this year focused on algorithms and emojis; we are curious to explore elements such as component layout and the influence of recent battery issues. How much of Apple’s promises will manifest in tangible innovations? We hope to answer this and other questions in the upcoming teardown collaboration with our friends at iFixit soon now!


Here it is, the all new iPhone X!


Google puts a squeeze on the smartphone market!

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

The new Google Pixel phones have been released into the wild! We got our hands on the models and did what we do best, nondestructive x-ray inspection. Before we even powered on our TruView Prime 90kV x-ray system we were already concerned. Flagship phones are expected to have some sacrifices to stay at the forefront of design evolution, i.e. no audio jack. Right out of the box we noticed the new smartphones had no audio jack and lacked a glass or plastic back to allow for inductive charging. Our x-ray image of the Pixel 2 XL below confirms the lack of inductive coil inside the Pixel. Where Google did take a chance was in the integration of an HTC tech, Active Edge. Essentially a pair of “squeeze sensors” placed down the left and right edges of the phone. Creative Electron will be monitoring the position of these sensors after extended use and see if its use affects the phones integrity. We had a blast working in collaboration with our friends at iFixit as one does when two groups of geeks and nerds meet!


Battery issues just keep going and going…

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

A series of reports concerning battery swelling in Apple’s new iPhone 8 have thrown battery inspection into the tech and manufacturing spotlight once again. Lithium ion batteries continue to remind us of the trade offs with high density power sources. Why does swelling occur in lithium ion batteries? Swelling mostly occurs when gasses from one or more cells escape. A little-known fact to the general public is that batteries are pressurized and any additional pressure can cause damage to the components integrity. What can nondestructive x-ray inspection tell us about the issue? The chemical reaction that causes these gasses to escape can come about through overheating, overcharging or faulty controller components. In this post we explore these usual suspects using our TruView X-ray inspection platform.


Pictured below are a couple x-ray images of the most common cell arrangement in smartphone batteries. These stacks are disrupted when excessive oxidation of the battery chemicals (electrolytes) occurs. Individual cells or the entire battery itself can expand. Depending on how rapidly the gasses expand the cells could overcome the battery casing and explode, leading to fire hazards. In Apple’s case, no breaches have been reported, although the batteries have swelled enough to destroy the phone.



The underlying cause is overheating, but the overheating can occur via natural temperature increases as well as faulty charging controllers. The x-ray images below depicts a typical control board for a lithium ion battery. The voiding seen on some components can be acceptable to a certain degree, but excessive voiding can cause issues. The ribbon connecting the main board to the rest of the circuit can also presents issues when it has been damaged or tampered with. Failures in these areas can cause rapid chemical changes outside of specified limits. These violent changes in chemistry keep engineers at major manufacturers up at night; they also remind the manufacturing industry of the benefits of having non-destructive x-ray inspection systems available.



Apple’s “new” iPhone

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

Have you had a chance to get your hands on the new Apple iPhone 8 / 8+ and Series 3 Watch? Here’s the next best thing! Creative Electron teamed up with iFixit and Circuitwise to bring you an incredible look into the new Apple line up! This year we met up in Australia to bring you teardowns, x-rays and all-around Apple madness! The x-ray images for this collaboration come courtesy of our TruView Prime X-ray inspection system.

Short of irreversibly damaging modern electronic devices via disassembly, x-rays continue to be the optimal inspection solution. X-rays allow us to see the increasing encapsulation of the manufacturing processes, designed among other things, to keep out dust and water. Non-destructive x-ray inspection helps us keep tabs on changes manufacturers make or in some cases, don’t make. This year we flew down under to get our hands on the new iPhone8 and 8+. The second we analyzed the new iPhone 8 with the TruView™ Prime system we felt an uneasy feeling of déjà vu. The new iPhone, except for an inductive charging coil, looks eerily identical to its predecessor.

In all fairness, Apple did make some major changes. The new A11 (Bionic) processor is faster and more energy efficient than the A10. The speaker is louder and Apple’s True Tone adaptive screen technology is now integrated into the 8+ display. The most noticeable change is the glass back. The Apple logo is now invisible via x-ray because it is no longer etched onto an aluminum surface. Creative Electron has informed Tim Cook about this newfound lack of exposure via our internationally syndicated blog.

We’re moving!

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

Greetings friends, Creative Electron is growing! So much so, that we are moving to a more spacious location. The new address will be
201 Trade St. San Marcos, CA 92078. Our team is excited to continue making the best x-ray inspection machines right here in the U.S.A. We will be operating in our current address until September 12 and will be keeping all our other communication channels unchanged.

The glass is back. The back is glass.

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

Apple is no stranger to unorthodox design changes. With a recent track record including the removal of the iPhone headphone jack, they have more than proven themselves modern innovators. But not all changes are driven by innovation, in fact, the anticipated adoption of the glass back to enable wireless charging (not possible with aluminum) for the iPhone 8 is actually a catch up move with the industry. Other manufacturers have integrated inductive charging “wireless charging” into devices for years now. Granted, there are third party adapters for iPhone wireless charging, but nothing beats out of the box functionality. This technology will surely receive a revitalization of interest now that Apple is adopting it, so we thought it would be fun to X-ray the components involved in wireless charging!

The image below is of your typical 5v wireless pad charger (Qi standard). The first thing that jumps out at you is the inductive coil. When current runs through the coil it creates an electromagnetic field.  Below that, the chargers circuit, consisting of transformers, resistors, capacitors etc.

The second image is a typical coil arrangement for a smartphone. The coil in the smartphone feeds off the electromagnetic field created by the charging pad. The current transferred from devices is now alternate current or AC. Most devices are powered through direct current or DC. This means the current must be transformed once again to DC, it is done so at the smartphone board via transformers.

For those of you interested in the iPhone 8 stay tuned! We will be X-raying the new iPhone when it releases!


post 000002 XRAY
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Pad voiding: If you can’t avoid it, measure it!

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

Component manufacturers know that not every single defect is reason for discarding or even reflowing a board. As a matter of fact, most components have a well-defined percentage of acceptable failure. Pad voiding is a perfect example of this scenario. For every component, there is a very specific threshold provided by the manufacturer. Our TruView™ Void analysis software utilizes these parameters to calculate voiding and determine a pass/fail status. The image below shows a live x-ray image acquisition side by side to a void analysis.

We used the TruView™ Fusion x-ray inspection machine to analyze a LED for voids. The results were incredible! The process is very straight forward; our custom algorithm automatically defines and locates the regions of interest (ROI) and adjusts the threshold to find the voids in each pad. Results are updated in real time. In the case of this pad analysis, the total void percentage was 13.33% with the largest single void measuring 6.17%. We then used the Render 3D feature of the TruView™ software to better visualize the defect. The visualization helps us understand potential conductive and thermal issues.

Issues like pad voiding will be around up until we start manufacturing inside vacuum tubes! Until then, the best we can do is use non destructive testing like x-ray inspection to identify and analyze voiding issues to stay one step ahead of product failure and RMAs.

Check our white paper on LED void analysis at X-Ray University.

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Dual Energy: The best of both worlds.

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

One of the newest features of modern smartphones is the HDR technology in our cameras. This technology combines multiple images to create one image, richer in color and contrast. At Creative Electron, we’ve developed the X-ray equivalent to this technology. We call it, dual energy analysis. In short, our software combines two X-ray images at different voltages and amperage to create a more detailed image. From the dual energy render we can then more accurately identify differences in density. Nondestructive testing and inspection means we can’t always open components or remove obtrusive shielding and housings. These obstacles are often vastly different densities than the components we are analyzing. This contrast could make it very difficult to attain a clear X-ray image. With the dual energy analysis on our TruView™ software we can create a composite image with both densities clearly defined.

Below are two examples of just how useful dual energy can be in nondestructive testing. The first is a BGA from a client in the electronics component manufacturing industry. The second, a wire harness from the automotive component industry. Both items could be X-rayed under normal circumstances, however, only after they were processed through the dual energy analyzer was the issue clearly identified and just as importantly, given context in the component structure.

