Preparing a Hikaru BGA Chip for Re-installation

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    • Preparing a Hikaru BGA Chip for Re-installation

      It has been discussed a few times in different places on these forums so I kind of want to condense the info for people to find. These Hikaru motherboards are a ticking time bomb with what will eventually have a 100% fail rate if no action is taken. You see, Sega contracted a manufacturer to produce many of the custom chips used on these motherboards. These chips are in a BGA package and are located at IC37, 40, and 43. These particular ICs were manufactured with a major flaw. The pads on the underside of the chip were never tinned. So what Sega did was drop the BGA balls on raw copper pads and run a reflow cycle. The proper thing to do would have been to tin the pads before hand. It was obviously a cost saving measure and it was more or less known that this would seriously decrease the life of the system. In fact, even brand new if the pcb was flexed just a few millimeters it would cause the pcb to fail.

      Alright, fast forward 19 years (Hikaru was used from 1998 to 2002) and these ICs are failing at an alarming rate. The main reason they fail is because they simply come loose. It is very dangerous to ship these as even a moderate bump can cause the IC to completely separate from the motherboard. There have even been reports of the ICs simply falling off of a pcb still in use at arcades. When the IC falls off you will notice that all of the BGA balls remain attached to the pcb rather than the chip. This is because the pads on the pcb were properly tinned. This really shows the flaws since BGA ICs always have the balls attached to the chip first.

      Note also that there can be other issues with the pcbs. Probably the most common is a rom board failure. The most common cause of these failures is bad ram or buffers on the rom boards. I personally have a NASCAR pcb here that has a loose IC42 which is ram in a QFP package.

      Below is a picture of a loose BGA IC after it has fallen off the Hikaru motherboard. (Thanks Twistedsymphony)


      And this one from a recent Ebay auction:



      So as many of you know I have acquired BGA equipment and plan to begin offering services regarding BGA reflow. Below I will outline the process of preparing a BGA IC for re-installation on the Hikaru pcb. To make sure your pcb is a candidate for repair, inspect both the chip and the pcb. Make sure there are no missing pads from either. When these fall off in shipping it can sometimes pull pads off. Unfortunately if this happens a repair may be almost impossible. If all pads are present then we may be able to fix it!

      These pictures show the IC after it has been removed from the heatsink. Notice the raw copper pads in the second picture:




      So a major problem with these ICs as stated above is the raw copper pads. As soon as the chip comes loose the copper immediately begins to oxidize. Most likely there was already oxidation when Sega did the original reflow cycle. We need to remove the oxidation in order to properly tin these pads. I like to use a commercial product called BRASSO. I also use it for cleaning edge connectors on cartridges. I apply a layer on the pads of the chip and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. The BRASSO will dry a bit. But don't worry, it will easily buff off.





      After you buff the BRASSO off you should have some bright and shiny pads!



      Now we need to tin those pads like they should have been from the beginning! Apply lots of flux to the chip, get a good amount of solder on the tip of your soldering iron and then drag the solder blob over the pads to tin them. It should look like this:




      COMING SOON---Re-balling the chip!
    • Great stuff. Wish I had more space and spare time. Would really love to get started with BGA reballing and reflowing too. Looking forward to your next posts!
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    • Its great to hear that these repairs are possible. I have three Hikaru boards myself.

      The first one came with Planet Harriers rom board, the chips were already hot glued, and it somehow survived the trip from California along with its original power supply and control panel so this one is fully functional.

      The Second board came with Brave Firefighters rom board attached. This board boots up but has some graphics flaws and sometimes will not make it through the demo mode. I have been told one of the chips needs to be reflowed. I have swapped the rom board onto the Planet Harriers board, and it works fine.

      The Third Hikaru came with Nascar rom board attached. This board will not display anything at all, so I figure one or multiple chips have problems. I have tried swapping this rom board onto the Planet Harriers stack and have had rather strange results. If I swap the board as is, no video, no audio. If I remove one of the Jumpers by the removable roms it will boot but only enter 1 race track. So I am not sure what is wrong with the rom board.
    • gamemaster14 wrote:

      Its great to hear that these repairs are possible. I have three Hikaru boards myself.

      The first one came with Planet Harriers rom board, the chips were already hot glued, and it somehow survived the trip from California along with its original power supply and control panel so this one is fully functional.

      The Second board came with Brave Firefighters rom board attached. This board boots up but has some graphics flaws and sometimes will not make it through the demo mode. I have been told one of the chips needs to be reflowed. I have swapped the rom board onto the Planet Harriers board, and it works fine.

      The Third Hikaru came with Nascar rom board attached. This board will not display anything at all, so I figure one or multiple chips have problems. I have tried swapping this rom board onto the Planet Harriers stack and have had rather strange results. If I swap the board as is, no video, no audio. If I remove one of the Jumpers by the removable roms it will boot but only enter 1 race track. So I am not sure what is wrong with the rom board.
      Sad to say but the hot glue is a factory thing. lol. Hot glue doesn't stay stuck forever either so eventually it will need attention. Maybe months maybe years but eventually. Also hot glue can't solve the connectivity issue by itself. See why this is an issue below.

      Brave Firefighters sounds like a loose chip issue. Try not to run the pcb in that condition as the loose connectivity can fry the chip.

