Many test engineering departments are stuck with their existing circuit board test equipment because looking at newer, more capable alternatives takes away from the project at hand.
Switching circuit board test platforms can seem like an arduous task. Presenting a case for upgrading to a more capable test system is challenging. Moving from the tried and true platform to anything new entails risk. And risk is something that test engineers always try to avoid, but could the risk be worth it?
When considering a switch in test systems it is critical to look beyond a single project and examine the costs and benefits across multiple projects. Because most test engineering departments are under-resourced, longer-term strategic planning is a luxury with critical day to day challenges. However, the next fixture project or next tester addition will seldom justify a strategic platform change. Even the best investments need to be viewed across projects to calculate an ROI.
The next fixture project or next tester addition will seldom justify a strategic platform change. Even the best investments need to be viewed across projects to calculate an ROI.
It takes strategic vision to uncover faster and more capable testers that future-proof your PCB manufacturing, and there has never been a better time since components went surface mount. New systems are faster, more reliable, and have new communication protocol tests that allow for enhanced test coverage
So, why would it be worth taking the risk of switching?
- Higher Speed Testing → Greater Throughput → Lower Overall Cost
- Automation → Fewer Defects and Less Labor → Higher Yields and Lower Cost
- New Capabilities → Increased Test Coverage
The benefits, of course, depend on the volume of your production and type of boards, but the value of a new test platform can be captured in multiple ways: increased reliability, decreased fixture cost, improved ease of use, reduced tester acquisition cost, decreased functional test or chip programming costs (if the new platform can relieve some of these steps), decreased labor (especially if an automated handler is included), and increased throughput which reduces cost per board.
The other critical ingredient required in considering new equipment is confidence in your ability to identify potential process improvements and avoid potential pitfalls. This is a core requirement to pursue any process improvement and it is no different for examining tester platforms. Yes, your tester has served you and your company well. Yes, you have a mostly positive relationship with your fixture vendor and functional test house. But, that does not mean that your current solution is the best available platform to serve you into the next 30 years. It takes some work to find out and, you and your team will undoubtedly learn something in the process.