Flying Probe Testing is becoming more popular due to testing technology improvements. A Flying Probe tester uses agile robotic test probes to access and test circuit boards that would otherwise be inaccessible to fixture-based testers. The test provides full coverage of open/shorts, solder joints, component placement and values.
Advantages of Flying Probe:
- No extra cost for making the fixtures as required in ICT.
- Programming time is very minimal, a couple to few days so customers can quickly check their designs.
- Quick and easy way to test the prototype and proof of concept for their design and help with time to market.
- Easy way to detect shorts, opens, missing components, wrong value components, wrong polarities, thereby cutting the debug time for customers
- Easy change over from one revision of the board to another while it is in prototyping stage where all the debugs are all not complete and customers are making changes on the fly.
- A quick way to test the product while the comprehensive ICT is developed, which takes a couple to few months for a new development.
- Debug time for customers is cut in half or more after flying probe is done because this test already detects most manufacturing defects.
- No extra DFM or data messaging efforts are required for flying probe, reducing the testing time for OEM customers.
Disadvantages of a flying probe test system:
- Speed of operation is slow: When compared to other forms of automated test equipment such as an ICT, the flying probe tester is much slower because the probes have to physical move to each position in turn. For an ICT system all the connections are in place in the fixture
- It may not always possible to make complicated tests: Using early flying probe testers it was not possible to test components beyond passive components or diodes. To achieve higher levels of fault detection technologies such as boundary scan and the use of on-board memory enable more complicated tests to be undertaken. It is necessary to check the performance of the individual flying probe tester to ensure it can meet the requirements.
Balancing the advantages and disadvantages of the flying probe test system, it is ideally suited to prototype applications and also areas where small volume production is undertaken. In view of the test times taken, it is not suitable for volume production applications in view of the test times unless it is used only for sample testing.
Flying probe testers are now widely used throughout the electronics manufacturing industry. They provide a much cheaper and more flexible form of in-circuit test. While these flying probe testers have their limitations, their advantages outweigh these in small volume and prototype applications where their flexibility, low development costs and short development times mean they are ideally suited for these areas.
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