Prior the manufactured unit is deployed for service, it has to be vigorously tested for its functionality, design, safety to name few. In test engineering, Unit Under Test UUT is required to pass validation and verification testing. Validation tests are often difficult to automate as the results are exploratory. We are often asking question if product could satisfy the requirements rather asking if product requirements are satisfied. Its like asking ‘Have we manufactured the right product?’. Such subjective nature often makes them difficult to automate. On the other hand, Verification is about questioning the manufacturing system’s capabilities and proving the functionality and system testing of the UUT. It is more like asking ‘Have we manufactured the product right?’. Luckily there are standards now in place within test industry to categorise test types and methods to fully satisfy requirements of verification testing. Most common verification tests also depends on level at development stage product is being tested. There is testing requirement when product is at prototype stage. We might as well call it ‘Prototype Testing’. Once product is converted to final unit that would be used in service, it has to go through mass manufacturing plants and developed in large quantities. We must perform further production testing for final products to ensure product has not deviated from prototype model by systems and processes in manufacturing line. Today, there are various system architectures, automation lines that are built particularly to automate batch testing of hundreds of UUT passing production lines at fast rates. In ideal world, we would like UUT to arrive at a test station in an automated manner, all conditions to test i.e electrical connections, environmental conditions etc should be automatically established. Automated Test Equipment would then run series of test required to confirm the system and functionality testing of UUT. More advanced Automated Test Equipment today even create user-friendly pdf reports showing pass and file criteria for individual tests. UUT are automatically routed to pass/fail locations after passing the Automated Test Equipment.
Benefits of Automated Testing
Indeed there are tons of benefits of automated testing described above. We are sure Automated Test Equipment would run similar tests repeatedly so we have consistency in the system. Modern ATE could complete series of tests one after another logging all results and automatically configuring the process and equipment for subsequent products. We surely improve on cost due to automatic repeatability and achieve better return on investment.
Components of Automated Test Equipment
Automated test equipment would vary based on type of UUT. UUT could be PC motherboard, Electronic ADC card, Feedback sensor with EPROM chip, electrical motor drive, it might as well be an air craft actuator or engine pump. For a production line that manufacturers motor drives at large quantity, typical ATE might include Oscilloscopes, Network and Power Analysers, Signal Generators, Digital Multimeters etc. We might need couple of motors to ensure we drive motors at speed and achieve torque that we expect through motor. We might need to source an environmental chamber to ensure drive would perform at extreme climatic conditions that it might get exposed to. For instance, air craft motor drives are required to be placed in environmental chambers that could be adjusted to conditions at 30,000m altitude and testers take full test reports for all test steps and ensures results and performance is not deteriorated under different environmental conditions. At the heart of any Automated Test Equipment is the automated software that is usually a sequencer that set up all conditions, ensure everything is safe and all results are recorded even backed up to company’s servers and available if required in years time.
In this article, I talked about Automated Test Equipment used in Test industry. If you require assistance with designing test solution for your new innovation, be it an electronic gadget or an electromechanical device, then please feel free to get in touch using the details on this website.