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Testing is a pretty essential step for PCB manufacturing process, and it will prevent the bugs and issues during manufacturing. And PCB testing will also influence the performance and quality of the finished board. In this passage we will get into the PCB testing methods, please follow the content below to learn more information.

Why PCB Testing Is Necessary?

Testing is a crucial part of the development cycle for PCBs. When PCB testing is conducted throughout the production cycle, it can help save money and prevent issues when it comes to the final production run.

Some design analysis techniques can be used during the early stages to help minimize major issues during the manufacturing process, but there’s also a wide range of PCB testing methods that can be used on physical boards. These tests, run on prototypes or small-scale assemblies, look most closely at potential shorts, solder joint issues and functionality, ensuring that each tested PCB will function as intended.

Benefits of PCB Testing

Many companies see PCB testing as an absolute must due to the many advantages it provides them. Check out some of the following top advantages of PCB testing:

Bug identification: The primary benefit of PCB testing is that it helps identify problems in PCBs. Whether the issue lies in functionality, manufacturability or elsewhere, PCB tests identify issues in a PCB design so that designers can adjust accordingly.

Time savings: PCB testing in the early stages can help save time in the long run, allowing designers to identify major issues during the prototyping stage. Thorough testing enables designers to determine the root cause of each problem posed quickly and easily, making adjustments so that they can move on with production at a faster rate and reduce product lead-time.

Cost reduction: PCB testing prevents wasteful production of faulty products by using prototypes and small-scale assemblies to test the products. By completing thorough testing early in the design process, designers can prevent wasteful full-scale assemblies of faulty PCBs, ensuring that the design is as flawless as possible before it goes into production. This step helps to significantly reduce production costs.

Fewer returned products: When companies conduct PCB testing, they lower the chances of selling defective products or those that don’t meet performance standards. As a result, they don’t see as many returned products, leading to reduced costs associated with refunding customers and handling defective goods. Additionally, having fewer returned products can result in higher customer satisfaction and an improved company reputation.

Increased safety: Since PCBs are often used in essential electronic technologies, their failure can cause major issues for a company’s productivity or an organization’s ability to perform essential services. A defective PCB could cause a fire, potentially putting those near it in danger. Testing prior to manufacturing can also ensure machines and workers aren’t damaged or injured due to an improper design during production.

While thorough testing isn’t necessary for all types of PCBs, especially matured products well into their product life cycle, the majority of new PCB designs need robust and frequent testing of the design process. By establishing an appropriate PCB testing procedure for your organization’s needs, you can experience the benefits of PCB testing.

Types of PCB Testing Methods

Several PCB testing methods are available, and no single one will catch every problem or meet the requirements of every designer. Each testing method should be considered closely to determine if it meets the specific needs of your manufacturing environment. Some factors to consider include the type of product you’re testing, the problems you’re testing for and the reliability of the test method. To give you an overview of the testing methods available, we’ve summarized the main qualities of four popular types of PCB testing methods below:

1. In-Circuit Test (ICT)

In-circuit testing is a popular PCB testing method that many PCB manufacturers prefer to employ, and it can find 98% of faults. This testing method uses special PCB testing steps and equipment, including:

In-circuit tester: The tester system contains a matrix of hundreds or thousands of drivers and sensors, which perform the measurements for the test.

Fixture: A fixture connects to the in-circuit tester and is the part that interacts directly with the board being tested. This fixture looks like a bed of nails and is designed specifically for the board in question. Each “nail,” or sensor point, connects to relevant points on the test board, feeding information back to the tester. Fixtures are generally the most expensive part of this system.

Software: Software for the tester instructs the system on what tests to perform for each type of board being tested and dictates the parameters for a pass or fail.

Using the ICT method, a manufacturer can test individual components and measure their performance, regardless of the other components attached to them. Generally, this type of testing is best for 3analog circuits since it’s best at measuring resistance, capacitance and other analog measures. Additionally, the cost of the equipment means that this testing method is best suited for the final testing of stable, high-volume products, not for low-volume productions or early testing stages where the design may change multiple times.

2. Fixtureless In-Circuit Test (FICT)/Flying Probe Test

The fixtureless in-circuit test (FICT), also known as the flying probe test, is a type of ICT that operates without the custom fixtures, reducing the overall cost of the test. First introduced in 1986, FICT uses a simple fixture to hold the board while test pins move around and test relevant points on it using a software-controlled program. Since its introduction, FICT has gained widespread use throughout the electronics manufacturing industry for its versatility.

FICT testing is used for the same things as traditional ICT, but because of the way it goes about testing, it offers different advantages and disadvantages. While FICT is able to adapt to new boards quickly, easily and cost-effectively, with a simple programming change, it tends to be slower than the traditional ICT. This quality makes it an ideal testing method for small-production tests and prototype testing but less effective for large-scale production.

3. Functional Circuit Test

A functional circuit test is exactly what it sounds like — it tests the function of the circuit. This type of testing always comes at the end of the manufacturing plan, using a functional tester to check whether a finished PCB performs to specifications.

Some answers to common questions about functional circuit tests and how they work can be found below:

How do functional testers work? Functional testers come in several types but generally share the same function — they simulate the final environment in which the PCB is supposed to function. Functional testers usually do so by interfacing with the PCB via its test-probe points or edge connectors and testing to certify that the PCB functions according to design specifications.

Are functional circuits the same as ICTs? In some ways, functional circuit tests are similar to ICTs in that they use connectors to attach to the board. In the case of functional circuit testers, they use pogo pin devices to connect to the PCB and generally need fewer pins than an ICT fixture. The test equipment then runs programs to test the PCB, ensuring that the equipment functions exactly as intended.

When do functional circuit tests occur? As previously stated, functional circuit tests are the last type of test to complete in a PCB manufacturing plan, ensuring that the product going out functions according to specifications.

What does a functional circuit test evaluate? Generally, functional circuit tests just look at the product’s functionality as a whole and grade it on a pass or fail basis. As a result, it’s not an ideal testing method for early prototypes since it doesn’t identify details about what’s wrong with the product.

4. Boundary Scan Testing

The boundary scan test looks at the wire lines on PCBs and is widely used as a way to test integrated circuits when it isn’t possible to reach all the nodes of the circuit. In this type of test, cells are placed in the leads from the silicon to the external pins, testing the functionality of the board.

The big differentiating quality of this type of test is its ability to assess a board without reaching all of its nodes. This quality is an important one for evaluating integrated circuits with multiple layers and high density since these types of PCBs have been becoming more common in recent years.

In fact, this testing method is quite versatile and able to be used for several applications, including system-level tests, memory testing, flash programming and central processing unit (CPU) emulation, among other functions. It’s commonly used in field service to detect problems in functioning systems.

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