Functional Testing with Application-Specific Automatic Testing Equipment
Taking breaths away at the most recent Geneva Motor Show, the prototype Porsche 918 Spyder does 0 to 62 mph in 3.2 seconds while getting up to 78 mpg with the help of electric motors that generate 218 horsepower. Here, technology achieves its promise to deliver progress in an environmentally friendly way. But how do you test such new automotive technology for production volumes? It’s not like Porsche engineers can purchase a commercially available tester for its complicated motive system. The same challenge awaits other emerging and green technologies within industries such as bio-med, alternative energy, smart appliances, communications, consumer electronics and defense.
Project managers within these fields now increasingly look to custom designed and manufactured automatic testing equipment (ATE) that can functionally test new units that employ advanced technologies. By going beyond simple parameter testing that limits the use of commercial off the shelf (COTS) testers, specialty-built functional ATE helps guarantee high intrinsic availability and long lived performance “to spec” in the field, thereby facilitating the acceptance and success of new technologies in the marketplace.
Improving quality while saving time and money Today’s advanced aerospace, medical, defense and arguably, communications, alternative power, and automotive applications—all require mission-critical operation at times. Only specifically designed, function-testing ATE can help guarantee such demanding levels of performance that approach 0.99 intrinsic availability. For this reason, many contract-driven customer acceptance tests now require some degree of functional testing at the very top of the test
Functional ATE succeeds by creating an environment for the module or system being
tested that closely mimics what will be encountered in the field, and then puts that unit under test through its paces to ensure it reacts properly at the right time. The most complete testing suites can bring the system up, issue and respond to commands and controls in real time, and shut the system down as per the product specifications. Catalog-available test equipment cannot duplicate such dynamic testing since it basically only performs simple parameter testing of tolerances and output levels.
“The automated test equipment that Autotest Company built for us helps us to do a more thorough job of performing checks that you might skip if you were doing it manually,” says Joe Basta PMP, Project Manager for Spacelabs Healthcare based in Issaquah, Washington, a provider of the world’s most respected medical devices and services. “For example, I might manually check a power supply at three or four different places, measuring the voltage over load at a given temperature. But the fact of the matter is, the automated functional testing equipment can do several tests really fast and find potential points of failure that a technician couldn’t do on his own. The ATE even has the functionality to test communications, which is important for us since some of our monitors communicate with a hospital’s network.
” For 33 years, San Antonio, Texas based Autotest has designed, manufactured and integrated ATE hardware, software and fixtures to produce unique turnkey testing systems for a broad spectrum of applications and industries.
Functional ATE can help weed out variations in parts, important because one component might have the same output value as another but still not function correctly at the next higher level. Without such functional automation, numerous man-hours get consumed in going down the test pyramid to recheck every new part.
“Manufacturing made a change to a transistor to address an obsolescence issue in one of our monitors” recalls Basta. “Following this change the unit no longer passed the ATE test by a very mall amount. The easy out would have been to adjust the tolerance slightly and move on. We had been building this part for many years though and had never had a failure in this area. Engineering analysis of the circuit showed that the new transistor did not have the same characteristics as the old part. The Autotest functional tester had correctly identified an issue with the device under test. This issue would most likely have been missed in a manual test because this particular parameter probably would not have even been tested. It is exactly this type of issue that makes automated testing so valuable; not only is it much faster but it can be much more thorough and very repeatable.
” Minimizing expenses with commercially available ATE Recognizing the need for functional testing, some manufacturers have elected to have inhouse engineering kluge together a black box to do a functional test. However, when it comes to creating a system that can be placed on the plant floor to test production quantities, the do-it-yourself approach often falters for lack of time, money and on-going support.
“We didn’t build a funcional tester inhouse because our core competency is in medical monitoring,” Basta says. “Neither did we have sufficient manufacturing and engineering resources to devote to designing our own test quipment.
” Adding to the difficulty is the complexity of modern equipment. Even with something as simple as a power supply, the characteristic of the loads are different than what they used to be, entailing immediate demands for high current without any significant drop in voltage.
“We were manually testing switchmode power supplies on the bench, which was very slow and there was always a chance for human errors,” says Scott Whiteman, a test engineer with Lineage Power in Tustin, California. “As our customer demands increased and the power supplies got more complicated it was clear that we could no longer manually test our products. Many of these supplies had up to 15 outputs and each one required multiple tests, resulting in 50 to 100 tests per power supply. At that point it was no longer practical to manually test our products so we contacted Autotest for a solution.
