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PCB | January 15, 2009

Combinational test solutions spearhead growth in PCB ATE markets

Printed circuit board automatic test equipment (ATE) has evolved a great deal over the years and now spans a wide range of test and inspection strategies aimed at enhancing the assembly process, improving product quality, and cutting manufacturing costs.
These powerful tools provide the capability to assess the structural integrity of the PCB during manufacture. There exists a wide range of test options, but combination testers prove to be the ideal option, in terms of both productivity and cost effectiveness.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, World Printed Circuit Board Automatic Test Equipment Markets, finds that market earned revenues of over $1.16 billion in 2007 and estimates this to reach $1.85 billion in 2014. "In today's electronic industry, it is highly imperative to have sufficient test coverage to improve product quality, reduce time-to-market and improve manufacturing yields," says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Sujan Sami. "Especially in a situation where device complexity, functionality of chips and circuit board architectures are on a rise; cost-effective and efficient test solutions will be the key, and the right combinational testers expect to play a major role."

As PCB circuits become highly intricate with the use of high-density parts and multi-layer PCBs, testing and defect finding is becoming increasingly complex. Though each of the testing options has its unique capabilities, combination testers have proved to be the most versatile. Manufacturers are faced with the task of determining the most suitable combination of methods to meet specific applications in order to optimize yields.

"The need for more sophisticated products, especially in the extremely demanding automotive and medical industries drives the need for better quality oriented test equipment," notes Sami. "The modular functionality of integrating various types of test equipment expects to surpass the need for individual hardware and software testing moving forward."
One-stop-solutions that offer a combination of functional testing and boundary scan testing are seeing widespread adoption. Though combinational testers are expensive compared to individual tester options, their effective usability provide adequate compensation by reducing the overall testing cost of the PCB.

The market is witnessing growing consolidation, as small regional and local vendors increasingly find it difficult to compete with large global participants and their worldwide outreach that is backed by a vast service network. To sustain market share, local test vendors must expressely cater to the various test segments, especially boundary scan and functional testing, which are expected to witness high growth rates.

Meeting the needs of customers is crucial, and priority areas such as performance, flexibility, and ease-of-use require particular focus. Vendors must offer multi-function ATE equipment with superior quality, while ensuring that costs stay at a minimum. Value-enhanced products, flexible enough to be programmed to support a wide variety of testing applications can guarantee far reaching positive consequences to enable expansion in this intensely competitive marketplace.

Image source: Capinor

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