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In Circuit Test Strategy

New Circuit Board Technology Requires New Strategic Thinking

Circuit board technology evolves rapidly: more highly integrated devices, increasing package pin counts, denser placement of smaller components and thinner circuit traces. For boards ranging from simple to complex, the test and inspection process remains as critical as ever.  Bad parts still find their way onto boards. Assembly and soldering defects still occur. In-circuit test (ICT) is still the most cost effective means to identify component faults and manufacturing process defects.  And as long as there are circuit boards, ICT will continue to be the key to effective manufacturing process test.

But evolving technology requires a complete rethinking of in-circuit test strategy—and about the in-circuit tester itself.

Traditional ICT capabilities are increasingly expensive—and unnecessary

The Fault Spectrum Shifthas basically negated the cost effectiveness of traditional ICT testers such as the Agilent 3070-series and Teradyne TestStation. Capabilities found on these testers such as high-accuracy analog and digital vector test are increasingly superfluous because they are designed to test for faults that rarely—if ever—occur on today’s boards.  In fact, traditional digital vector test is ineffective on today’s complex, highly integrated devices. And newer assembly defect classes such as cold solder joints and skewed components are simply invisible to in-circuit testers and must be diagnosed by other means such as automated imaging (AOI, AXI).

Evolving technologies aren’t the only reason you should reexamine your ICT strategy and equipment.  Today’s smaller test departments and constrained budgets demand lower ICT costs. In a fixed budget environment every dollar you spend unnecessarily on ICT means a dollar that you can’t invest in new inspection technologies like AOI and AXI.

The Low Cost ICT strategy

Seeking a lower-cost ICT strategy demands that you examine not only the purchase price of the tester, but also ongoing operating and applications cost, such as fixturing, programming, and support. Keep in mind that no matter how low the purchase price, “big iron” ICT still has high overhead costs from complex test fixtures and lengthy test programming processes—even when built-in capabilities like vector testing are not even used.

The good news about new board and parts technologies and the resulting Fault Spectrum Shift is that much lower cost ICT systems will do the job as effectively as old, expensive ones.  That’s where the CheckSum Analyst Low Cost In-Circuit Testers come in.  Check them out and see how CheckSum can reduce testing cost and help increase manufacturing margins.


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