How to manage test equipment in R&D?

Since productivity is the new watchword in R&D, the testing phase of a design needs to be done correctly and with all requisite equipment available when needed. Microlease, a new member of DSP Valley, can help you with that.

By Microlease

Today, the semiconductor sector influences more industry sectors than any other aspect of the electronics industry. It permeates just about every electronic device on the market today and is heavily influenced by the need to deliver products to market rapidly, thereby capturing early market share.

Hence productivity is the new watchword in R&D. A recent report by McKinsey and Company also showed there is a very strong connection between small, highly focussed, R&D teams based on a single site and high levels of productivity.

While often the focus of productivity is on the design phase, the design is not market-ready until testing and verification is complete, so this project phase must also be completed efficiently.

More diverse test requirements

Productivity requires the testing phase to be correctly and fully resourced in terms of equipment, with all requisite equipment being available when needed. However in smaller R&D teams there is scant spare resource to manage the planning and sourcing of test equipment without impacting productivity. Likewise, multi-site and larger teams face similar issues where the costs of inefficient test management are higher.

As companies seek greater versatility to enhance their competitiveness, so test requirements become more diverse. For example, the test requirements for a microcontroller are vastly different to those for a sensor device, yet many fabless semiconductor companies could well be required to develop technologies as diverse as this to meet customer demand.

Productivity requires the testing phase to be correctly and fully resourced.

Microlease test equipment

This versatility impacts test equipment requirements significantly. Even though modern simulation tools are highly sophisticated, every project requires detailed hardware testing to verify the simulation and assess parametric spread due to the production process. Teams of all sizes increase productivity with the required equipment being available when and where it is needed and budget holders benefit from greater visibility of available equipment, ensuring duplicate purchases are avoided.

Accuracy needed

Characterising highly complex and dense modern integrated circuits (IC) is challenging, often made more complex by the presence of analogue and digital circuitry within the same device. Many designers have to push design rules to the absolute limit to meet design criteria and / or gain a competitive advantage – this necessitates highly accurate physical layer testing.

Power is critical in many applications as functionality increases and IC size decreases. Understanding power consumption accurately in different operating modes is critical to predicting battery lifetime in modern portable applications. Portable devices increasingly include communications, requiring RF test to be brought into the mix.

Since design rules are pushed to the absolute limit, highly accurate physical layer testing is needed.

Microlease test equipment

This broad-based testing requires a myriad of test equipment that may have a limited lifespan. In fact, the more specialist or niche an instrument is, the greater the likelihood that it will be used for a short time to characterise or verify a new semiconductor and then become redundant, tying up cash and requiring maintenance, storage and insurance – all of which drain the R&D budget.

Microlease as your tester

A simplistic ‘one size fits all’ approach of simply purchasing necessary test equipment is, at best, expensive and most likely unsuccessful. Successful, productive, companies are reconsidering the way they manage test equipment and leading semiconductor organisations of all sizes have already benefitted greatly from working with third party test equipment management specialists.

A one size fits all approach is expensive and most likely unsuccessful.

One of the leading specialist test equipment companies is Microlease. With over forty years of experience in supplying expertise and test equipment to a wide variety of companies on a global basis, Microlease clearly understands the needs of the industry. With the ability to offer a wide range of services including sales, leasing, used equipment and asset management, Microlease can provide a flexible, bespoke solution whatever the project needs. Their LEO Asset Management software offers large (and small) teams the ability to track availability and utilisation of equipment, wherever it may be.