We live in an ever-changing environment of evolution. From analog, carburation-driven automobiles and tube televisions to the fully electronic fly-by-wire automobiles and UHD televisions of today, we had to evolve. Today you can speak to your car and your home, executing commands by just your voice. More than once during my weekly meeting with my colleague Rick Meraw, I hear him telling Alexa to “shut up.” AI has become routine in smart homes and smart cars. Siri, Alexa, and others can learn your specific voice and perform tasks on command. Pretty slick, especially when you think about the computers of Apollo 13 that now could be powered by your latest generation of cellphone.
It is amazing what the collaborative minds of men and women over the years have accomplished. As technology has evolved, so have our minds. More thinking out of the box, making the improbable probable, and never giving up.
So, how are we achieving these goals? We are working smarter. Processes are robust, waste is minimized, and employees are given the chance to improve and strive to their full potential. We are building better and smarter machines, incorporating more intelligence and features, and adapting to the volumes demanded by this everchanging audience thirsty for the next new breakthrough in technology. But how are we doing this regarding electrical test (ET)?
We are adapting. Automation is the key. ET is usually a final quality process prior to shipping. Thinking out of the box again has made the argument that test can and should be placed “in-line” during the manufacturing process. Just like AOI, ET can provide beneficial outcomes earlier in the manufacturing process, rather than just at the end. This can be very beneficial post-plating after outer strip and etch, especially in the sequential lamination process. Imagine being able to capture sample panels to be screened with a 4-wire Kelvin test, for example, before returning them to the line. Think out of the box. I’m sure a process engineer just had an amazing idea. Defects can be found early and dispositioned before any further costly processes are done on the panel.
Speaking of 4-wire Kelvin, evolution is making the incorporation of this popular test into fixture technology. Historically this has required on-bench testing or flying probe. Putting this test into the fixture arena is extremely beneficial with the volumes processed, especially commercial products such as cellphones. Fixture technology is improving too. It has not gone by the way of the dodo. It is now possible to test down in the 20–35-micron range while incorporating the 4-wire test.
Now, stepping back to AI. You likely cannot talk to your test machine (yet). You could, but your coworkers may look at you funny. It will not be in the too distant future where you will be able to. However, AI is alive and well in the AOI/AVI theatre. Although you cannot speak to the machines, they can learn from their activities and make beneficial decisions based on the criteria they have been told and results they obtain from their scans. This negates the extra time and eyeballing of nuisance false errors that just slow down the entire process. With the high-resolution CCD cameras, they do not tire and find anomalies that the human eye may miss.
From my crystal ball, the evolutionary curve is still strong. Just like in the last 52 years since Apollo 13, we have seen amazing things. I predict the future is just as bright and I think evolution will accelerate as our brilliant minds continue to collaborate, think outside the box, and make extraordinary discoveries in what was once just plain impossible.
This column originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine.