Designing Flexible Functional Test Systems

Designing Flexible Functional Test Systems

When it comes to testing nearly any product, the person who developed the functional test system and wrote the test software code is usually not the same person performing the testing. This creates a challenge in a dynamic testing environment where the functional tests required frequently fluctuate. For these instances, a flexible functional test system is ideal, but designing one is a challenging task.

The test system needs a software architecture that is sophisticated enough to perform all the required tasks, yet simple enough to be operated and configured by a variety of technicians and non-programmers in the organization. In the following example, we were tasked with replacing a semiconductor client’s manual functional test system for hybrid components using bench instruments with an automated test system. See the test system hardware block diagram below. 

Using NI TestStand and LabVIEW software, this architecture enables non-programmers to quickly assemble and configure new custom test sequences, which allows for production testing of many different families of hybrid semiconductor components. We also used the NI TestStand executive to execute the test sequences, perform test step pass/fail evaluation, and archive the final test results for future analysis.

By using this custom functional test system, our client saved more than $100,000 compared to buying an entry-level commercially available mixed signal tester. Additionally, this functional test system greatly reduces the product test cycle time versus the previous method of manual testing, bringing ongoing test cost savings to this company. It also allows the non-programmers in the test lab to easily configure custom tests through the flexible test architecture, easy-to-use development environment, intuitive production GUI, simple instrument and product interchangeability, and custom configurable instruments and test steps.

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