Posted in Science

Engineers Turn to Automated Test Equipment to Save Time

http://www.readydaq.com/content/blog/engineers-turn-automated-test-equipment-save-time
With engineers rushing tests in order to hit tight product deadlines, the market for test equipment that automatically detects faults in semiconductors and other components is growing.
Setting aside time for testing has been a struggle for electrical engineers. The shrinking size – and increasing complexity – of semiconductor circuits is not making life any easier. Nearly 15% of wireless engineers are outsourcing final testing and more than 45% contract manufacturing – when most semiconductor testing takes place.
Almost 65% of the survey respondents said that testing is still a challenge in terms of time consumption. New chips designed for tiny connected sensors and autonomous cars also require rigorous testing to ensure reliability.
Tight deadlines for delivering new products is forcing engineers toward using automated test equipment, also known as ATE, to quickly identify defects in semiconductors, especially those used in smartphones, communication devices, and consumer electronics.
The global automated test equipment market is estimated to reach $4.36 billion in 2018, up from $3.54 billion in 2011, according to Transparency Market Research, a technology research firm.
Automated test equipment is used extensively in semiconductor manufacturing, where integrated circuits on a silicon chip must be tested before it is prepared for packaging. It cuts down on the time it takes to test more complex chips, which are incorporating higher speeds, performance, and pin counts. Automatic testing also helps to locate flaws in system-on-chips, or SoCs, which often contain analog, mixed-signal, and wireless parts on the same silicon chip.
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Posted in Science

Semiconductor Testing

http://www.readydaq.com/content/blog/semiconductor-testing
Automated test equipment (ATE) is computer-controlled test and measurement equipment that allows for testing with minimal human interaction. The tested devices are referred to as a device under test (DUT). The advantages of this kind of testing include reducing testing time, repeatability, and cost efficiency in high volume. The chief disadvantages are the upfront costs of programming and setup.
Automated test equipment can test printed circuit boards, interconnections, and verifications. They are commonly used in wireless communication and radar. Simple ATEs include volt-ohm meters that measure resistance and voltages in PCs; complex ATE systems have several mechanisms that automatically run high-level electronic diagnostics.
ATE is used to quickly confirm whether a DUT works and to find defects. When the first out-of-tolerance value is detected, the testing stops and the device fails.

Semiconductor Testing

For ATEs that test semiconductors, the architecture consists of a master controller (a computer) that synchronizes one or more sources and capture instruments, such as an industrial PC or mass interconnect. The DUT is physically connected to the ATE by a machine called a handler, or prober, and through a customized Interface Test Adapter (ITA) that adapts the ATE’s resources to the DUT.
When testing packaged parts or directly on the silicon wafer, a handler is used to place the device on a customized interface board and silicon wafers are tested directly with high precision probes.

Test Types

Logic Testing

Logic test systems are designed to test microprocessors, gate arrays, ASICs and other logic devices.
Linear or mixed signal equipment tests components such as analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), digital-to-analog converters (DACs), comparators, track-and-hold amplifiers, and video products. These components incorporate features such as, audio interfaces, signal processing functions, and high-speed transceivers.
Passive component ATEs test passive components including capacitors, resistors, inductors, etc. Typically, testing is done by the application of a test current.
Discrete ATEs test active components including transistors, diodes, MOSFETs, regulators, TRIACS, Zeners, SCRs, and JFETs.

Printed Circuit Board Testing

Printed circuit board testers include manufacturing defect analyzers, in-circuit testers, and functional analyzers.
Automated Test Equipment imageManufacturing defect analyzers (MDAs) detect manufacturing defects, such as shorts and missing components, but can’t test digital ICs as they test with the DUT powered down (cold). As a result, they assume the ICs are functional. MDAs are much less expensive than other test options and are also referred to as analog circuit testers.
In-circuit analyzers test components that are part of a board assembly. The components under test are “in a circuit.” The DUT is powered up (hot). In-circuit testers are very powerful but are limited due to the high density of tracks and components in most current designs. The pins for contact must be placed very accurately in order to make good contact. They are also referred to as digital circuit testers or ICT.
A functional test simulates an operating environment and tests a board against its functional specification. Functional automatic test equipment (FATE) unpopular due to the equipment not being able to keep up with the increasing speed of boards. This causes a lag between the board under test and the manufacturing process. There are several types of functional test equipment and they may also be referred to as emulators.

