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Flying Probe Test – Streamlined and Efficient Circuit Board Testing Solution

The flying probe test is geared towards testing printed circuit boards with precision, efficiency, and accuracy. This testing technique has huge benefits as compared to conventional approaches. This article will focus on the benefits of a flying probe test in regards to saving resources and time during testing.

Table of Contents

What Is a Flying Probe Test?

Flying probe test is one of the PCBA testing methods. It measures the electrical integrity and functionality of printed circuit boards. Through the application of robotic probes moving across the surface of the printed circuit board, various test points are analyzed for distinct checks and measurements. 

Flying Probe Test
Flying Probe Test

Conventional testing required longer setup times and custom fixtures. As for the flying probe test, movable probes are applied for easy access to different sections of a printed circuit board. 

Aside from being budget-friendly, the flying probe test also offers flexibility and efficiency in testing. This is why it’s the perfect choice for complex circuit boards having densely packed components, prototype development, and low-volume production.

How Do You Use a Flying Probe Test?

There are several steps to using a flying probe test, which include the following: 

Test Plan Creation
Based on the exact requirements of the printed circuit board, create a test plan. Determine the test points, define the sequence of the tests to be performed, and measure the parameters. 

PCB Alignment
The PCB is affixed on the test fixture, which guarantees stability and correct alignment. Flying probes move freely on the printed circuit board’s surface. 

Probe Setup
The flying probe system is based on the test plan. The probes are programmed to shift to their desired locations on the printed circuit board. They can equally use the required current and voltage to note measurements. 

Probe Contact and Movement
The probes are set to make precise contact with the appropriate test points on a printed circuit board. They can reach either the through-hole or surface-mount components. This enables connections for the purpose of carrying out various electrical tests. 

Testing and Measurement
The preferred test plan will determine what kind of tests and measurements are conducted. Some of the things checked for include signal integrity, voltage levels, inductance, capacitance, shorts, opens, and resistance. 

Test Result Analysis
The test results and data measured are put together and checked carefully. Data interpretation is assisted by software and algorithms. Faults and anomalies are identified, which later helps in creating a detailed test report. 

Troubleshooting and Debugging
In the event that issues arise from the test results, diagnostic steps are undertaken. This is all about locating where the problem arises on the printed circuit board, finding out the appropriate corrective measures, and finding out the potential reasons for the problem for purposes of avoidance. 

Test Report
After the flying probe test, a test report is released, which contains the test results, problems found, and any other recommendations that would necessitate further actions.

What Are the Benefits of a Flying Probe Test?

Benefits of Flying Probe Test
Benefits of Flying Probe Test

Some of the key benefits of a flying probe test when compared to conventional methods include:

  • Quick setup – the setup process for a flying probe test is simplified, hence no need for customized fixtures. This ensures that the iteration is easier and the tests rapid. Feedback and adjustments will also be quicker.
  • Safe testing – it is a non-destructive test that doesn’t stress the board nor use too much force. This cuts down on the chances of damages taking place on sensitive parts of a PCB.
  • Accessibility – the probes can get to areas that were otherwise inaccessible to conventional testing methods. This feature is particularly ideal for testing high-density boards with miniature form factors.
  • Versatility – this test can be used with different PCBs. It can work with several electrical parameters, including capacitance, inductance, signal integrity, voltage, resistance, and continuity.
  • Cost and time efficiency – the lack of custom fixtures ensures the process is not only cost-effective but also faster. This particularly favors low-volume productions and development.
  • Flexibility – the movable probes can gain access to numerous test points on the board. This ensures that the flying probe test can check complicated circuit boards that either have irregular shapes or closely-aligned components.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Flying Probe Test?

Even though the flying probe test has many advantages, there are still several deterrents, including the following:

  • The test requires skilled engineers and technicians who can program the test plan with precision and accuracy.
  • The initial investment to purchase a flying probe test system is relatively high. Its maintenance and the cost of a professional should also be considered.
  • The test may not detect all faults and errors, as there may still be need for other tests, such as environmental testing and functional testing.
  • The flying probe test has a limited test coverage, as it may not be ideal for detecting errors in component alignment or solder joint quality. Other complementary tests will be required.
  • Compared to other high-volume testing methods, the flying probe test is relatively slower.

