Here at DfR Solutions, we perform hundreds of design review projects a year. Sometimes companies come to us when they are considering a new electronic product and have only the initial designs. In other instances, companies approach us only after their product has already been configured, requesting a review of the final design before moving forward to the manufacturing stage. Ideally for the client, they are in the former group, partnering with us as early in design process as possible. It’s much more efficient (time- and cost-sensitive) to gather all available information and thoroughly check for potential failures of a design before nailing parts down, rather than to complete an assembly only to discover it doesn’t function properly in its use case scenarios.
In a previous DfR Solutions insight titled Best Practices in Test Plan Preparation, we discussed some of the most important techniques and philosophies when preparing to develop a testing plan for electronic products. What makes those techniques so powerful is that they are ubiquitous: with any design, reviewing the bill of materials, identifying use environments and assessing failure history are both applicable and crucial.
However, what that article did not discuss is that there are considerations that need to be applied in very specific ways. The following are strategies for test plan development that are dependent on specific use cases, parameters, goals, configurations and limitations. While they are just as powerful as our Best Practices, they require a thorough understanding of your product and a clear and agreed-upon set of goals throughout the supply chain.
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.
In my conversations with product engineers and designers, I often come across people who feel confident that their lithium-ion batteries are safe because they passed standards-based safety tests. If that is indeed the case, then why did major global companies experience thermal events even after having passed compliance tests? And that brings up a bigger question – are standards-based tests such as UL safety tests sufficient to guarantee lithium-ion battery safety?