Interconnection and Verification Testing

Test types for interconnection and verification include cable and harness testers and bare-board testers.
Cable and harness testers are used to detect opens (missing connections), shorts (open connections) and miswires (wrong pins) on cable harnesses, distribution panels, wiring looms, flexible circuits, and membrane switch panels with commonly-used connector configurations. Other tests performed by automated test equipment include resistance and hipot tests.
Bare board automated test equipment is used to detect the completeness of a PCB circuit before assembly and wave solder.

 

Posted in Science

Exploiting LabVIEW Libraries

 

labview expert
Have you ever viewed a LabVIEW VI Hierarchy and become frustrated with not being able to locate a VI you needed to open?
Do you have large applications composed of similar modules but fear to jump, with both feet, into the learning curve of LVOOP?
Did you ever try to duplicate a sub-VI at the start of a new set of functions and find yourself deep in a nest of cross-linked VIs, or save a VI only to realize that the most suitable name has already been used?
Then using LabVIEW Libraries may be useful to you
Libraries are a feature available in the LabVIEW project or they can be created stand-alone*. They have a number of features that allow you to specify shared properties and attributes of related VIs and custom controls.
In short, many of the features of LVOOP are available without the complications required for Dynamic Dispatching. The remainder of this document will serve as a tutorial that demonstrates how to create, define, and clone a library. Additional notes are included to illustrate how these features can be exploited to help you develop more robust applications that are easier to support than applications that do not use libraries.
*Libraries can be created stand-alone from the LabVIEW splash screen using the method:
File >>> New … >>> Other Files >>> Library
You can create a new library from the project by right-clicking the “My Computer” icon and selecting “New >>> Library”. Save it to a unique folder that will contain all of the files associated with the library.
Open the properties screen and then open the icon editor) to compose a Common Icon for the library and its members.
Take a little time to create the icon because it will be shared by all of the members of the library. Do not get carried away and fill-up the entire icon. Leave some white space so that the icons of the component VIs can be customized to illustrate their role in the functionality of the library.
Create virtual folders in the library to help organize the VIs contained in it. I usually use three folders but you can use more or less depending on your needs and preferences. I use one to hold the controls, and another pair for the public and private VIs. I do not use auto-populating folders for a number of reasons.
I can control which VIs are included and which are not. Occasionally temporary VIs are created to do some basic testing and they are never intended to be part of the library. If functionality changes and the temporary VI breaks due to the change, the library may cause a build to fail due to the broken VI.
I can easily move a VI from private to public without having to move the VI on disk and then properly updating source code control to reflect the change.
I can keep the file paths shorter using the virtual folders while maintaining the structure of the project.
Additional virtual folders can be added if you want to further break-down the organization of the VIs in the library. If developing a library that will be used by other developers and or be as a tool for others, you may want to include a folder for the VIs that define the API your library offers. The API can also be divided into additional virtual folders to break-down the interface into functional areas if you wish. Implement the Logical Grouping of sub-VIs as needed for your library.
Set the Access Scope of the private virtual folder to private. While the private folder and the setting of the access scope can be optional, taking advantage of this options will help you and the users of your library identify which VIs are not intended for use outside of the library. Attempting to use a VI with a private scope from outside the library itself will break the calling VI and make it very obvious that the VI is not intended for public use.
Developing applications using libraries differs little from developing without libraries with one exception; there is no additional work to use them. The exception is illustrated in Figure 8 where the name of the VI is highlighted. While the VI named in the project is shown as “Init_AI.vi” the actual name of the VI is “DAQ.lvib:AI.lvlib:Init_AI.vi”. The difference is the result of what is called “Name Mangling”. The actual name of the VI is prefixed by the library names that own the VI. This is a powerful feature that goes a long way toward avoiding cross-linking and will let us easily clone a library to be used as the starting point of a similar library.
The Save as the screen for the library will not only let us define the library name but also where in the project the library will be placed. This is handy for nested libraries but not critical. The libraries can be moved around in the project or between libraries as need using the project window. When a library is cloned using the Save As an option, all of the VIs contained in the original library are duplicated and re-linked to the VIs in the new library. There is NO chance of cross-linking when Cloning a library!
Libraries can help in all phases of an application from initial development to long-term support through to knowledge transfer. Remember, “Libraries” are your friend!
Posted in Science

