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Pin-Grid Array

Key Takeaways

  • The Pin Grid Array (PGA) design, predominantly used in microprocessors and microcontrollers, features pins in a grid layout on the package underside, enhancing installation ease and connection reliability.

  • PGA's higher pin count compared to older standards improves connectivity and signal integrity, which is crucial for high-speed processors.

  • PGA enhances durability, lessens the likelihood of motherboard damage from CPU misalignment, and caters to different thermal and environmental needs.

Back side of CPU featuring a pin grid array

Back side of CPU featuring a pin grid array

Pin Grid Array (PGA) is a packaging format predominantly used for microprocessors and microcontrollers. This design features pins organized in a consistent grid layout on the bottom side of the package with a typical spacing of 2.54 mm (0.1 inches) apart. The coverage of these pins can range from partial to complete. 

Pin Grid Array Feature and Associated Advantages

Pin-Grid Array Feature

Associated Advantage

Ease of Installation

PGA chips are generally simpler to install as they don't involve sensitive motherboard pins, though proper alignment with the socket holes is crucial.

More Pins

PGA offers a higher number of pins per integrated circuit compared to older standards like dual in-line packages, enhancing connectivity options.


The motherboard is less likely to be damaged by CPU misalignment since the pins are on the processor, leading to tougher motherboards and easier repairability of bent pins on PGA processors compared to LGA motherboards.

Improved Signal Integrity

The PGA's arrangement allows for short, direct signal paths, reducing latency and enhancing signal integrity, which is critical for high-speed processors. Additionally, the high pin density supports more power and ground connections, which stabilizes chip operation.

Pin Grid Array and Socket Mounting

For mounting onto printed circuit boards, PGAs are commonly employed using the through-hole technique or are fitted into specific sockets. 

The pins—ranging from a few dozen to several hundred depending on the chip's complexity and requirements—cover the underside of the package in a rectangular arrangement. The chip can be placed either on the top or bottom side where the pins are located. Depending on which side the chip is located, different mounting techniques are preferred: wire bonding is best when the chip is on the bottom with the pins, and flip chip mounting is best when the chip is on the top.

PGA packages are meticulously tailored to fit specific socket types. These sockets have holes that align to the PGA pins to ensure a stable and dependable connection. To avoid damaging the delicate pins during insertion, the sockets are designed with mechanisms like levers or screws to apply the correct amount of force.


Densely packed circuits generate high heat. When thermal management is a priority, flip chip pin grid array (FCPGA) is the best option. This design variation positions the die facing downward onto the substrate, leaving the back of the die exposed. This configuration facilitates more direct interaction with heat sinks, enhancing thermal management.

Thermal management is typically achieved through the use of heat sinks, fans, or liquid cooling systems. The material of the PGA package also plays a significant role in heat dissipation. Ceramic packages, for example, have better thermal conductivity compared to plastic packages.


First, the silicon die containing the integrated circuit is attached to the package using a die-attach process. Then, the electrical connections between the die and the pins are made using wire or flip-chip bonding. In wire bonding, thin gold or aluminum wires are used to connect the die to the pins, while flip-chip bonding involves solder bumps that directly connect the die to the package. After these steps, the assembly is encapsulated to protect it from physical and environmental damage.

Substrate Materials for Pin-Grid Arrays

Pin-grid arrays can be constructed from a variety of substrate materials, each offering unique properties. 

  • Ceramic Pin Grid Arrays can be sealed with either a frit-sealed ceramic lid or a metal lid solder-sealed. Ceramic packaging is robust and has high thermal stability, making it particularly suitable for environments that experience high temperatures. A common example is a high-purity alumina ceramic, with strong thermal resistance and electrical insulation capabilities. Additionally, its brittle nature ensures its structural integrity. These qualities make ceramic PGAs uniquely suited for aerospace and military applications. 
  • Organic Pin Grid Array is commonly used in CPU manufacturing. It involves attaching a silicon die to an organic laminate plastic plate, which is then pierced by an array of pins. This type of PGA is commonly used due to its effectiveness and material properties. Typically, organic PGAs are lighter and more flexible than ceramic, an ideal compromise between performance and affordability.
  • Plastic Pin Grid Arrays are the most cost effective option. However, this comes at the cost of performance and lower thermal conductivity. 

The Future of PGA and Allegro X 

As the electronics industry moves towards miniaturization and integration, evolving packaging technologies like Ball Grid Array (BGA) is gaining momentum in more compact and mobile devices. This shift highlights the importance of staying ahead in the field of electronic design and packaging. Enter Cadence's Allegro X Advanced Package Designer, a tool adept at navigating these changing tides. Whether you're working with the tried-and-true PGA or venturing into the newer realms of BGA and beyond, Allegro X equips you with the cutting-edge capabilities to design, innovate, and adapt. As the landscape of electronic packaging continues to evolve, embracing tools like Allegro X ensures you're not just keeping pace but leading the charge in this dynamic and exciting field.

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