Test Connections

The electronics industry is under constant pressure to lower their manufacturing costs. This is particularly true for semiconductor vendors where the cost of test has continually been looked at as a no "value-add" cost.  As shown in Figure 1, the ratio or percentage of ATE capital cost as a percentage of an IC’s average sales price (ASP) has progressively become smaller – moving from a high of 5% in 2001 to approximately 1% in 2010. However, overall ASPs for devices have also been decreasing, meaning that in terms of absolute costs, the cost of test needs to decrease at the same or greater rate as the decrease in device ASPs, which puts even more pressure on test engineers to find more cost effective test solutions. The reality is that increasing traditional or "big ATE" test system utilization by employing techniques such as parallel test (quad, octal, etc. site test) yields only limited improvements in testing expenses without really solving the core problem of test system costs. And for test needs in the lab or for low volume production, a multi-site test strategy does nothing to improve the economics of test.


Figure 1
Used with permission from 2011 VLSI Research / Semicon West 2011 Presentation

Today’s semiconductor devices include a variety of digital, analog, and RF capabilities all combined in a single package or SoC (system on chip). The result is that test solutions must not only be cost effective but also flexible in order to address a range of circuit types including logic, memory, analog, MEMs and RF devices. In addition, test solutions are needed that can offer engineers the ability to cost effectively automate design verification, failure analysis, and pilot production test activities without requiring the use of expensive "big ATE".

Meeting the Semiconductor Test Challenge with PXI
The challenge for today’s test engineers is to create new test methods and systems that can offer significantly lower test costs as well as address the need for configurable, flexible test solutions including automated test systems that offer comparable features to proprietary ATE platforms at a much lower cost. To help meet these challenges, test engineers are turning to commercial test and measurement hardware and more specifically, the PXI architecture.

Geotest's TS-900, a PXI-based, semiconductor test system which will be featured at the productronica show in Munich, represents a new class of semiconductor test systems which takes full advantage of the flexibility and breadth of products available in the PXI market. Featuring an integral, high-performance receiver interface and utilizing Geotest's market-leading GX5295 100 MHz digital instrument with a PMU per pin architecture, the TS-900 offers an open architecture test platform for high-performance digital and mixed-signal test capabilities including RF test. Available in bench top or in a cart-based configuration (Figures 2 & 3), the TS-900 offers many of the same features and capabilities associated with proprietary ATE systems but with a substantially lower price.

Figure 2: TS-900 Test System
Cart-Based Model
Figure 3: Cart-Based model

Leveraging the TS-900 for Test Applications
The TS-900 is the ideal platform for users looking to optimize the overall test strategy for a product's life cycle. As shown in Table 1, employing a TS-900 as part of the new product introduction process offers significant advantages compared to a manual or semi-automatic bench top test configuration.

Cost and Feature Comparison

Table 1 – Cost and Feature Comparison: Custom Designed Test System vs. the TS-900



For example, the test development, fixturing and most importantly test times will be long for a manual setup since very little if any of the test instrumentation is optimized for device testing. Employing a test system such as the TS-900 can offer engineers a much faster and more highly automated process for characterizing new devices – decreasing device characterization and verification from weeks to days. Additionally, the TS-900 can cost effectively address the testing of early production devices without relying upon "big iron" ATE with its expensive capital cost (test time), fixturing and long test development times. With a wide offering of software tools and an intuitive software development / test executive environment (ATEasy), the TS-900 fills the need for a test platform that can bridge the test gap between the engineering lab and volume production test.

Contact us to learn more about how ATEasy, DIOEasy, the TS-900, and the GX5295 can lower your cost of test and meet both present and future test challenges.
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Geotest-Marvin Test Systems, Inc.
1770 Kettering
Irvine, CA 92614

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