The pressure is on for engineering labs to not only automate their semiconductor test processes, but to find ways to lower costs significantly, especially in the area of test development. The same is true on the production floor, where the flood of consumer electronics continually challenges test developers to increase yield and cut costs.
One means of attacking these problems is with a modular test-system architecture that’s centered on a software-defined approach to test development. To that end, National Instruments has launched a series of PXI-based modular instruments that combine with the company’s LabVIEW software to create a highly flexible system that shines with analog/mixed-signal test, where stimuli types can be out of the ordinary (think MEMS test), volumes are extremely high, and test costs must be correspondingly low.
The PXI semiconductor suite of products comprises 10 items (see the figure). Within the PXIe-654x family of high-speed digital I/O instruments are four models with clock rates of 100 and 200 MHz and data rates of up to 400 Mbits/s. These units are designed to enable test engineers to better stress timing on an IC design. Among their features are bidirectional communication, real-time bit comparison, double data-rate capability, multiple timing delays for different I/O lines, and the ability to select from 22 different voltage levels for greater test flexibility.
A new source-measure unit (SMU), the PXI-4132, extends current sensitivity down to 10 pA. It offers remote (four-wire) sensing and external guarding on a single output to provide up to ±100-V capability in one PXI slot.
The PXI-2515 and PXIe-2515 digital insertion switches enable users to take precision dc measurements directly on high-speed digital I/O lines. The unit functions as a passthrough for digital-I/O devices and lets users multiplex in precision dc instrumentation on any high-speed digital I/O line. It interoperates with both the SMU and the digital I/O modules, allowing test engineers to mix and match the instruments they need for their application.
Also offered are the PXIe-5663E RF vector signal analyzer and PXIe-5673E RF vector signal generator; both 6.6-GHz instruments are optimized for fast, multi-band RF measurements. These modules allow users to, for example, test an RF power amplifier at a range of frequencies, sweeping through them rapidly to reduce overall test times.
Complementing the PXI semiconductor suite of instruments is software for importing of WGL/STIL test vectors developed in third-party EDA tools. National Instruments worked with Test Systems Strategies Inc. (TSSI) on this software, which is an efficient means of bringing WGL and STIL digital simulation vector formats into PXI systems, a task which previously required custom software development.
Pricing ranges from $2499 each for the digital insertion switches to $23,999 for the RF vector signal generator. All products in the suite are available now.