Test strategies are mandatory for every company, whether they are applying diagnostics in the development stage or ensuring quality during manufacturing. As such, it is virtually impossible to have a one-size-fits-all test strategy because there are so many variables and specifics. For example, because of their miniaturized and highly integrated components, circuit board test strategies require creative application of new tools and methods. Perhaps that explains why many companies, especially the small ones, agonize over the three major test considerations: cost, access, and coverage.
Product design companies recognize the need for testing in the development stage, but there is likely to be an internal debate about the number and cost of resources to be allocated for testing in the manufacturing stage. The salient point, regardless of the arguments, is that product testing is inescapable. To ignore manufacturing test requirements for whatever reason does not constitute an effective strategy.
A discussion of test cost is likely to take center stage whenever test priorities are considered. Companies do have an alternative to a Hobson’s choice between a costly investment in newly created test equipment and cutting corners by forgoing testing that should be conducted. That alternative is a test platform approach that maximizes test development investment and flexibility.
Benefits of a platform approach
Most OEMs and EMS providers can ill afford to absorb the costs associated with purchasing a suite of instruments to test all product scenarios. A number of test development teams have found the platform approach to be a cost-effective yet thorough testing alternative is the platform approach.
The platform is an assembly of off-the-shelf test equipment flexible enough to be modified to meet changing test requirements. Platforms are based on instrument architecture provided by a number of vendors that can grow as needed to meet new requirements. One example is a testing platform developed by a vendor more than 10 years ago that is still capable of conducting and accommodating new product tests. The platform is in its third generation, upgraded as new instrumentation has become available.
OEMs and, in particular, EMS providers, view the purchase of such platforms as budget-conscious investments in architecture that can support future growth. Test platforms can support multiple products, offering huge cost savings through reuse of capital investments.
Platform architecture and its inherent flexible standardization offer a number of benefits. This article discusses those benefits and more. To read it, click here.
About the author
Paul Schaffner is test development manager in Winona, MN, for Benchmark Electronics Inc. (Angleton, TX).