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Why is an ATE Printed Circuit Board significant?

In the world of electronics, when it comes to hardware, a single element such as a resistor could play a fundamental role when it comes to an overall system functionality.The same applies for complex semiconductor components, when they are first released, it is necessary to probe their overall functionality and guarantee its success in the field, for this, it is crucial to test the component, which is handled these days with the use of ATE Printed Circuit Board, a topic that we will cover in this article.

Table of Contents

What is ATE Printed Circuit Board?

What is ATE Printed Circuit Board?

An Automated Test Equipment Printed Circuit Board, or ATE Printed Circuit Board, is a highly complex and multi-layer PCB (with up to 60 layers!) which will test the behavior and performance of a particular semiconductor (commonly named Device Under Test, of DUT) when it is created and launched into the market for the first time, more in particular to Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA), and even Systems on Chip or Systems in Package (SoC and SIPs).

Among the types of ATE Printed Circuit Boards, you will find Probe Cards (for uncut semiconductors and die testing), Burn-in Cards (for aging tests, very similar to HALT testing) and Load Cards (package impedance testing).
The type of ATE Printed Circuit Boards probe card design is based on the type of circuit that will undergo the testing. U-Probes are used for specific memory circuits, Vertical Probes are used for multi-die testings, while MEMS-SP cards test microprocessors and SoC and WLCSP cards are specifically made to testing that kind of wafer chip package.

What are the advantages of ATE Printed Circuit Board?

An ATE Printed Circuit Board represents safety and guarantee that a specific complex package will work under its designed conditions on several environments. Not only that, imagine a complex system consisting of diverse complex semiconductor components that require testing themselves.

In these cases, the ATE Printed Circuit Board is definitely advantageous for having a way to test this intertwined semiconductor-based equipment. This will, in fact, reduce testing times and human errors, which will save costs for the quality assurance with high confidence and accuracy on their results.

What are the applications of ATE Printed Circuit Board?

The extended used of ATE Printed Circuit Boards involves many critical applications market segments such as aerospace, aircraft, military, automotive, medical and telecommunications, in which several ASICs and other complex semiconductors are being used.

It is not only about testing signal integrity for the complex components, but their connectivity among other harsh working components under heavy load conditioning, more on this will be detailed below.

What is ATE Semiconductor?

What is ATE semiconductor?

As stated above, ATE Printed Circuit Boards test very complex semiconductors, which involves (but may not be limited to) Microprocessors, Digital Signal Processing, FPGAs, ASICs, SiPs and SoCs. The main common characteristic for these components is the large number of terminals that need to be tested as well as the complex packaging they consist of, mostly gold lead and ball grid array (BGA), hence the high complexity requirement for ATE Printed Circuit Board design and equipment, which indeed have in their design the know how and experience of highly skilled PCB designers and engineers.

How long does ATE test take?

This question is relative to the usage of the ATE Printed Circuit Board and the required measurements and complexity of the testing that will be performed on each component specifically. Say, for example, we have two FPGAs undergoing testing. While the first one being for the medical market and the second one for a consumer electronics application, the number of features to be tested will differ, hence the time it takes to check the parameters from each. Moreover, low-cost components will not be completely evaluated due to their nature. Therefore, the complexity of the testing will define yield and time as a basis for each independent case.

What are the machine used in ATE Printed Circuit Board?

What are the machine used in ATE Printed Circuit Board?

As a printed circuit board, an ATE Printed Circuit Board requires fabrication and manufacturability. In this case, the board is more complex to fabricate and design as stated due to the toughness properties, size, extremely high number of layers and holding properties for the components to be attached to it.

Therefore, the machinery used in ATE Printed Circuit Board fabrication is dedicated; special ATE PCB pick and place machines in combination with thermal profilers, stencil profilers and cleaning equipment is used on their manufacturing.

What are the components of an ATE system?

What are the components of an ATE system?

When it comes to the ATE Printed Circuit Board ecosystem, the whole ATE equipment includes Digital Storage Oscilloscopes (DSO), multimeters and LCR metering testing equipment, that will be connected to measure the variables from the component connected to the ATE Printed Circuit Board that is placed on an IC tester.

EMI/EMC compliance shall also be tested and also RF properties, and such is the purpose for RF generators and Vector Signal Generators (VSG) in combination with Arbitrary Waveform Generators (AWG). This equipment is combined with DAQs that interface with the workstations and mount servers that might be required in addition per test phase of the ATE system.

How is ATE used?

An ATE provides an output report from the signals read from the different equipment stated above according to the specific model/test the component need to undergo.

This data is then analyzed and compared with the necessary standards (and sometimes combined with big date) to determine the component’s compliance. Depending on the automation line, the ATE can just provide information about a chip feasibility or provide a positive/negative result of a specific batch in order to detect if the chip will be assembled or not on the subsequent PCB fabrication line.

Conclusion

The use of ATE equipment is the most cost saving solution for quality integration and resolution over specific complex subsets on PCB fabrication lines. Although ATE Printed Circuit Boards represent a highly complex design and cost, the return of investment of providing dedicated quality control provides insight when utilizing these kinds of components for safety critical markets. Hopefully, this brief article could provide an explanation for these components and their usability.
you asked we answer

Aerospace, aircraft, military, automotive, medical,telecommunications,etc.

Microprocessors, Digital Signal Processing, FPGAs, ASICs, SiPs, SoCs,etc.

This question is relative to the usage of the ATE Printed Circuit Board and the required measurements and complexity of the testing that will be performed on each component specifically.

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