Easy and flexible PCB panel testing

November 27, 2019 //By M. Bader, J. Holzinger, O. Rohrbacher, Digitaltest GmbH
Easy and flexible PCB panel testing
PCB panelization has become a trend in electronic manufacturing in recent years, because of its power to save on resources. When it comes to testing on the panel, however, many refrained, as long as faults could come back into the board during the separation process. There are now consistent solutions available that facilitate the overall process and are flexibly adaptable.

Anyone who works with panel testing will be familiar with the long list of associated challenges: difficult and time-consuming panel definition, increasing complexity in fixture construction, including complicated fixture wiring, and complex test program debugging. In addition, mixed panels and associated testing can usually only be generated manually and with a great deal of effort. In production, the panel test often turns into a bottleneck, which limits the overall production speed.

Obviously defective individual circuits are difficult or even impossible to exclude from the test. In addition, there is a high level of rejects, since faults can often only be assigned to the entire panel, but not to the individual board. Testing individual circuits - for example in the case of field returns- is another difficulty, as well as lacking traceability possibilities. However, now different software tools are bringing about useful solutions:

Panel definition made easy

Before you can test hardware on the panel, you face the challenge of defining a panel. What PCB should be positioned where and how? Previously, this was tedious manual work. With the C-LINK DTM software solution from Digitaltest classic CAD formats can now be imported into a panel generator. Individual circuits can then simply be assigned on the panel with a mouse click. Rotations of 0.1-degree increments, mirroring, as well as a combination of mirroring and rotation are just as possible as the generation of mixed panels, i.e. a panel with different circuits (Fig. 1). The software also handles the numbering of the individual boards.

Figure 1: Panel definition via software (C-LINK DTM): Individual circuits can be assigned on the panel with a mouse click. Rotations in 0.1 degree increments, mirroring, as well as combinations of mirroring and rotation are just as possible as the generation of mixed panels.

In order to ensure traceability, it is important that the numbering of the individual circuits on the panel is the same for all process steps of the PCB production. In addition, it is possible to merge the panel via a merge function into an entire PCB board.

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