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Firstronic's Juarez, Mexico facility recently increased its test engineering staff to four engineers capable of building, programming and maintaining standardized test platforms.
"Our goal has been to develop a modular test platform that could be configured for all end of line test activities, plus any required programming and packing. Combining these operations in a single workstation minimizes handling and transport, while eliminating the possibility that product could get mislabeled in the packing process. Our bar code system will lock out the operator if the right process flow isn't followed, which is a further check and balance," said Steve Fraser, Firstronic's Vice President of Operations.
The basic test platform is a standard rack and stack configuration with additional modules that are integrated to support customer-required testing. Add-on modules include cameras for optical character recognition (OCR) and bar code scanning, electromechanical actuators with pneumatic logic to test keypad driven devices, and even a burn-in oven providing powered test during a temperature cycle range from 85 degree C to -40 degrees C in less than an hour.
The standardized platform is based on Labview software and the Firstronic test engineering team has created a suite of software that integrates with it. Four platforms are now running in the Juarez facility,and one has been deployed in Grand Rapids, Michigan and another is in Shenzhen, China.
"Our team is actually supporting our global network of facilities. For example, we've created identically configured platforms in Juarez and Shenzhen for one automotive electronic shifter product. We are building product for all of North America here and Shenzhen is building product for all of Asia. Our test platforms are identical which makes it easy to compare trends and focus on improvement initiatives,” Fraser added.
Standardization also simplifies maintenance and enhances redundancy. Shifts in demand can be accommodated by shifting product among testers. As a result of this ability to balance capacity, fewer testers are required and overall test cost is reduced. Fixture cost is low. Fixtureless test is possible if the board is designed with built-in self-tests capable of supporting fault analysis. The advantage of fixtureless test is that it does test the connector and will find an open circuit where test via fixture might not, plus it eliminates the non-recurring engineering (NRE) cost of a fixture. However, if the correct diagnostics aren't in place, debug and troubleshooting can take longer and increase cost when failures are present.
"The biggest advantage we see is that when our test engineering group is engaged in developing this level of testing they truly understand the product. This leads to more robust design for test (DFT) recommendations and optimizes fault diagnostic programming," said Fraser.