Solution Engineering In Test And Measurement Industry


The optimal design of a system to test, integrate, develop the software, and ensure that it meets the needs of the end customer requires a dedicated team. End customers choose vendors with a complete design and the ability to ship instead of bits and pieces.

The Indian electronics industry ecosystem has witnessed many changes in the last few years. Whether it is the wireless industry or aerospace/defense or consumer electronics or IoT, the ecosystem has evolved to have local design, validation, and manufacturing capabilities.

The central government’s vision is to surpass the earlier target of $300 billion electronics manufacturing and export by 2025-26. The startup culture in this ecosystem has evolved from being software-centric to hardware design and manufacturing. The make India drive by the central government has given impetus to local design and manufacturing.

Test requirements for design and manufacture are evolving and require optimization to save costs in order to be competitive. People in these roles understand their testing requirements, but many times they lack test system design and configuration knowledge. Early on these engineers and managers believed or believed what the test equipment provider suggested; many times it is over-engineered which increases the cost of testing.

Vendors providing test equipment need to increase their skill sets to understand customers’ pain points in design and manufacture and provide a complete solution. This includes equipment, fixturing, switching (RF and DC), wiring, racking, test software development and optimization, and ERP connectivity.

For manufacturing, OEM or EMS companies set up assembly lines based on volume. For line balancing, each stage of production must be designed so that the product moves along the assembly line at the right speed to optimize flow.

From a testing perspective, there are usually two stages in a typical assembly line apart from an offline QA. While the PCB is filled with components, it should be tested for open/short, where a nail system bed is used. Then, if there are components/circuits that require calibration, a test system is required for this purpose.

A case in point is mobile manufacturing where the RF board needs to be calibrated for power and frequency. Once this is done, in the final assembly stage, the product must undergo a functional test before it is packaged and sent to the customer. Both of these test systems must be carefully designed and optimized so that quality and cost are optimized.

For the design stages, customers usually perform many tests in manual mode, but at the end of the design cycle they go through repeatability and reproducibility (R&R), which is a good candidate for a test automation where usually the complete suite of tests was performed. Here, reducing test time is not critical, it is more important to cover all tests and upload test data to the database.

A critical aspect of a test system is whether the DUT is in PCB form and the connection to the test system is through a connector. The design of the fixture must be rigid and precise, because the test points of the PCBs must be in contact precisely to avoid any scratching of the adjacent connections. Once the connection is established, the test software will sequence each test based on the test plan.

When the DUT is assembled, it should go for a functional test defined by the design team. Here, the test system must provide power to the DUT, provide all electrical interfaces (DC, digital, RF), and run the test plan that programs the various instruments in the test rack to provide the necessary which are the test conditions of the DUT.

Sometimes, the DUT itself needs to be programmed via a digital interface (USB, serial, custom digital IO) that puts it in test mode. Then the tests are run according to a predetermined sequence, the test data is collected and analyzed, and it is decided whether it passes or fails.

The optimal design of a test system, integration, software development, and ensuring that it meets the needs of the end customer requires a dedicated team with a systems engineer to understand the test requirements. of the customer and a project manager to manage the project life cycle. Test equipment vendors and their channel partners are preparing their manpower infrastructure to meet this demand and increase the required investment.

A test system that solves a customer’s real needs has many components—test instruments, cables and connectors, fixtures, racks, PCs with customized software. A single vendor, whether OEM or a channel partner, cannot have all these components and must source from different sources.

Customers have finally matured again to choose vendors with this solution design and ability to ship instead of bits and pieces. A vendor that provides a complete solution has the responsibility to ensure that the end customer’s objectives are met — a complete test system with agreed deliverables such as test plan, optimized test time , connecting test data to ERP, support phase, etc.

There are many test and measurement vendors and their distributors who feel this pulse of customers regarding their need for a total solution and add this capability.

Pathy Iyer an electronics enthusiast based in Bengaluru and Coimbatore. He serves HP/Agilent/Keysight and assists customers with their complete testing needs including test system design, integration and test software development and optimization. He is currently helping a company dealing with test equipment to form a solutions group to better serve their customers. He also served the academic community by helping with curriculum topics, establishing Center of Excellence labs for research while at Keysight Technologies.


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