LabVIEW Improvements

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LabVIEW passed its 30 year anniversary in 2016,  and six months ago, National Instruments, has launched a considerably updated version of LabVIEW – its Next Generation LabVIEW NXG 1.0.
LabVIEW NXG is a totally reworked version of LabVIEW and this enables it to offer a considerably improved level of performance. By adopting an approach where LabVIEW has been started again from the ground up, LabVIEW NXG enables users to see significant improvements in performance as a result of the new code.
LabVIEW NXG offers some significant definitive improvements over the previous implementation of LabVIEW:

  • Plug & Play: a lot of work has gone into enabling LabVIEW NXG to provide easy set-up of hardware connections. It has true plug and play functionality.
  • IDE: The LabVIEW NXG environment has been totally overhauled to take elements of popular commercial software and replicate the attributes of the environment to make it more intuitive.
  • Tutorials: To facilitate the speedy uptake of newcomers to LabVIEW, the new LabVIEW NXG has inbuilt walk-throughs and other integrated learning facilities. This has been shown to greatly speed up the time which it takes for newcomers to be able to proficiently programme in LabVIEW. It is even possible to undertake a number of standard tasks without “hitting the code.”

National Instruments will be running both the traditional LabVIEW, i.e. LabVIEW 2017 which has also been launched alongside the new next-generation LabVIEW NXG, but ultimately when total compatibility has been established the two will converge enabling users to benefit from the new streamlined core.
Users of LabVIEW will be given access to both LabVIEW 2017 and later versions as well as LabVIEW NXG. In this way, they can make the choice of which version suits their application best.
National Instruments spokespeople stressed that the traditional development line of LabVIEW will continue to be maintained so that the large investment in software and applications that users have is not at risk. However, drivers and many other areas are already compatible with both lines.

“Thirty years ago, we released the original version of LabVIEW, designed to help engineers automate their measurement systems without having to learn the esoterica of traditional programming languages. LabVIEW was the ‘nonprogramming’ way to automate a measurement system,” said Jeff Kodosky, NI co-founder and business and technology fellow, known as the ‘Father of LabVIEW.’
“For a long time, we focused on making additional things possible with LabVIEW, rather than furthering the goal of helping engineers automate measurements quickly and easily. Now we are squarely addressing this with the introduction of LabVIEW NXG, which we designed from the ground up to embrace a streamlined workflow. Common applications can use a simple configuration-based approach, while more complex applications can use the full open-ended graphical programming capability of the LabVIEW language, G.”

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9 Things to Consider When Choosing Automated Test Equipment

automation
Automated test equipment (ATE) have the ability to reduce the costs of testing and make sure that lab teams can focus on other, more important tasks. With ATE, productivity, and efficiency is boosted to a maximum level due to cutting out the unnecessary tasks and daily activities.
However, you should not just cash out and invest in automated test equipment, there are elements that factors that are important to find the system that suits you best. Our team at ReadyDAQ has prepared 12 things you should consider before choosing automated test equipment.

1. Endurance and Compactness

One of the most important things is that the ATE system your company picks is designed for optimal performance over the long-term. Take a careful look at connections and components and make a conclusion whether they will survive over repeated use.Many lab teams are often struggling to find large areas for their testing operations. The automated test equipment should also be compact.

2. Customer Experience

Are other customers satisfied the support and other things they went through? Does the company you bought ATE from provide full support? You don’t have to be the expert in automated test equipment, but they do. And their skills and expertise have to be available to you for when you need it. Customer support and the overall customer experience is a huge factor!

3. Scalability and Compatibility

One purchase does not have to be final. It often isn’t You should check whether the equipment you ordered can be expanded or scaled over time. Your needs might change and you want ATE to adapt to your needs.
When compatibility comes to mind, we want to make sure that the equipment is built following all industry standards. Cross-compatibility is often important in situations where we no longer need or have lost the access to certain products. Better safe than sorry.

4. Comprehensive

Think of all the elements needed for testing. Even better, make a list. Does the equipment you have in mind cover ALL required elements? Don’t forget about power and signaling, are they included too?

