Capital Investment for In-Circuit Test Equipment
Investment is needed for the test platform, the fixture and the test program. Test platforms can be used for almost any board, if they are sophistated enough. The high-end test system suppliers offer upgrades if the board complexity (e.g. number of components) increase. The test fixture and the test programme are always specific for the board and require quite some additional initial investment.
The amortisation of the capital invested in ICT test equipment depends mainly on the output of tested boards per time period. High throughput allows to maximize the capacity utilization of the purchased test platform and therefore the costs of a single PCB. Normally this decreases staff costs also.
We do not see a real business case for contract testing by external partners, at least not for the moment and not for in-circuit test.
Combination with FCT or ISP
The main saving in production is achieved when processes can be eliminated or when multiple processes can be combined in one step with less than the combined cycle time.
ICT can be combined with functional test (e.g. LED test) or with in-system programming. Functional test normally requires additional investment. However handling costs can be saved when both tests can be combined in one fixture and test system.
In-system programming of a microcontroller that is already mounted on a PCB is quite efficient and can be done in the same fixture.
The biggest trigger for the reduction of cycle time is to test boards in a panel with multiple boards. However there is a trade-off between the investment in more sophisticated test systems with board-specific fixtures and the saving of cycle time.
The evaluation of the cycle time is not always easy. It depends on the test coverage of course and the complexity of the board. For manufacturing companies with internal test staff it is important to benchmark the performance with external professionals. It can be surprising to see that there is quite a hugh potential in some projects, especially in projects with ISP.