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Charting the Design-and-Test Future

The relationship between design and test is becoming increasingly important at the semiconductor, PCB, and system levels. The emergence of 3-D ICs is driving the need to design test access into semiconductor dies and die stacks, the need for embedded-systems designers to get products to market on time necessitates that they be able to debug prototypes quickly, and military systems designers are contending with the DoD’s desire for embedded ATE.

The article “Design for Test Tools Address Stacked Dies” in this issue discusses 3-D IC test, and it quotes Stephen Pateras of Mentor Graphics as saying Mentor’s customers designing 3-D devices are concerned about quality at the die level as well as at the stacked-die package level. To address test concerns, customers are expanding their use of design-for-test techniques like BIST and scan-pattern compression, and at the stack level, they may need to design-in TSVs dedicated to test functions.

At the PCB level, embedded-system hardware designers can speed time to market if they can close the gap between design creation and production test. As described by Bob Potock, vice president of marketing at Kozio, design creation can extend from schematic entry to signal-integrity analysis. Production test, on the other hand, involves structural and functional test and flash-device programming. The gap between those two, he said, centers on prototype test and verification, for which designers have typically had to build their own test platforms. As described in this issue’s Product Picks section, Kozio offers designers an operating system dedicated to prototype debug and test.

The military’s interest in bridging design and test was the focus of a plenary session at the recent Autotestcon. Mike Ellis of Northrop Grumman kicked off the panel discussion titled “Requirements and Technology Enablers for Supporting Next-Generation Weapons” by describing the evolution of ATE. In the 1970s, he said, we had “real man’s” ATE, not the small-footprint versions of today. And ATE may shrink even further, with the DoD envisioning embedded ATE, he said.

Following Ellis’s introduction, Stephen Sargeant, retired U.S. Air Force major general and now CEO of Geotest-Marvin Test Systems, described initiatives such as the Cooperative Avionics Test Bed, known as CATBird, for the F-35 Lightning II. CATBird is a modified Boeing 737-300 that serves as a flying laboratory for F-35 avionics, enabling the design and test of the F-35’s fusion capabilities while reducing cost and risk. Chris Clendenin, director of support equipment services at Boeing, noted that test-equipment customers need affordability, commonality, and standardization along with emulation of legacy test systems.

David J. Salisbury, director for CINS business development at Northrop Grumman, commented on the link between sensors and weapons, noting that cloud storage and computing will play a role in handling the data that sensors acquire. Anthony J. Minei, deputy director for test systems, services, and support at Lockheed Martin, predicted a renewed focus on DFT, onboard diagnostics, and health monitoring.

Eric Starkloff, vice president for product marketing at National Instruments, concluded the session by noting that the explosion of PC technology in the 1980s and 1990s drove COTS penetration into military applications. Now, he said, test equipment will become more software-centric as the equipment under test becomes more software-centric. Today, he said, we deal with systems of systems, and to test one system, you must emulate the others in real time. That, he said, is quite different from traditional stimulus-and-response ATE.

As Starkloff concluded, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between design and test.

Rick Nelson
Executive Editor
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