A ball grid array (BGA) is a type of surface-mount packaging (a chip carrier) used for integrated circuits. BGA packages are used to permanently mount devices such as microprocessors. A BGA can provide more interconnection pins than can be put on a dual in-line or flat package. The whole bottom surface of the device can be used, instead of just the perimeter. The leads are also on average shorter than with a perimeter-only type, leading to better performance at high speeds.
Soldering of BGA devices requires precise control and is usually done by automated processes. BGA devices are not suitable for socket mounting.
The BGA is descended from the pin grid array (PGA), which is a package with one face covered (or partly covered) with pins in a grid pattern which, in operation, conduct electrical signals between the integrated circuit and the printed circuit board (PCB) on which it is placed. In a BGA the pins are replaced by pads on the bottom of the package, each initially with a tiny solder ball stuck to it. These solder spheres can be placed manually or by automated equipment, and are held in place with a tacky flux. The device is placed on a PCB with copper pads in a pattern that matches the solder balls. The assembly is then heated, either in a reflow oven or by an infrared heater, melting the balls. Surface tension causes the molten solder to hold the package in alignment with the circuit board, at the correct separation distance, while the solder cools and solidifies, forming soldered connections between the device and the PCB.
In more advanced technologies, solder balls may be used on both the PCB and the package. Also, in stacked multi-chip modules, solder balls are used to connect two packages.
The BGA is a solution to the problem of producing a miniature package for an integrated circuit with many hundreds of pins. Pin grid arrays and dual-in-line surface mount (SOIC) packages were being produced with more and more pins, and with decreasing spacing between the pins, but this was causing difficulties for the soldering process. As package pins got closer together, the danger of accidentally bridging adjacent pins with solder grew.
A further advantage of BGA packages over packages with discrete leads (i.e. packages with legs) is the lower thermal resistance between the package and the PCB. This allows heat generated by the integrated circuit inside the package to flow more easily to the PCB, preventing the chip from overheating.
The shorter an electrical conductor, the lower its unwanted inductance, a property which causes unwanted distortion of signals in high-speed electronic circuits. BGAs, with their very short distance between the package and the PCB, have low lead inductances, giving them superior electrical performance to pinned devices.