      This could be a rom board issue or maybe a mismatched eprom issue. Not sure if the eprom under the rom board needs to be swapped over also. Nascar seems to have a on of revisions so it may be possible. Reflowing the chips could very well fix your motherboard as well.

      When I get up an running, I will have to charge enough to make it worth my while since it is a lot of work to do. I have talked to Ken about how much he used to charge ($150 to reflow, $225 to replace a faulty chip which I don't have extra chips to do) and I won't be charging that much since I am serving mostly hobbyists but it's not a trivial repair either. Once I successfully reflow the three or four pcbs I have here I will post more details and start a separate thread in my Walsdawg Arcade section on this site.
    • codecrank wrote:

      cool, I have 1 working hikaru board with LOTS of extra hot glue around the chips, for planet harriers. would love to have 2 and link them up !

      Funny thing is, I was thinking the exact same thing. I would love to get another Hikaru and link it with my Planet Harriers.

      Random Side fact: There was an episode of the show Buffy The Vampire Slayer which has a scene in an arcade that has a Planet Harriers Twin Cabinet in it,

      Random Side face, Side face: That same episode shows Dead or Alive 3 for Xbox, running on one of those arcade cabinets too but it never received an arcade release.
    • It's a tough decision to make as a collector. That glue is pretty much worthless honestly. And those three chips WILL get loose at some point. Problem is that loose contact can actually fry the chip. And since they are custom they can't be replaced without stealing from another pcb.

      It won't be cheap but the piece of mind from reflowing all of the chips may be worth it. I'm putting a lot of money for equipment and time into learning and research for this process so I think it will all be worth it.

      For example, I bought the preforms to reball the Hikaru chips and they were delivered the other day. The minimum order came out to $450 just for preforms. Also before I start taking orders I am going to build a reflow oven for reballing the chips. That'll be around $225 and a few hours of build time. It's a lot to invest but it will be so worth it.
    • Alright. Another update to this post!

      I went searching for a reflow oven since it became clear I needed an environment for reballing that was controllable. There is a lot of science to soldering SMD and BGA components. So in order to do it right I wanted to make sure I got the right equipment. The BGA rework station I bought is perfect for attaching the chip to the pcb AFTER it has already been reballed. I needed separate equipment for the actual reballing process. I saw a fairly cheap reflow oven on ebay and decided to research it a bit. In my research I found lots of reviews saying to avoid it because of uneven temps. But interestingly I was led to a former Kickstarter project that had seen it's way to fruition called the ControlLeo2. It is a cheap reflow oven controller. When I say cheap I mean not expensive. This controller has tons of options and makes reflows super easy. The only catch is you have to build the oven yourself. You can simply convert a toaster oven! They sell this on ebay in two separate packages. They sell JUST the controller or a kit with almost all of the parts you need to convert an oven minus the actual oven. Here is the ebay link for the full kit:

      ebay.com/itm/301222493616

      And the guide:

      whizoo.com/reflowoven

      The guide is very good but you need to be able to follow long instructions and be able to adapt to certain situations. For example I had to provide six of my own spade connectors to finish the wiring not included in the kit and had to repurpose some of the high temp wiring that was stripped out of the oven during the breakdown phase. The hardest part was BY FAR applying the Reflect A Gold insulation. It was a huge pain in the ass. The actual wiring part was fun to me. My biggest suggestion if you try to do this is to NOT attach the controller enclosure to the oven until AFTER you do all wiring to the LEO and attach the controller to the inside of the enclosure. Unfortuantely I only took one photo of the build process. In the below picture I had already attached the plate with the SSRs to the inside of the oven but no wiring had been done.



      And here are a few pics of the finished oven:





      And here it is in it's new home next to the BGA rework system (cameo by the Darksoft MVS Multi Proto):



      So here are the Preforms and fixtures I ordered from Winslow Automation. This stuff is not cheap but makes the reballing process easier and more reliable. These were suggested by Ken @ irepairsega.com:



      I wanted to test out my oven as well as the preforms so I couldn't wait and did a run to reball the chip I had been showing you before. Here are the results:







      It worked perfectly! This is so encouraging I just can't explain it to you! We are one step closer to another source for BGA work for arcade collectors or ops (and potentially proper console repairs too!) Next time I reball a chip I will make a video and take pictures to do another write up for you guys. Stay tuned!
    • Mitsurugi-w wrote:

      Now we need to tin those pads like they should have been from the beginning! Apply lots of flux to the chip, get a good amount of solder on the tip of your soldering iron and then drag the solder blob over the pads to tin them. It should look like this:



      Just curious, did you add these solder blobs without using a preform???

      In other words, did you use a jig first?

      The post was edited 1 time, last by freddiefiasco: Forgot to finish my question. ().

    • freddiefiasco wrote:

      Mitsurugi-w wrote:

      Now we need to tin those pads like they should have been from the beginning! Apply lots of flux to the chip, get a good amount of solder on the tip of your soldering iron and then drag the solder blob over the pads to tin them. It should look like this:



      Just curious, did you add these solder blobs without using a preform???
      In other words, did you use a jig first?
      No. At this step I needed to tin the pads because when the chip falls off you just have bare copper pads because the manufacturer never tinned them like they were supposed to. So this was done by just cleaning the oxidation off the pads and then immediately adding flux and tinning each pad with a soldering iron. Then just before reballing the chip you add more flux and remove all of the excess solder from the pads before doing the reballing process.