Why is it the entire electronics assembly line is automated until test? There are exceptions and it is becoming more automated, but why aren’t in-line testers the norm?
The reason is speed. Test times for PCBAs are typically much longer than any other single manufacturing step. That time is called “Takt Time”, the time between the start of a production step for one unit to the start of the step for the next unit. As manufacturing equipment has gotten faster, takt times have decreased.
Because throughput is defined by the slowest system or step’s takt time, there is a lot of pressure on in-line test.
Test times are constrained by the quantities and types of tests conducted. For example, it would be impossible to keep up with a 30 second takt time if your inline tester needed to program two microcontrollers that each take 20 seconds. In addition, an inline tester needs to keep up the takt time for all your projects, now and in the future. Given the variability in test times, most haven’t been willing to commit to inline testing and instead, move everything over to an off-line test cell.
And that is too bad because a lot of value can be unlocked by testing in-line: first, human handling is eliminated, reducing cost and defects. Second, the manufacturing line gets immediate feedback, so problems can be solved quickly before you’ve made hundreds of boards with a flaw.
“a lot of value can be unlocked by testing in-line”
For high volume manufacturing, the benefits of in-line testing, with simultaneous Parallel technology, are worth the work of designing a system capable of keeping up with your line. CheckSum’s development efforts are all geared toward making our systems faster in ICT, part programming, and functional testing, to make it easier to keep up with the manufacturing line. A Tester In Every Line – It’s a worthwhile goal. Let’s get to work.