The first example is a BGA with excessive voiding. The first image is a high energy capture. The excessive voltage and amperage wash out much of the board and leave only the densest material. The second image is captured at lower and more commonly used kV. This X-ray captures a wider array of board elements, although leaving less detail in the densest area; the BGA. The third image is the resulting product from the dual energy software. It combines and amplifies the detail from the high energy image with the low energy image. This composite image reveals the voiding in the individual balls. Not only is the voiding clearly visible now, it is highly contrasted, meaning it can now be better utilized by voiding software and metrology, also included in our TruView™ platform!

The second example is the result of a very interesting mystery. This wire harness was passed by QA standards but failed in the field. When processed as an RMA it again passed QA standards only to fail again. Just as the BGA, the images below are X-rays from the various stages of dual energy analysis. Just as with the BGA, the first image is a high energy blast of the component. The second is a lower energy capture and finally, the composite image revealing the cause of failure! We can clearly see the wires were not properly crimped. When the harness was inserted into the testing platform, the wire was pushed into the contact causing the harness to pass. Once in the field, the harness was installed in such a way that the wire was pulled out of the lead! The dual energy image allowed us to see that the harness as well as the contact lead was properly positioned and that the wires themselves were not frayed. After a second X-ray with the harness re-positioned we spotted the wires back in place!

BGA: The ball and chain of engineers.

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

One of the most notorious component failures in manufacturing is a faulty Ball Grid Array. Any line manager or engineer will tell you that there are too many things that can cause a BGA to fail. When one fails it is very rarely analyzed to identify the exact source of the failure or even the nature of the defective component. At Creative Electron, we know all too well the missed opportunities many manufacturers encounter to not only identify failure, but prevent future component defects. Nondestructive X-ray testing can identify the nature of, and exact cause of failure in a BGA. The process we utilize involves our TruView™ software’s integrated BGA analysis tool. While we do offer our software package for older legacy devices, we analyzed the BGA below with our TruView™ Prime 90kV.

The image below is a capture of our BGA Inspector application in action! Setting up parameters is as easy as drawing a region of interest and adjusting a couple of sliders. The results can be exported in a report or analyzed in the software. Multiple criteria can be applied to individual ball components. For this report, we can see cause of failure among: ball area, diameter, eccentricity and voiding. Selecting a specific ball from our previously drawn ROI activates more options for individual ball inspection. These tools include contouring, 3D visualizations (see below) as well as horizontal and vertical slicing. In this case, all of the balls failed due to excessive voiding (above 20%)


CTEA Electronics Design, Manufacturing & Test Symposium

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

Central Texas Electronics Association

Electronics Design, Manufacturing & Test Symposium
Thursday, August 24, 2017
TyRex Technology at 12317 Technology Blvd, #100, in NW Austin


2:00 – Registration Begins

2:30 – Welcome to TyRex by Andrew Cooper, CEO

2:35 – TyRex Factory Tours Featuring TekRex 3D Printing

3:35 – “Understanding the 3D Printing Ecosystem”
Martin Johnson, Business Development Vice President, TekRex

4:05 – “Scaling Effect of Through-Silicon Via (TSV) on Stress & Reliability for
3D Interconnects”
Laura Spinella, PhD, UT-Austin Microelectronics Research Center

4:35 – Break & Networking

4:50 – “Silicon Photonics Prototyping”
Ray Chen, PhD, Founder & CTO, Omega Optics

5:20 – “CT Teardown of the New Samsung S8+ Smart Phone”
Dr. Bill Cardoso, President, Creative Electron

5:50 – Closing Remarks and Door Prizes Drawing

6:00 – Food & Refreshments Served with More Networking


RSVP to Bob Baker at:

No charge for SMTA & IMAPS members; $10 for all non-members >> (Cash or Check ONLY!)

Event Location:

TyRex Technology at 12317 Technology Blvd, #100, in NW Austin
See Directions to: (TyRex Location) and See TyRex Site Map Per Attached Doc

In Central Texas, SMTA and IMAPS work together as the Central Texas Electronics Association (CTEA)

Are all batteries created equally?