” In order for ATE to meet the functional testing needs of any given product, information sharing between the ATE manufacturer and the customer becomes allimportant. Such collaboration paid off when Lineage contacted Autotest.
“Their engineers designed a test system specifically built around our needs,” Whiteman says. “They configured a software program so that the one tester could perform several functions as would occur under use. The outputs were checked under load in real time. This helped us meet our internal requirements as well as the customer acceptance requirements.
” The cost-effectiveness of functional ATE comes from taking standard test equipment and rebuilding and reconfiguring it in response to the requirements of the specific application at hand. In use at Autotest, Automatic Program Generator for Windows™, Universal Tester Software serves as an excellent platform from which to build a complete programming and system control environment. The application modules of APG for Windows™ are dynamically linked for multi-tasking, providing the test engineer comprehensive control over the tester, programs and the unit under test.
Functional ATE adapts to unique The flexibility of such turnkey ATE systems also pays off within specialty markets where projects might be large in size and complexity but not high in volume, making it hard to justify using company resources to create a testing suite from scratch.
Functional testing with ATE became the only option when Lockheed Martin’s Naval Electronics and Surveillance Systems division needed to test the motor control module for its MK 41 surface vertical launch (VLS) system. The project involved the integration of military critical tasks and codes with industry standardized test scenarios, yet the necessary instrumentation and program sequencing for functional testing had never been created before.
“The ATE had to test the system that opens the hatch for the missile to exit,” says
Robert Cox, Autotest’s President. “The complexity demanded that we work together closely with the Lockheed engineers to develop a functional testing product that could test their power supply and motor control modules, as well as the proprietary Ethernet bus used in communicating with their Instrumentation.
” Utilizing hardware interfaces and software application programming with APG
for Windows software, real time control and display capabilities were created for testing, troubleshooting and characterization. The MK 41 VLS is now utilized around the world by 11 countries in 16 different ship classes.
ITT Power Solutions, a division of ITT Corporation, Inc., experienced similar success
with the functional testing of the power supplies for its Night Vision Generation I-III image intensifier tubes.
“That power supply was not much bigger than a nickel, but it had a tremendous amount of echnology built into it to deliver the high voltage necessary to accelerate the light coming in,” Cox says. “In order to emulate the low-light environment this little bitty thing operates in, we ended up building some pretty large PC boards with some unique circuitry.
” ITT’s night vision system is currently the choice of the U.S. Army and the Marines in locations throughout the world.
ATE Communications Are Smart Power Supplies Eating Your Lunch ?
By Jim Pennington
Test Engineers may be finding it more and more difficult to keep up with the growing and changing demands created by the never ending craze for "High(er) Tech" power supplies. I suspect that to the volume manufacturers of power supplies, the battle seems unending. There is, of course, the always-present demand for greater IC integration, involving higher component and power density.
Notwithstanding these expected and ongoing developments with product design and performance requirements, there's a fairly new "trick" available for helping engineers to better accomplish these goals. The "trick" is to make power supplies that "talk" as well as "listen". Communication "enhancements" enable the power supply to assume more responsibility for monitoring and governing its own "health".
As Applications Engineering Manager for Autotest Company, I see a lot of new stuff - and over the years have witnessed the migration of many new technologies into the world of power supplies. Our Functional ATE systems have always required specialized Unit Under Test (UUT) communications. These needs have been addressed with a variety of solutions involving protocols, busses, and advanced levels of component integration and complexity. For some high tech Department of Defense (DOD) products, we employed what have become now proven and accepted solutions such as RS232, RS 485, IEEE 802.3 Ethernet, IEEE 488, MIL 1553, I2C, and many others. These technologies can simply read a serial number from a register or actually direct the Power Supply through a complete routine of calibration and internal verification. In such cases, the ATE's hardware or equipment responsibilities may be simple, but the communication process, coordination and test sequencing can be quite complex.
Along with the continuing trend for making the power supplies more technologically capable, powerful, versatile and complex there's a rapidly expanding area of expansion in the field of self-diagnostics and maintenance. We are also seeing more and more the use of processors in power supplies ... to make them more versatile and flexible for diverse applications. A typical application is with power supplies that are employed as sub-systems of a more complex DOD product. These power supplies are often asked to provide much more than just delivering system power. They are often integrated and designed to monitor, react and respond to variable and changing requirements of a much more complex system.
