Test & Measurement

RF tests integrated into production lines

21st October 2019
Mick Elliott

A test handler from 6TL Engineering is said to be the first system on the market integrating RF tests into production lines. In addition, its modular approach offers the possibility of adding more test stations into a production line to work coordinated and in parallel to reduce test cycle times.

As an evolution of the 6TL33 model, the 6TL36 has been developed as a high-end solution to the latest challenges set out by the IoT and the manufacturing of connected products.

The 6TL36 test handler is able to perform to a device under test all the common electronics production tests (MDA, ICT, Functional Test and Boundary Scan), but it can also integrate a radio frequency shielding box providing an attenuation of 55dB/6GHz, meaning that Radio Frequency tests in the line can also be performed.

With these capabilities, the 6TL36 test handler is presented as the “best fit option” to test inline any product with any technology, including those featuring wireless protocols.

The test platform is designed to be installed in production lines with a modular conception: up to six test handlers can be integrated together in series forming a group to meet manufacturing volume needs.

This flexibility is achieved thanks to an independent traceability system controlling the assignment of each PCBA arriving to the group of handlers to the most appropriate module.

Each test handler of the group works independently. It has its own power supply and its own controller to run the test sequences, so if any fault would occur to a single test handler it is possible to disconnect it without interfering the full operation of the group.

There are other advantages in terms of implementation of international standards, process automation and production flexibility:

• Compatibility with SMEMA and Hermes communications protocols. SMEMA controls the interconnection of the machines in the same line, sending information on the status of each platform. The new Hermes protocol, whose development is participated by 6TL, moves forward to the Industry 4.0 for connected factories, offering more data about each connected machine and the PCBs of the line, improving traceability and information obtained from every piece.

• High dynamics transport systems with belt speeds up to 2m/s and handling time under 2 seconds, giving as a result very short transfer times.

• Automatic adjustment of the line conveyors width. The width of the PCBA’s transport belts in the entire test line are adjusted automatically according to the product to be tested.

• Automatic process of PCBAs assignment and placement. An independent controller is responsible of the process to allocate the PCBAs into each machine. An industrial PC in each test handler runs the test sequence, which can be implemented in many different languages (LabVIEW, TestStand, Visual Basic, C#, ATEasy etc.).

When the 6TL36 is equipped with the 55dB/6GHz shielding box, each new product to be tested will only need a set of plates to be adapted into the test handler. The shielding box will then become a part of the test handler, which means substantial recurrent savings.

The product dependent test fixture can be easily and safely exchanged in less than two minutes and it is not needed to neither turn off the test handler nor restarting the system to complete this operation.

The test handler has been nominated for a productronica 2019 Innovation Award.

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