Product test plans are critical to the success of a new product or technology. Preparing a viable test plan involves several steps to properly identify the requirements for the tests. While many test parameters will vary from product to product, there are elements of the methodology for a test plan approach that remain consistent. These include the necessity for a BOM review to determine part limitations, assessing the field environmental conditions so they can be properly mapped to the tests implemented, and the impact of failure history, should it exist. The objective is to develop a test plan that does not stress the assembly to a level where a failure might not be experienced in the field.
As the smartphone market has stagnated, semiconductor manufacturers have started to pivot their focus to automotive electronics to find the next large volume growth opportunity. This adjustment is for good reason: while smartphone volumes have not changed in over three years, automotive electronics will be the fastest growing market for integrated circuits until at least 2021.
To be successful in the competitive landscape that is automotive electronics, semiconductor manufacturers must account for differences in how automotive OEMs and their suppliers qualify integrated circuits compared to consumer products. While the differences are numerous, a key factor is the critical importance of board level reliability testing.
Electric vehicles are practically computers on wheels. New innovations such as active and passive safety systems, electric propulsion, and semi and fully autonomous vehicles have all contributed to an increase in the usage of electronics in automotive applications. More importantly, automotive designers must still adhere to the same size and packaging constraints to ensure vehicles’ size and weight does not increase. To resolve this dilemma, automotive designers often rely on components being tightly placed on both sides of the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) to ensure the most efficient use of board space.
Many companies work together to design electronic systems. During the qualification process, there is a lot of back and forth between the final users (mostly OEMs or manufacturers) and the suppliers. In the ideal world, the more information that is shared between both parties, the more likely they are to produce reliable and safe products. In reality, two companies can’t openly share all the design details due to intellectual property considerations. The circuit card designer does not want to share the board details with a prospective customer. Simultaneously, to protect new product ideas, the systems integrator may not want to share use environment details with the board designers. The need for both parties to protect their IP and stay competitive makes it hard to collaborate.
One of the key problems in today’s electronics industry is the constant changes in needs and deliverables. Today’s electronic devices are smaller and faster and are constantly exposed to changing environmental conditions. With more people putting electronics closer to a human body in the form of wearables such as iPhones, Fitbits, or heart monitors, electronics designers and manufacturers need to ensure the safety and reliability of these devices to avoid costly mistakes.
Here, at DfR Solutions we work with hundreds of electronics manufacturers across industries and have noticed an increasing number of companies reporting early life failures in the field or unexpected failures in tests due to solder fatigue. They're noticing that the classic solder fatigue calculation models do not seem to capture all the possible risks of failure.
“After a failure” investigations are typically performed to identify root cause of failure, calculate risk exposure and develop mitigation and remediation solutions. Just like with “before a failure” investigation, there are two specific test methods that could be applied to either of the two categories – non-destructive physical analysis (NPA) and destructive physical analysis (DPA).
The technologies currently available to or being developed for the automotive industry are staggering. With these advancements comes the need to examine the types of processing units appropriate to power the autonomous vehicle electronics functionality.