Board testing with a Flying Probe machine

The Essential Automated PCB Testing Equipment for Digital Manufacturing

Infinity is at once the most liberating and confounding concept. Ideas are limitless and number beyond the boundaries of abstract thought, but one cannot quantify the immeasurable. Any distance can be divided infinitely and the technological advances over the last century or so support this, as each achievement opens the door to another. Perhaps, it is true that anything is possible, provided that the expertise, time and right equipment is available.

The tremendous technological advances humanity has gained are due in large part to the strides made in electronics. Specifically, the continuing improvements in PCBA development. The decreases in size and increases in the functionality of circuit board components have contributed greatly. Equally critical are the processes and equipment that allow for optimization of board design, manufacturing and testing.

Design, manufacturing and testing are typically viewed as separate stages of board development. The highly advanced perspective of digital manufacturing is that this process is best served when the DBT process is viewed as integrated with activities during each stage performed to aid the others. In this article, we shine a light on automated PCB testing equipment and its impact on digital manufacturing.

The Most Important Automated PCB Testing Equipment

The objectives of most PCBA development projects are to build the best boards possible, within any constraints; such as delivery schedule and costs. That means the PCBA should satisfy all functionality, reliability and structural integrity requirements, as well as meet or exceed standards and regulations. There are also design steps—such as adopting and applying your CM’s DFM guidelines, designing for reliability (DFR) and selecting the best materials—these goals cannot be achieved without effective manufacturing testing.

Depending upon your CM, there are many circuit board testing methods that can be performed during manufacturing. Unfortunately, many of these are off-line experiments that will adversely affect the turnaround time for your boards and increase manufacturing costs. For digital manufacturing, efficiency and quality are not inversely proportional to essential testing performed online. Productivity necessitates that your CM has the following equipment.

Essential Automated PCB Testing Equipment

  • Automated Optical Inspection (AOI) machine

AOI equipment and software analysis

AOI image analysis example

The image above illustrates the importance of AOI equipment for PCBA testing and quality control during development. As shown on the left, high fidelity imagery of any aspect of the PCBA layout can be realized, which is essential to inspect the quality of board layout and assembly. To ensure no errors exist, the board and its elements can be viewed in 3Dto evaluate aspects; such as dimensionality from various perspectives.


  • X-ray Inspection machineComparison of X-ray machine and camera


Another key piece of equipment is the X-ray inspection machine. As shown above (right image), this equipment allows for internal viewing of components and the board. Most boards tend to be small and include multiple layers and vias, so this capability is essential to analyze the quality of hole fills and precision of pad and trace alignments within the board.

  • Flying Probe machine

Flying probe automated PCBA testing equipment differs from AOI and X-ray machines in two important respects. First, flying probe tests are used to test functionality, as opposed to inspection for defects. These tests also require that design for test (DFT) procedures; such as test points, be included during design. For the CM to program the machine, specific testing points and expected values are usually required.

The advantages of the testing equipment listed are numerous, and if utilized will significantly improve the quality and reliability of your boards. These gains can be maximally realized if instituted as part of a digital manufacturing process. 

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The Impact of Automated PCB Testing on Digital Manufacturing 

The advantages of digitization are being felt across the industrial landscape and circuit board manufacturing is being similarly affected. The most advanced board manufacturing today is software-based, smart and utilizes automated PCBA testing equipment and processes. Effects on digital manufacturing improve board building efficiency and operational reliability once deployed.

The Benefits of Automated PCB Testing for Digital Manufacturing

    ✓ Faster bring up during development

Quickly performing essential testing for quality during board build reduces the number of iterations required to meet design specifications and the amount of post-manufacturing testing needed. Faster testing turnaround expedites verification and validation of the design for production.

    ✓ Higher yield rates during production

The principal objective during production is the yield rate or the ratio of usable boards to boards produced. Board waste is reduced if testing eliminates errors or defects during prototype development.

    ✓ Lower failure rates in the field

By optimizing board development, automated testing, and production, the likelihood that your PCBAs will fail in the field is low.

Tempo’s Software-Driven Smart Factory Delivers the Industry’s Leading Custom Turnkey PCBA Manufacturing Services
  • Virtual PCBA Contract manufacturing.
  • Rapid, accurate quotes.
  • DFM support from Day 1 of design.
  • Digital Thread Processing with real-time monitoring.
  • Fastest turnaround times in the industry to maximize ROI.
  • QC certified Agile Manufacturing process to support risk management.
  • Standard and Advanced QC testing.
  • Worry-free supply chain continuity.
  • Specialization in rapid prototyping and low-volume production.
  • PCBA development optimization for complex critical system industries like Aerospace, Medical Devices, Automotive, and Industrial.

Tempo Automation leads the industry in fast, high-quality PCBA prototyping and low-volume production. This is due to the digitization of our board build process that includes utilizing advanced automated PCBA testing equipment, which we will apply to ensure that your boards meet the highest standards in quality and structural integrity.

To help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium Designer or Cadence Allegro user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software. For Mentor Pads or other design packages, we furnish DRC information in other CAD formats and Excel.

If you’re ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on automated PCB testing equipment and how it can help improve your development process, contact us.

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