At Autotest, we first addressed these more complex phenomena with the introduction of our UPS ATE. The Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), by design, has a responsibility to communicate with the computer to which it is delivering backup power. UPS manufacturers, taking advantage of the need for UPSs to have communication and processing ability decided to let the processor do other things as well, like calibrate output parameters and provide functional controls for supporting them. Built In Test (BIT) functionality is becoming more common with power supplies, making them capable of being programmed to sequence through an internally controlled test process and to report the results. With the integration of a processor and a bi-directional, software-controlled communication bus to manage this process, significant additional diagnostics and information can be provided.
The latest communication trend in communications for commercial power supplies is in the application of the IIC Bus (Inter-Integrated Circuit), or I2C as it has come to be called. The I2C Bus is an essentially a two-wire, low to medium speed, communication bus developed by Philips Semiconductors in the early 1980s. It was created to provide a low-cost chip-to-chip communication links for such things as volume and contrast controls in radios and televisions. Over the past two decades, the I2C has expanded its communications role to include power supplies.
So how do Power Supply ATE manufacturers, such as Autotest, address the changing needs of the Test Engineer? Communication has always been an integral part of Autotest's ATEs. We use IEEE 488 extensively to control instrumentation, making communication integral with all our systems. Our open-ended software and language simplifies development of Windows supported communication as an inherent function of test programs for the UUT. Perhaps our greatest challenge has been in developing the language library to simplify the process of building flexible and comprehensive routines into tests. The I2C posed a challenge in that regard. A commercially available PC bus controller, however, provided a simple solution for adapting the I2C to developing hardware and software integration for controlling communication as a part of testing the power supply. Our APG for WindowsTM software, implementing and integrating new protocols and busses, has provided test engineers with an automated test programming and system control environment tailored to the needs of most any Power Supply. It allows a Test Engineer to design simple solutions for complex routines for engaging a power supply to whatever type of interaction may be required.
In essence, the marriage between power supplies and functional testing is a longstanding and always developing relationship. To coin a proven metaphor, "the key to any good marriage is communication."
US Based Autotest Co. has a (Shanghai) China Sales/Service Facility
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS (May 1, 2006) Autotest Co.of San Antonio, TX, USA, today announced the opening of a branch office in Shanghai, China. The new facility provides for more timely technical service for Autotest’s existing China and East Asia based customers as well as local sales and product development for new business and applications.
“Chinese Technology growth and development are driving much of Autotest’s own growth in East Asia," said Michael McGregor, VP for Sales and Marketing with the U.S. based Autotest Co. "Autotest is a worldwide technology leader. We've established some very successful business relationships with China based companies over the years by providing timely power supply testing solutions and support for our customers. We're excited about this expansion in China because it allows us to better serve and continue to contribute to the success of our Chinese and East Asian customers in an even more timely fashion.”
Address and contact information for the new offices is Autotest Company/China, Tomson Center A1415, 188 Zhangyang Road, Shanghai, China 200122, Phone: 86-21-58772099, fax: 86-21-58761433.
About Autotest Company
Autotest Company designs, manufactures and markets Automated Test Equipment (ATE), including power supply, Fuel Cell and UPS test products and systems for the power source industry.
For more information visit the Autotest (China) Website at www.autotest.net.cn,
Lockheed Martin Awards Autotest Company New Contract for MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) Project
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS (February 7, 2003) Autotest Company, San Antonio, TX, today announced that Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics and Surveillance Systems (NE&SS)-Marine Systems in Baltimore has awarded Autotest a new contract for multi-functional Automated Test Equipment (ATE) units for application with the Lockheed-Martin MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS).
The new award includes additional stand alone ATE's for Power Supply Control Modules (PSCM) as well as upgrades to the existing Autotest ATE used for the VLS Program's MCM (Motor Control Module). The new and expanded award is valued at over a quarter of a million ($250,000) additional US dollars for the Autotest produced MK41 ATE systems. Other MK 41 modules being tested with Autotest developed ATE equipment include: Cell Control Module (CCM); Hazard Control Module (HCM); and the Power Module Tray Assembly (PMTA).
