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Most people have heard of Moore’s Law – named after the CEO of Intel, Gordon Moore – the idea that the number of transistors in an IC will double every 2 years. However what is less known is the “we want more” law, the often repeated demand of every CEO, CFO and manager in the semiconductor industry.

So what is “more”? This can be more functionality, more bandwidth, more processing power, but in the end to all comes down to more profit, more margin and more money.

For those system architects, product engineers, test engineers and lab technicians this will be a familiar demand. But how can this be constantly achieved? Physics dictates certain aspects, current knowledge other parts, but without an adequate testing process none of that matters.

Reducing the cost of test throughout the whole product lifecycle is the key to increased margins and increased profit.

How?

 

 

http://www.ni.com/newsletter/50881/en/

In most large semiconductor organisations there are multiple departments responsible for testing a device, each of which will probably use its own hardware platform which is controlled by its own custom built software modules. Even worse, individuals within each department probably use their own software, stored locally on a laptop or a memory stick.

The sharing of code and hardware is impossible, as everyone — quite literally — is talking in a different language.

By standardising on an industrially accepted platform the total cost of test at every stage of the design and manufacturing process is reduced. It improves familiarity with equipment and reduces an engineer’s setup time. It also simplifies training needs, minimises obsolescence concerns and maximises compatibility between devices. This results in quicker time to market and improved margins.

Adopting LabVIEW as the standard software environment and PXI as the hardware platform means every department uses the same hardware, test bench setups are identical and all code is stored centrally.

Any engineer can sit at any bench and just carry on where they left off, no searching for a missing power source or trying to find the latest version of their program. Test programs can follow the product through the whole development process, allowing for the re-use of previously validated code.

Imagine being able to use the same code in wafer level testing as was used during the validation phase. This alone is a reason to evaluate your current processes.

Some of the Benefits

Code re-use involves the sharing of source code among several users, giving everyone access to the same code base

Disparate
Each department would have to develop and maintain its own software libraries, both for re-use and project specific.

Unified
Re-using code can save hours of development time, time better spent on your products than on the software. By having libraries of thoroughly tested, commented, and maintained code allows engineers to quickly create test programs than can then easily be shared among colleagues.

The hardware used during test dictates not only the types of testing you can do, but also their accuracy and reliability.

Disparate
Having multiple platforms can create issues with having multiple connection protocols (USB/Ethernet/GPIB etc.) maintaining relationships with multiple supplier technical departments, reduction in possible discounts for bulk purchasing and also sharing of hardware between departments becomes difficult.

Unified
Having a single hardware platform has many benefits, including quicker setup, streamlined calibration and reduced communication methods. Having one platform does not mean you have to choose a single vendor, for example if you standardise to an open platform such as PXI, then you can choose from National Instruments, Keysight or Rohde & Schwarz, among others.

Training of current staff and on-boarding of new staff takes time and resources, time that could be better spent

Disparate
If each department has a different WoW then this requires a different on-boarding process for new recruits. It also raises the barrier to entry from other departments, thus reducing staff mobility and knowledge sharing.

Unified
One software platform means one training process, simplified on-boarding and efficient knowledge sharing among colleagues.

Administration is often a hidden cost for most engineers, however it can become quite a burden on those responsible.

Disparate
Maintaining multiple software platforms can be very complicated for IT departments and also an admin burden for purchasing/accounting. Having multiple points of contacts for hardware vendors can create confusion and reduce the chance of discounts for large, single vendor purchases.

Unified
With a single software platform there is only one licensing process, one update process and often a single annual release process. This makes it much easier for your IT department to keep track. Having a single point of contact for hardware purchases, issues, warranty items etc. makes this much simpler for your purchasing department to manage.

 

How Can We Help?

Bring Up

Discover how we can help your Product Engineers work more efficiently

Productisation

Find out how we can help your Test Engineers increase throughput and reduce the cost of test

Sustaining

Fine tuning your testing process is key to creating a higher margin, we can help you with this long term challenge

Why?

Check out how the aerospace industry is adopting a single testing strategy to reduce costs and increase efficiency

Ok, so this is a lot of information to take in and why should you trust us? Well we could give you examples of our achievements, references, case studies etc. but this wouldn’t be an apples to apples comparison. Every company is different; different people, different goals; different budget; different structure and so on. This is why the example above is from Aerospace and not semiconductor, because it’s easier to identify to the difficulties of a different industry that it is to a competitor.

We believe that this is the path to better growth, better profits and better products. Our aim is to guide you along this path, help you over the hurdles and then watch you grow.

This is our “why”, what’s yours?

Are part-time band leaders semi-conductors?

– Anonymous