High Volume Production Test of Gigabit SerDes Ports: Meeting the Economic and Technical Challenges

To address the challenges described in the prior post [click here to read], Xcerra’s tester group has successfully developed an unconventional CMOS-based low power SerDes test instrument that has 32 transmit and 24 receive channels respectively for the Diamondx and DxV tester platform.  The HSI1x instrument has been designed for both laboratory usage and high volume production needs.  This accomplishment was made possible by leveraging Xcerra’s decades of experience in designing low-power, high density, air-cooled ATE instrumentation, along with cutting edge SerDes technology and an innovative proprietary interconnect design.  Built upon an inherently source-synchronous architecture, while maintaining complete coherence to the host ATE system, the HSI1x achieves the best balance between ATE flexibility and bench-instrument focused performance.

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High Volume Production Test of Gigabit SerDes Ports: Economic and Technical Challenges

The data throughput of modern mobile, consumer and automotive SoC devices has soared as high definition video content has become the norm and 5G wireless connectivity has become a reality.  To meet these demands, the latest applications, media and virtual reality processors routinely contain multiple heterogeneous high performance SerDes (Serializer/Deserializer) ports, which must be tested at speed to meet the stringent quality standards of top-tier end customers.  The benefits of SerDes ports over parallel busses are numerous, such as lower power consumption, lower EMI, improved immunity to transmission medium variability, and more efficient usage of PCB area and connector pins.  With sophisticated equalization and error correction schemes, modern SerDes interfaces can achieve incredible chip-to-chip or board-to-board bandwidth on standard PCB material.   Read more

POGO® Spring Probe Considerations for PCB In-Circuit and Functional Test

How do I select the optimum POGO® spring probe for my PCB test application?
PCB test fixture designers have many factors to consider when selecting the proper spring probe for their application. In the world of spring probes, choices and trade-offs abound when it comes to selecting tip geometry, spring force, probe base material and plating.  Choosing the right combination of options greatly impacts test yields, probe life and cleaning frequency. Read more

Trends in Testing of Analog ICs

“There is a lot of development in op amps,” said Christopher Lemoine, product marketing director in Xcerra’s ATE group in an interview with Semiconductor Engineering. “There are always higher-performance op amps, lower bias currents, getting closer to the rails, you now have zero-headroom op amps where you can operate right down to the ground rail. At the same time, a lot of the performance hasn’t changed a whole lot.”

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Xcerra Kestrel/X-Series Measures Automotive Radar Chirp Linearity

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Collision avoidance radar devices generate bursts of RF energy called ‘Chirps’. Which are transmitted (TX) to be reflected and ultimately received (RX). A Chirp is a sinusoid that increases its frequency linearly. The linearly changing frequency of each chirp can be used to extract vector speed information about the target. EBand Radar devices produce chirps over a bandwidth of 1GHz and, as in this example, near 76GHz.

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Combining Grid and Flying Probe test to achieve higher pass rates and better test quality

In the past, there was a strict separation between testing unpopulated circuit boards on a Universal Grid tester and Dedicated tester (both fixture based test systems) and a Flying Probe Test system (FPT) (i.e. fixtureless test system).  While high-volume productions were tested using a Universal Grid tester or Dedicated tester, the Flying Probe Tester was mainly used for prototypes or small series production. New developments let PCB manufacturers rethink the role of the FPT.

Over the time, the Flying Probe Test systems became faster and more automated. With that the lot sizes for which a FPT can efficiently be used increased, avoiding the cost and the lead times of fixture building. But apart from this, there are also other factors which let PCB manufacturers rethink the role of the FPT:
Due to the increasing density of PCBs and Substrates and also due to the smaller pad sizes, it becomes ever more difficult to test the products with fixtures. Especially in areas with BGAs, the required deflections on the universal grid are testing the limit. There is also an increase in the number of false faults due to a misalignment of test pads and the test pins of the fixture (e.g. resulting from distortions in the printed circuit board). Next to these contacting problems, also measurement capabilities limit the application of fixture based tests. Small structures can require resistance tests down to a few µOhm while a fixture based tester barely can test values of a few mOhm reliably.

Two ideas arose.  On the one hand, to perform a kind of split test: to test on a fixture based tester all the parts of a PCB or Substrate which safely can be tested on such a system and to make all other measurements on a FPT. The latter measurements are predominantly those which require higher mechanical accuracy, better alignment or higher measurement resolution.

On the other hand, to perform a verification of the reported faults of the fixture based tester on the FPT. While this was in the past only feasible for small quantities, with highly automated FPTs, this can now be done on a large scale. An enabling factor for this is also the integration of data between systems and platforms which is advancing rapidly with the spread of Industry 4.0.

With all these options, the PCB manufacturer now has the possibility to set up a far more cost-efficient and more effective test environment than it was possible a few years ago.

Connector Design Considerations for the Demanding Medical Market

Challenging environmental conditions and high reliability requirements create the need for can’t fail connectors.   This article explores some of the more critical design factors that go into designing a new connector for the medical market.

The medical industry requires connectors to reliably operate in a variety of harsh environments.  This drives the connector design to be custom, specifically addressing each application’s unique challenges.  There are many attributes that must be considered when laying out a connector’s specifications, but they typically fall into 1 of 3 categories: material selection, mechanical properties and electrical specifications.   All 3 categories must be considered concurrently to yield a successful connector design. Read more

Test Floor Automation – is it finally due, after years of talking?

Semiconductor front end automation took place decades ago. The sensitivity of the front end process was requiring it and the always equal form factor of the wafers was supporting it nicely with a standardized transport media, the FOUP (front opening universal pod). It provided a standardized interface for all material handling and processing equipment and the wafer handling is, in general, very reliable and jam free. Automation companies were therefore able to address all technical requirements of the flexible automated material handling between standalone equipment in the fab.

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Flat Probe Technology for RF Test

Today the semiconductor test market is very competitive. This is especially true in the consumable contactor market.
Low operating costs and low average selling prices create low barriers to entry. Micro-organizations plants themselves next to their sole customer and provides fast turn times at competitive prices and onsite support. Although this is acceptable for some it is a risky business model. Furthermore the depth of knowledge of the product and therefore the value add from these micro-organizations is limited.

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MEMS sensor testing challenges and requirements

Andreas Bursian, Director InStrip & InMEMS Products, authored an article for Chip Scale Review Magazine, in which he elaborates on the question of what the test requirements for MEMS sensor devices will be in the future. Before he goes into detail, he describes in general what our world will look like in the future shaped by IoT and Industry 4.0., and how this will drive MEMS and sensor technology. Industry 4.0 and IoT are small components of a rapid global change that experts tend to call the 4th Industrial Revolution. This revolution will change all aspects of today’s living, such as cash flow, data handling, job structure, and the political and social structures of society and the industrial production of goods.

Download the full article published in Chip Scale Review March 2017