At Maxim Integrated, product engineers make sure new products are tested and ready for production.
My first job after earning my BSEE was in the product engineering department at Analog Devices. My first assignment was to evaluate a programmable-gain amplifier (PGA) module prior to production. At that time, we didn't have automated measurement systems to measure and record the PGA's output or power consumption. We had to take photos of waveforms, paste them into our notebooks, and record measurements by hand.
And we liked it that way.
Actually, there was no other way. Today, product engineers can automate their product evaluations, producing more consistent results. When I visited the product engineers at Maxim Integrated earlier this year, I learned that engineers don't even touch a knob or switch on their meters and oscilloscopes. All the test equipment is controlled through software. Of course, all the analog and power devices produced at Maxim are semiconductors; the modules are long gone. Indeed, even the ICs are programmed through software. My PGA modules had to be programmed with jumpers — no software needed.
Maxim's product engineers are the first to get their hands on finished preproduction products, commonly called "first silicon." They put the ICs through their paces by checking datasheet specs and running functional tests. They also work with production test engineers to make sure the company's ATE systems are ready for the new parts and that production measurements are consistent with bench measurements. I had to design and construct my own manual tester for the PGAs and write the production test procedure.
On the day of my visit, Maxim engineers were evaluating devices such as digital temperature sensors, high-speed analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), buck/boost DC-to-DC converters, and LED drivers. They were also running long-term drift tests. Each engineer explained his or her project and how they automate their measurements by designing test boards and using scripts to control test equipment.
Seema Venkatesh, Associate Member of Technical Staff at Maxim Integrated, explained how she performs automated tests on DC/DC converters.
For all the details, see Product Engineering: The bridge between design and manufacturing.
—Martin Rowe covers test and measurement for EE Times and EDN. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org