What’s next in Printed Circuit Board Test & Inspection?

Most contract manufacturers have a preferred strategy for testing and inspecting loaded printed circuit boards (PCBs) as a part of their standard manufacturing process. Many large EMS companies typically have approved vendor lists (AVL) for equipment that they specify to ensure global site to site compatibility and to minimize overall training and product support costs. Some customers specify test and inspection systems not on the AVL to be deployed in production where they supply fixtures and software to the EMS companies to test and inspect the manufacturing process used on their products. O.E.M. companies that specify their test and inspection equipment use those tools as a quality gate to measure their manufacturers’ capability and performance. The types of equipment that are typically specified by O.E.Ms are in-circuit test (ICT), flying probe test (FPT), functional test (FT), boundary scan (JTAG), automated optical inspection (AOI) and automated x-ray inspection (AXI).

A key vital issue that New Product Introduction (NPI) centers encounter is how to ensure that PCBs being manufactured for the very first time are assembled correctly and to the customers’ specifications. There are a number of different approaches using a combination of the above mentioned techniques that are often utilized but they vary from company to company. In an NPI environment the ability to build a high quality product using a reliable, repeatable 3D inspection technique that is fast, extremely accurate and requires minimal setup costs would seem to be a tremendous technical advantage. Is there an advanced 3D inspection technology on the horizon that could bring these benefits together and deliver a product to the electronic manufacturing marketplace?

Let’s imagine for a moment that there is an alternative 3D inspection solution available in the marketplace that is complementary to FT, FPT, ICT and JTAG. This inspection solution could utilize PCB CAD data and the bill of materials (BOM) to create an accurate three dimensional image of the PCB that captures all of the boards’ physical attributes. Then imagine that a high quality 3D inspection program could be generated, debugged and green lighted in less than an hour with extremely low false fail rates. The system would be capable of performing accurate measurements down to the micron level at the X (length), Y (width) and the Z (height) axis. What if this system could also capture process defects that can’t be detected using a combination of current technology AOI, AXI or ICT systems and is capable of meeting or exceeding IPC 610 quality standards. Okay, I’ll stop dreaming for the moment.

Here at TEAM A.T.E. we specialize in buying and selling test and inspection solutions. We are always proactively looking for better ways to serve our customers. When the time comes for you to purchase that next generation test or inspection solution TEAM will be better prepared to assist you in the process of finding and buying the right systems for ramping up your production capacity or selling your idle surplus assets. Please give us a call and challenge us to find the right solution for your company.

Mike Blackler
V.P. Sales & Marketing