The Role of Functional Test Fixtures in the Hardware Testing Ecosystem

The testing ecosystem for hardware, such as printed circuit boards, can be a complex one, and many different processes have roles to play.

On this episode of On Deck with Circuit Check, host Daniel Litwin and Russ Carter, Product Line Manager for Circuit Check, explored functional test fixtures, or FTFs.

FTFs, which apply full operational power to a PCB during testing to see if the hardware will function as intended, are useful in testing hardware designed to be used in a range of industries, from healthcare to automotive, computer networking and more.

“Basically, what we’re doing is validating performance – it can be everything from a circuit board to a final assembly of a product,” Carter said. “We’re validating the functionality of a product. Having said that, the fixture can vary. It could be anything from a cable that plugs into a product and is hooked up to electronic test equipment … to a functional fixture where we go in and actually insert connectors or, using like a side-access unit, engage and do a through-connector test.”

However, there is an equally wide range of considerations that are crucial to getting the most out of the use of FTFs.

What kinds of partnerships help make the process for design, quote and integration as seamless as possible? Where do FTFs fit alongside other elements of the testing ecosystem, such as ICT fixtures? How do FTF challenges differ depending on if an organization is an OEM or contract manufacturer, and which metrics matter most when designing a future-proof FTF solution?

“Usually, there’s a strategy that’s employed. … The strategy could consist of optical inspection, X-ray inspection, in-circuit test, [etc.],” Carter said. “They’ll develop that strategy based on what the circuit board it, so it varies. … Functional test, typically, is done after those other types of tests have been completed.”

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