5. High Test Coverage and Diagnostics

The ATE system has to be able to provide full coverage and give insights on all components of the processed product. This can help decrease the number of possible errors and failures later on.
How about diagnostics? Does the testing system provide robust diagnostic tools to make sure the obtained results are reliable and true?

6. Cost per Test

How much does a single test cost? You have to think and plan long-term, so a single test cost can help you calculate and make an assumption whether the system provides real value for the money invested.

7. Testimonials and Warranty

Are other customers satisfied? Can the company direct you to testimonials from previous customers? What do their previous customers have to say about the systems and their performance?
Also, you don’t want to be left hanging in case the systems starts malfunctioning or simply stops working. Does the ATE system come with a comprehensive warranty? Make sure you’re protected against damages that might happen in testing and see that the warranty covers that too.

8. Manufacturer Reputation

When did you first hear about the company? How? Did someone (besides them) say anything good about them? Is the company known for the high quality of their equipment? Discuss their past projects and learn more about the value their products provide.

9. Intuitive Performance

At first sight, is the system easy to use or way too complicated that it would require weeks of training for everyone in the lab? Does it offer intuitive performance within the testing procedure? Your team should be able to begin testing without having to go over every point in the technical manual in pinpoint detail.
Our team at ReadyDAQ is here to help you select the perfect automated test equipment for your lab.

Posted in Science

IoT: Standards, Legal Rights; Economy and Development

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It is safe to say that, at this point, the fragmented nature of IoT will hinder, or even discourage the value for users and industry. If IoT products happen to be poorly integrated, or inflexible regarding connectivity or are complex to operate, these factors can drive users as well as developers away from IoT. Also, poorly designed IoT devices can have negative consequences for the networks they connect to. Therefore, standardization is a logical next step as it can bring appropriate standards, models, and best practices. The standardization can, in turn, bring about user benefits, innovation and economic benefits.
Moreover, a widespread use of IoT devices brings about many regulatory and legal issues. Yet, since IoT technology is rapidly changing, many regulatory bodies cannot keep up with the change, so these bodies also need to adapt to the volatility of IoT technologies. But one of the issues which frequently comes in action is what to do when IoT devices collect data in one jurisdiction and transmit it to another jurisdiction with, for example, more lenient laws for data protection. Also, the data collected from IoT devices are often times liable to misuse, potentially causing legal issues for some users.
Other burning legal issues are the conflict between lawful surveillance and civil rights; data retention and ‘the right to be forgotten’; and legal liability for unaware users. Although the challenges are many in number and great in scope, IoT needs laws and regulations which protect the user and their rights but also do not stand in the way of innovation and trust.
Finally, Internet of Things can bring great and numerous benefits to developing countries and economies. Many areas can be improved through IoT: agriculture, healthcare, industry, to name a few. IoT can offer a connected ‘smart’ world and link aspects of people’s everyday lives into one huge web. IoT affects everything around it, but the risks, promises and possible outcomes need to be talked about and debated if one is to pick the most effective ways to go forward.
Posted in Science

IoT: Security and Privacy

data logger
Two key IoT issues, which are also intertwined, are security and privacy: the data IoT devices store and work with needs to be safe from hackers, so as not to have sensitive data exposed to third parties. It is of utmost importance that IoT devices be secure from vulnerabilities and private so that users would feel safe in their surroundings and trust that their data shall not be exposed or worse, sold through illegal channels. Also, since devices are becoming more and more integrated into our everyday lives (many people store their credentials on their devices, for example), poorly secured devices can serve as entry points for cyber-attacks and leave data unprotected.
The nature of IoT devices means that every unsecured or inadequately secured devices pose a potential threat. This security problem is even deeper since various devices can connect to each other automatically, thus refraining the user from knowing at first glance whether a security issue exists. Therefore, developers and users of IoT devices have an obligation to make sure that no other devices come in any potential harm, so they constantly develop and test security solutions for these challenges.
The second key issue, privacy, is thought to be a factor which holds back the full development and implementation of IoT. Many users are concerned about their rights when it comes to their data being tracked, collected and analyzed. IoT also raises concerns regarding the potential threat of being tracked, the inability of discarding certain data collection, surveillance etc. Strategies need to be implemented which, although bring innovation, still respect user privacy choices and expectations. In order for Internet of Things to truly be accepted, these challenges need to be looked into and these problems need to be overcome, which is a great task and a test both for developers and for users.