In many applications, an optical detector has to be located relative to mechanical reference points. One solution is to specify stringent requirements on (1) mounting the optical detector relative to the chip carrier, (2) soldering the chip carrier onto the printed circuit board (PCB), and (3) installing the PCB to the mechanical structure of the subsystem. Figure 1 shows a sketch of an optical detector mounted relative to mechanical reference with high positional accuracy. The optical detector is typically a fragile wafer that cannot be physically touched by any measurement tool.

Figure 1. Sketch of an Optical Detector.
An optical coordinate measuring machine (CMM) can be used to position optical detectors relative to mechanical reference points. This approach will eliminate all requirements on positional tolerances. The only requirement is that the PCB is manufactured with oversized holes. An exaggerated sketch of this situation is shown in Figure 2. The sketch shows very loose tolerances on mounting the optical detector in the chip carrier, loose tolerance on soldering the chip carrier to the PCB, and finally large tolerance on where the mounting screws are located. The PCB is held with large screws and oversized holes.

Figure 2. The Optical CMM Measures the Mechanical Reference Points. (a) Cross hairs indicate where the detector is supposed to be. (b) The PCB is tapped around until the corner of the optical detector is at the crosshairs of the CMM.
The PCB is mounted loosely so it can move freely around. The optical CMM measures the mechanical reference points. Based on these measurements, the required positions of the optical detector corners can be calculated. The optical CMM is commanded to go to the position where one detector corner is supposed to be. This is indicated with the crosshairs in Figure 2(a). This figure is representative of the image of the optical CMM monitor. Using a suitable tapping tool, the PCB is manually tapped around until the corner of the optical detector is at the crosshairs of the optical CMM. The CMM is commanded to another corner, and the process is repeated a number of times until all corners of the optical detector are within a distance of 10 to 30 microns of the required position. The situation is sketched in Figure 2(b) (the figure also shows the tapping tool and where to tap). At this point the fasteners for the PCB are torqued slightly so the PCB can still move. The PCB location is adjusted again with the tapping tool. This process is repeated 3 to 4 times until the final torque is achieved. The oversized mounting holes are then filled with a liquid bonding agent to secure the board in position (not shown in the sketch). A 10- to 30-micron mounting accuracy has been achieved utilizing this method.

This work was done by Carl Christian Liebe, Patrick L. Meras, Gerald J. Clark, Jack J. Sedaka, Joel V. Kaluzny, and Brian Hirsch of Caltech; Todd A. Decker of Calwest Engineering; and Christopher R. Scholz of the University of California Berkeley for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-47846

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the July, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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