What Is the Difference Between a Flying Probe and an ICT Test?

Difference Between a Flying Probe and an ICT Test
Difference Between a Flying Probe and an ICT Test

The main differences between the flying probe test and the ICT test lie in the following:

  • Flexibility and accessibility – a flying probe test has better accessibility and flexibility to test points as compared to an ICT test.
  • Setup time and cost – while the ICT test requires custom fixtures, the flying probe test doesn’t. This makes the latter faster and cheaper to set up.
  • Testing speed – ICT test is faster in testing than the flying probe test.
  • Test coverage – ICT test goes over a larger coverage than the flying probe test, thus, allowing for the detection of more defects.
  • Testing methodology – the flying probe test uses movable probes that don’t rely on custom fixtures, unlike the ICT test which relies on fixtures.
ICT Testing VS Flying Probe Testing – PCB Assembly

How Much Does a Flying Probe Machine Cost?

The manufacturer, features, model, specifications, and any additional options will determine how much a flying probe machine costs. The cost typically varies from $30,000 to north of $200,000.

How to Find Flying Probe Tester Manufacturers?

Flying Probe Tester Manufacturers
Flying Probe Tester Manufacturers

Use the following tips to find the appropriate flying probe tester manufacturers:

  • Carry out research online.
  • Leverage trade shows and exhibitions.
  • Use industry networks and associations.
  • Take advantage of recommendations and referrals.
  • Use manufacturer websites.
  • Online platforms and directories can also help in the search.

Considerations When Looking for Flying Probe Test Services

Flying Probe Test Services
Flying Probe Test Services

When searching for flying probe test services, you need to consider the following:

  • Consider the pricing and cost of the service provider.
  • Customer support from the service provider.
  • Confidentiality and data security.
  • Reporting and quality control.
  • Turnaround time.
  • Test coverage and limitations.
  • Test capabilities.
  • The service provider’s experience and expertise in the industry.

Final Thoughts

In summary, that’s about everything that matters when it comes to a flying probe test. At IBE, we are ready to offer you all professional services related to PCB and PCBA. Our extended stay in this industry has granted us the most sought-after experience and expertise. Therefore, feel free to reach out to us via our website and get a quote for your required services.

FAQ

A flying probe test measures the electrical integrity and functionality of printed circuit boards. Through the application of robotic probes moving across the surface of the printed circuit board, various test points are analyzed for distinct checks and measurements.

  • Quick setup
  • Safe testing
  • Accessibility
  • Versatility
  • Cost and time efficiency
  • Cost and time efficiency

The main differences between the flying probe test and the ICT test lie in the following:

Flexibility and accessibility – a flying probe test has better accessibility and flexibility to test points as compared to an ICT test.
Setup time and cost – while the ICT test requires custom fixtures, the flying probe test doesn’t. This makes the latter faster and cheaper to set up.
Testing speed – ICT test is faster in testing than the flying probe test.
Test coverage – ICT test goes over a larger coverage than the flying probe test, thus, allowing for the detection of more defects.
Testing methodology – the flying probe test uses movable probes that don’t rely on custom fixtures, unlike the ICT test which relies on fixtures.

Kerstin

Author

Kerstin

Hi, I am Kerstin, graduating from one of a well- known university in China and I has a master's degree in physics. I have more than 5 year's experience as a professional engineer in PCB industry and expertise in PCB design, PCB assembly, PCB manufacturing, etc. I am committed to offering services and solutions about PCB/PCBA for various industries for their projects with professional knowledge. During 5 years of engineering career, I have done different circuit designing projects for different companies such as electronics, industry and medical devices, winning a lot of reputation among many customers. Selected as an outstanding employee of IBE every year. I'm always here to provide you with fast, reliable, quality services about PCB/PCBA.

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