Selective Board Staging improves efficiency

2021-03-29  |  5 min read 

Not all printed circuit board assemblies (PCBAs) are square or rectangle in shape and that makes automated handling of the PCBA in the manufacturing line a challenge. To transport a PCBA along a conveyor line, it requires straight edges on both sides of the circuit board for the conveyor belt to support. This is why contract electronic manufacturers build odd shaped PCBAs into a quadrilateral panel to maintain straight edges for transporting along the conveyor belts. It is more cost effective to produce small PCBAs in larger panels and then cut each of them out later. This saves material costs, reduces material wastage, and allow easier handling in the assembly process.

Panel testing in automotive industry

Same or different types of boards placed together make a large panel. Combining different types of boards into one panel of PCBA is common in the automotive world. The interior and exterior design aesthetics of a vehicle often result in odd shapes and sizes for its PCBAs that go into the electronic control units. The electronics behind the dashboard of a vehicle consists of a few PCBAs with different functions, shapes, and sizes. Signal and taillights modules consist of several smaller PCBAs that can fit into the sharp corners or bend with the smooth curvatures of the vehicle outlook.

On the other hand, PCBAs like power steering and engine control units fitted in areas not directly visible to the driver have fewer requirements to maintain aesthetics in design. Panels for these boards consist of the same board types and are typically quadrilateral in shape.

Selective Board Staging

In my earlier post on “Is parallel testing really faster?”, I discussed the importance of line balancing to achieve a smooth and effective production throughput. Being able to quickly configure the inline in-circuit test stations to handle different combinations of test processes gives you more flexibility and allows more products to make use of the same production line setup. You may need to set up the tester to test two boards or panels at a time, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot change the setup to cater for a different product line later.

The selective board staging feature on the FlexiCore inline in-circuit test handler system allows you to configure the handler to operate in a single board handling mode to test large panel or to operate in dual board handling mode for smaller panels.

Selecting the operating modes

The Handler Control Panel application controls all the handler operations. Select between Single or Dual DUT mode in the “Ctrl Parameter” interface of the application and then click on the Send Ctrl Params button at the top to send the settings to the handler firmware. There is no need to restart the handler or the handler control panel application.

Manual selection of Single or Dual board staging

Manual Setting procedure

  1. Select Single or Dual DUT operating mode
  2. Click on Send Ctrl Params to send setting to firmware
  3. Tower light flashes once indicates the receipt of the control parameters setting.

For a secure and automated setup, add a SCPI command into the beginning of your test plan to apply to the handler. In that way, there is minimum risk of a wrong setup. Using the SCPI command ensures that every time a test operation starts, the operating mode is being set correctly.

SCPI command selection for Single or Dual board staging

Send this command before the ToFirstRun command in your testplan. When ToFirstRun is issued, Handler Control Panel automatically updates the setting to the handler firmware and then starts the test operation.  This ensures that the operation mode select matches the test plan. It’s just that simple.

I will share more details on the command sequence to operate a dual board handler system in future posts.

Stay tuned and stay healthy!

Ping me up with your questions or comments!