The MK 41 VLS is the surface naval missile launcher of choice in the U.S. Navy and around the world, utilized by 11 countries in 16 different ship classes. The multi-million dollar MK 41 VLS project involves the integration of military critical tasks and codes with proven industry standardized test scenarios. The multi-faceted project includes hardware interfaces and software application programming using Autotest’s Automated Program Generator (APG) for Windows software. Real time control and display capabilities are utilized for testing, troubleshooting and characterization. With the Autotest system, a MK 41 VLS Unit Under Test (UUT) program can be enhanced with dialogue control and the seamless integration of non-standard resources and standard instrumentation.
Michael McGregor, Autotest vice president for sales and marketing, noted: "Autotest Company is pleased that Lockheed Martin has involved us again on this multi-faceted and critical MK 41 VLS project. This reinforces our commitment to provide them with integrated, sensitive and complex military requirements with time tested industry accepted tests and protocols in a seamless, cost-effective and timely manner".
About Lockheed Martin
Specializing in the MK41 VLS, systems integration and advanced hull form technologies, NE&SS – Marine Systems is a unit of Lockheed Martin Corporation. Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global enterprise principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture and integration of advanced-technology systems, products and services. The company’s core businesses are systems integration, space, aeronautics and technology services.
About Autotest Company
Autotest Company designs, manufactures and markets Automated Test Equipment (ATE), power supply, Fuel Cell and UPS test products and systems for the power source industry. AUTOTEST, the AUTOTEST logo, and APG for Windows are trademarks of Autotest Company. Windows is a trademark of Microsoft Corp
ITT Awards Autotest Company $3 Million Contract for Night Vision Program
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS (October 7, 2006) Autotest Company, San Antonio, Texas, today announced that ITT Power Solutions in West Springfield, Massachusetts has awarded Autotest a new contract for multi-functional Automated Test Equipment (ATE) units for High Voltage application associated with the Night Vision program.
The new award includes multiple standalone ATE's for High Voltage Power Supplies Gen I, Gen II, and Gen III Series power supplies. This contract is worth well over $1 million dollars and represents a departure from in-house testers to specialized Automated Test Equipment supportable by ITT. The ITT power supplies are gated and non-gated NV Series image intensifier tubes.
The ITT Night Vision Gen I, Gen II, and Gen III image intensifier tubes are the choice of the U.S. Army and Marines and around the world. The million dollar project involves the integration of military critical tasks and codes with proven industry standardized test scenarios. The multi-faceted project includes hardware interfaces and software application programming using Autotest’s Automated Program Generator (APG) for Windows software. Real time control and display capabilities are utilized for testing, troubleshooting and characterization. With the Autotest system, a NV Unit Under Test (UUT) program can be enhanced with dialogue control and the seamless integration of non-standard resources and standard instrumentation.
Michael McGregor, Autotest Vice President for Sales and Marketing, noted: "Autotest Company is pleased to work with a military contractor of the caliber of ITT Power Solutions on this very technical and life critical Night Vision project. This reinforces our commitment to provide our military with integrated, sensitive and complex requirements with time tested industry accepted tests and protocols in a seamless, cost-effective and timely manner."
ITT Power Solutions www.ittpowersolutions.com is an ISO9001:2000 certified company located in West Springfield, Massachusetts founded in 1974 and is owned by ITT Corporation (www.itt.com). ITT Power Solutions manufactures custom power supplies and electronic components for military, medical and commercial markets in its 150,000 square foot facility. The company is a recognized innovator and supplier of night vision power supply technology and channel electron multipliers (CEMs) for mass spectrometry instrumentation.
ITT Corporation, Inc. (http://www.itt.com) supplies advanced technology products and services in key markets including: fluid and water management including water treatment; defense communication, opto-electronics, information technology and services; electronic interconnects and switches; and other specialty products. Headquartered in White Plains, NY, the company generated $7.4 billion in 2005 sales. In addition to the New York Stock Exchange, ITT Industries stock is traded on the Midwest, Pacific, Paris, London and Frankfurt exchanges.
Autotest Company designs, manufactures and markets Automated Test Equipment (ATE), power supply, Fuel Cell and UPS test products and systems for the power source industry. AUTOTEST, the AUTOTEST logo, and APG for Windows are trademarks of Autotest Company. Windows is a trademark of Microsoft Corp.