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

What can we see with an X-ray? Obviously, the inside of things, but what purpose does this view ultimately serve? In manufacturing, whether that be: medical device, electronic component, automotive, material etc. QA is almost always a phase in the manufacturing process. What do protocols in quality assurance test for? By default, only parameters that have been programmed and essentially, known defects. As leaders in the field of NDT (non-destructive testing) we are regularly reached out to for help in solving some of the most baffling mysteries in manufacturing. How can a component have passed QA, failed in the field, returned to the floor, passed QA and additional extensive testing only to immediately fail again customer side? This back in forth is a loss of productivity, reputation and ultimately profits. What an X-ray image allows us to see is information beyond the numbers.

Electrical tests can pass a component based on ratings at the time of testing, but what if that cable or contact wasn’t soldered properly, this component would eventually fail in the field despite passing initial tests. Below are two images. Both are similar smartphone batteries and both passed QA, including visual inspection, electrical testing and even post RMA inspection. One of the two, eventually failed again. Did you spot the difference yet? We used the TruView™ Prime 90kV X-ray inspection system to look at the suspect battery and found that the ribbon connecting the i/o board to the battery had been cut and soldered. Components like this salvaged battery are resold as new parts every day. This battery caused multiple issues customer side, including overheating! Nondestructive X-ray testing helped us see what previous industry standards had missed. We have all heard the expression, “Knowing where to look,” here at Creative Electron, we often quote, “Knowing how to look.”

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TruView and Versatility

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

At Creative Electron, we design and manufacture X-ray inspection machines that serve a wide range of industries. Our clients include manufacturers of medical devices, automotive parts, electrical components, device refurbishment, cell phone battery distributors etc. Every time we showcase our applications at trade shows and symposiums we’re asked how we can tailor to such a divers clientele without reinventing our product line every quarter! This is especially poignant when you consider that our X-ray inspections machines can serve various applications within these industries. Our answer is always the same, our TruView™ software makes it possible. Our X-ray machines are bound by the laws of physics; there’s only so many volts we can push through a tube or photons we can capture. Our software however, is bound only by our ingenuity and creativity, hence the name, Creative Electron. What separates us from the rest of the X-ray NDT industry is our ability to combine a great X-ray machine with a solution focused, versatile software package. Our team is dedicated to studying the issues affecting manufacturers across all the industries we serve. After all, our team is made up of professionals in these industries. What we then do is design our software with these issues in mind. The end result is a solution based software with a streamlined, easy to use interface.

In the coming weeks, we will be showcasing the various applications of our TruView™ software as they apply to the wide range of industries we service. Be sure to follow our blog or contact us directly with any questions!

Above: TruView™ software displaying a live X-ray image (Left) of an FPC connector and a live 3D density render (Right) side by side.

The hunter becomes the hunted.

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

There is an unwritten rule about tech in the Creative Electron office; if you bring in a shiny toy, we’re going to X-ray it! Our latest participant had to hand over their new Seek thermal camera. After an unmentionable amount of time hunting for thermal sources (one of our engineers captured below) around the office we turned the tables on the Seek camera and the hunter became the hunted! We captured this beautiful X-ray image of the internals with our TruView Fusion X-ray platform. The result was an insightful view into the elegant build behind the Seek Compact.


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X-Ray Rock ‘n’ Roll

by Christopher Jimenez in Creative Electron Comments: 0

The team here at Creative Electron is no stranger to out of the box thinking, after all, it’s in our name! The X-ray industry is filled with creative solutions and uses. One such use is the clandestine re-purposing of medical X-ray images by Russian citizens. Re-purposed for what? Vinyl albums! During the Cold War, the Soviet government blocked much of the western influences from entering the state. Music lovers during that time began to copy records onto medical X-ray images. These images were in abundance because of a state mandated policy requiring hospitals to discard old X-rays which were considered a fire hazard. With the materials in hand and a machine capable of writing groves onto them (often the product of reverse engineering) people began breathing life into the macabre images with their favorite jazz and rock ‘n’ roll tracks. Such recordings were often called “bone music” or “rib music.” We see a lot of X-ray images here at Creative Electron; until recently, that’s all we could do, “see” the images. Today, thanks to the ingenuity of our team, we can breathe life into these images as well. The new TrueView™ Fusion CT is capable of rendering hundreds of X-ray images into an incredibly detailed 3D model that we can then 3D print! This exciting technology is just one of the efforts were making to push the limits of X-ray technology and creative inspection solutions.  Be on the look out for our own X-ray music via our upcoming album!