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Dome Seminar Design for Testability, November 17th

Submitter: Albert-Jan Boonstra
Description: Electronic printed circuit board (PCB) designs nowadays may contain over 20 layers, may be very densely packed with components, operate at high clock frequencies, and may include components having over 2000 connections. Even with a carefully balanced design and thought-through test strategy it is not always easy to test and debug these systems. Small systems often are not simple either and even simple systems may pose challenges if these need to be produced at a scale of millions.

In order to address these challenges, the ASTRON & IBM Centre for Exascale Technology in Dwingeloo organised a one-day seminar on design for testability, including talks and demonstrations. This was done together with Variass, Batenburg, Transfer, and JTAG technologies, companies active in the field of electronics production, design, testing and tooling. During the day, a series of talks were given addressing the "why", the "what", and the "how" of testing. Possibilities and limitations of different testing approaches were explained, and practical experience in testing was reported on. These included for example optical inspection (AOI) to check the presence of misplaced components, X-ray tests to check soldering of the connections under a chip (for example the so-called ball grid array), electrical probes ("flying probe") to check connections electrically, and JTAG boundary scan to probe the system from within chips that support the IEEE Standard 1149.1-1990.

The talks gave a very nice overview of the coverage of the different testing approaches and techniques for each of the design and production phases. Not surprisingly there is no "silver bullet" fitting all designs, and for each design and application a tradeoff must be made between testability, lead time and cost. Indeed, in the summary session all parties agreed that he mantra of the day had been "early involvement" of the design and production companies in order to get an optimal result. With this message we all went home after a very interesting day.
Copyright: H.J.Stiepel / ASTRON
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