Oct 9, 2021

Nifty Chip Adapter Does The Impossible

Posted by in categories: computing, materials

The semiconductor shortage has curtailed the choices available to designers and caused some inventive solutions to be found, but the one used by [djzc] is probably the most inventive we’ve yet seen. The footprint trap, when a board is designed for one footprint but shortages mean the part is only available in another, has caught out many an engineer this year. In this case an FTDI chip had been designed with a PCB footprint for a QFN package when the only chip to be found was a QFP from a breakout board.

For those unfamiliar with semiconductor packaging, a QFN and QFP share a very similar epoxy package, but the QFN has its pins on the underside flush with the epoxy and the QFP has them splayed out sideways. A QFP is relatively straightforward to hand-solder so it’s likely we’ll have seen more of them than QFNs on these pages.

There is no chance for a QFP to be soldered directly to a QFN footprint, so what’s to be done? The solution is an extremely inventive one, a two-PCB sandwich bridging the two. A lower PCB is made of thick material and mirrors the QFN footprint above the level of the surrounding components, while the upper one has the QFN on its lower side and a QFP on its upper. When they are joined together they form an inverted top-hat structure with a QFN footprint below and a QFP footprint on top. Difficult to solder in place, but the result is a QFP footprint to which the chip can be attached. We like it, it’s much more elegant than elite dead-bug soldering!

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