Managing Your Tester Portfolio and
Achieving a Low Cost Board Test Strategy
Many test engineers seek to „standardize” on a single brand or model in circuit tester. Intuitively, this makes sense: only one vendor to deal with, common fixturing, a single programming environment, simplified support. In order to deal with any board of any complexity, it seems to also make sense to standardize on traditional high-end in circuit tester that has all the reserve horsepower–high accuracy analog, sophisticated digital backdrive, functional test facilities, etc.–that the test engineer might ever need.
ICT Platform „Standardization” Means Higher Cost of Test
But traditional „big iron” ICT always drives up overall test cost–even when it’s the „standard” that’s supposed to reduce overall test cost. The theoretical savings of a “standard” rarely offsets the high fixturing, programming and support costs that traditional ICTs entail. A high capability tester is absolutely right for a high complexity board. But putting a simpler board on a „big iron” ICT is analogous to planting a rosebush with a backhoe: The job gets done, but it’s a lot more complicated and expensive compared to putting the less complex board on a less complex tester that has lower application and support costs.
Tester Portfolio Management is Straightforward
Just as a portfolio manager maximizes investor return by using a variety of investment vehicles, the „tester portfolio manager” will distribute test jobs between the „big iron” ICT and the Low Cost ICT based on criteria such as board complexity and production volume. This way, lower cost testers, fixtures and programs test boards that don’t require expensive capabilities like digital backdrive. Complex boards, such as those with specialized low-voltage chips are tested on machines with the required tester resources.
Tester Portfolio Management Saves Money
Tester Portfolio Management reduces total test cost by avoiding unnecessary tester overhead for test jobs that don’t require expensive „big iron” test capabilities–especially digital vector test (aka 'backdrive’). Because Low Cost ICT does away with the inherent complexity of digital test not only is the tester itself simpler and less expensive, but fixtures and programs, too. One user who implemented the same board on both types of testers experienced a greater than 75% cost savings in applications cost (fixture + test program) on the Low Cost ICT. Check out a similar case for yourself.
Consider Test Cost Up Front. Not After It’s Too Late.
When implementing new test jobs seek the lowest cost test solution by evaluating the total test cost ahead of time– even if it means investing in a „non-standard” Low Cost ICT . Today, „big iron” and Low Cost ICT coexist on an increasing number of test floors delivering much lower total testing cost than a single high-end „standard.” Even though building a tester portfolio instead of a single standard seems counterintuitive. That’s what a major automotive electronics manufacturer thought until they reduced test cost by more than 60% without any increased „escapes” to functional test.