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Flying Probe Test: The Fourth Dimension

  • Flying probe Test Seica
  • Flying Probe Tester Seica
  • Flying Probe Seica

    Implementazione di nuove tecnologie

    Considerevoli investimenti in Ricerca e Sviluppo

Flying probe testers have traditionally tested electronic boards in 3rd dimensions of physical space XYZ, Seica’s flying prober can also test boards in a 4th dimension: Time and Cange.

Have no fear, we shall not discuss quantum mechanics or the theory of relativity which Albert Einstein announced more than a century ago, but we will address the existence of a 4th dimension of space, where TIME is of the utmost importance. While most board manufacturers seem unwilling to tackle the global dimension of TIME, we are pleased to provide you with this new and exciting information regarding the capability of our flying probe testers today. TIME is a critical factor in  circuit board and electronic testing, and, in today’s highly competitive and globalized market, is it often, in fact, the deciding factor in the purchase of electronic circuit board test equipment.  With flying probe testers to date, there are the typical time features of: test set-up time; test execution time; time to program digital devices; and loading/unloading or handling times of a board introduced in the test equipment; however, there is also the consideration of the time necessary to perform board repair when the board testing was not sufficiently complete and comprehensive. This TIME parameter (repair) is what Seica also considers a metric of the “global” TIME dimension.  In addition, and more importantly, due to the rapid technical evolution and “CHANGE” of electronic circuit boards, there is the fact that older Flying Probe Testers require time to update their outdated systems.

The following are examples of the recent improvements in Seica’s flying probe test systems capability.

For our first example, a little physics will help: most of those who are considering the purchase of a flying probe system take into account the probe motion speed in XYZ, in combination with 10g-motor acceleration; this was the formula deemed worthy of the now retired space shuttle. However, today, test speed is achieved through fewer measurements at the same fault coverage, thanks to smart software algorithms.  Never mind flying at 1000 km/h on a 30 cm (the board size), where there is evidently a consistent condition of acceleration and braking, and where the maximum speed is never reached. There are, for example innovative test techniques via testers to detect shorts which, against a board with 1000 nets, where the possible shorts are 499500 (therefore 499500 measurements would be required to show their absence), the complete Seica test is performed with 100% coverage with only 999 measurements!  Talk about saving time!

Example #2: a growing number of companies are forced to access both sides of the board for testing, since accessing the nets from one side only is increasingly prohibitive due to the continued miniaturization of components which allow for the manufacture of smaller and smaller boards; as a result,  many people believe they can use a 1 side prober to  test first one side of the board, and then the second; …but does this really make sense today when the market provides testers featuring 4 probes per side to enable a perfect and complete test via simultaneous dual side probing? Doesn’t this mean saving handling time? Isn’t it time-saving to set up one program instead of two? Isn’t this a higher open coverage for tracks which pass from one board side to the other? (And, in fact, not testable with two individual programs!)

Example #3: some people believe a flying probe tester with 4 probes per side (so, 8 probes total) is useless when all the test points are located on one side (so the complete access to board nets is performed on one side); however, in these cases,  8 probes actually allow for  testing two boards simultaneously, thus providing double throughput! Needless to say, doubling your throughput equals saving a lot of time!

Our last example addresses the force of gravity, which necessarily affects electronic boards as well, as they bend under the component weight when not supported on the lower side by fixed supports into the flying prober; this makes unusable the probes possibly available on that side. An easy method to avoid the board bending underneath the weight of components is to place the board vertically instead of horizontally into the flying prober, so that the force of gravity acts along the PCB edge thickness plan instead of perpendicularly (the board’s largest surface area), providing a full warpage recovery for accurate dual side probing …(here again, physics explains very well an irrefutable reality).

Many similar examples could support the fact that flying prober testing has definitely evolved in the last few years; no longer should a flying prober be used only to test shorts and passive components. Technical advancements now allow for the performance of functional and thermal tests, LED optical inspection, micro controller on-board programming, as well as boundary scan via Flying Probe Testers, DDR2 and DDR3 memory “at speed,” and more.

Seica S.p.A., a global leader in design, manufacturing, sales and support of automated Flying Probe Testers for electronic boards, keeps pace with the abovementioned changes, and has recently introduced  to the market a new line of ATE Flying Probe Testers: Pilot 4D features a high level of innovation and cutting edge technology, absolutely unique in its genre. The different models V8, M4, L4 and H4 of the Pilot 4D line are equipped with excellent, innovative capabilities, providing increased test speed and fault coverage (being fast is not enough; the purpose to keep in mind are the measurements!), even on state-of-the-art and extremely complex boards: just think of the opportunity to go beyond SMD 01005 component testing, getting to position with optimum repeatability and accuracy, even on the new metric package 03015 which are even smaller in size!

Thanks to an innovative high-resolution camera group and the new sensitive contact system which leaves no witness marks on the tested circuit, the Pilot 4D range of testers are proven to be perfectly suited to test any kind of small-sized products with a high density of components, thereby making accessible even the most difficult nets to reach where test points are now or have disappeared.

Taking advantage of the innovative VIVA 3.0 software and the new measurement peripherals distributed on the probes, the Pilot 4D line testers allow the set-up of multiple test techniques, ranging from electric to thermal and optical. Now possible are: the enhancement of testing and digital on-board programming of complex components; the accurate detection of capacitor polarity through non-invasive techniques; and the customization of LEDs in accordance with the most demanding specifications provided by the automotive and lighting industries.

Furthermore, the Pilot 4D line of testers  are appropriate in numerous all stages of the electronic board lifecycle: 1) Prototyping, where the test setup is done in a matter of minutes starting from CAD data and providing  immediate feedback on the current design of the new product 2) Production, where, through board loading/unloading automation (also available in vertical Flying Probe Testers with probes on both sides), the Pilot 4D probers ensure to test hundreds of boards per day without creating a bottleneck for the production process, as is known to happen for less advanced Flying Probe Testers not comparable to the Pilot 4D 3) Repair, where setting up multiple, fully automated and complementary test techniques promotes fault coverage maximization with the ability  to power up the board under test and perform analog and digital functional tests 4) Reverse Engineering, often used in the preliminary stage of repair, to rebuild schematics and CAD data if not available for outdated products; this results in extending the utilization of your Seica flying prober capital asset over time (a typical application in avionics, railway and military industries).

There can be no doubt that the Pilot 4D testers represent a new dimension of flying prober, the fourth dimension, in fact, where the concept of time has been considered as a valuable resource to preserve, but also as a point to evolve and a change worth  pursuing. Four solutions for every need and budget;  four fields of application with consistently enhanced capabilities;  and, as mentioned, the overcoming of 3-dimensional motion, with the highest attention paid to the time factor, the most affecting variable in the industrial processes of today. The Pilot 4D testers were conceived to not only minimize test program setup times and the time required to test,  but also (unlike our competitors’ Flying Probe Testers which do not take this into account) to minimize the time for repair of a faulty product. For those who are looking ahead to the future, it is time to get acquainted with the Pilot 4D ine: “A Fourth Dimension in Test !”