Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Automated test system producing ground-breaking broadband solutions.

An automated test system installed by the Peak Group at SMT Developments is helping Genesis Technical Systems, an award-winning supplier of broadband solutions based on ground-breaking technology, to guarantee the quality of its mBond® system for delivering affordable superfast broadband over existing copper networks.

Stefan McSweeney, Senior Account Manager, SMT Development Ltd., demonstrates the Peak automated test system for testing the mBond broadband system from Genesis Technical Systems

The Peak System is being used by SMT Developments, the manufacturing subcontractor used by Genesis, to test the three key circuit boards used in mBond: the DC/DC power-supply module, the controller daughterboard module and the base motherboard module. It forms part of a three-pronged approach to quality testing developed by Genesis, which also includes automated optical inspection (AOI) and final functional testing.

Stefan McSweeney, Senior Account Manager at SMT Developments, believes that the Peak test system offers long-term benefits to SMT’s business: “The improved quality of the finished product that results from in-depth testing enables us to meet all the relevant quality standards to the extent that the products meet customer requirements prior to shipment. This in turn helps us to ship the right products at the right time.”

Genesis Technical Systems, with headquarters in Calgary, Canada and Great Britain, was established with the aim of providing affordable, sustainable and life-enhancing broadband technologies to enable telecoms operators to cost-effectively deliver ultrafast mobile and fixed broadband services over existing copper networks whilst meeting increasing broadband traffic demands. Its two key products are mBond®, which operates by aggregating the bandwidths of a number of different copper pairs in existing installations, and DSL Rings®, which combines a convergence node with home gateways for servicing multiple users in remote and rural areas. Between them, these two systems offer “plug & play” solutions to eliminate the cost and installation challenges presented by urban-based fibre networks.

“Investing in test is key to ensuring our product quality”, says Seán Scharffenorth, Engineering Director of Genesis: “Everything we do is aimed at minimising the chance of in-field failures, and we have spared no effort in implementing the best test procedures at all stages in the production process.”

In implementing the test system, Peak had to produce a single extra-large test fixture that could accommodate positions for the DC/DC power-supply module, the paired base motherboard and controller daughterboard modules on one probe bed. Control of the test process was carried out by National Instruments TestStand software with LabView modules controlling all aspects of the test routine. A power supply and digital multimeter are mounted externally to the test fixture, and the switching module and a Goepel boundary-scan system are fitted internally.

Sensors detect which modules are fitted to the fixture, and the operator uses a barcode system to ensure that all the PCB modules are automatically populated to the correct fields and that the correct test is selected to be executed.

The actual tests that are carried out include pre-power tests, power-on tests, boundary-scan testing, I2C and NAND flash programming including MAC address programming. The system also includes operational software and the generation of manufacturing data, as well as an interface to SMT Developments’ 123 insight MRP Software and label production system.

“As well as helping to ensure the quality of our end product, the investment in automated test has significantly boosted our productivity”, says Seán Scharffenorth: “Not only is the whole testing process time dramatically improved: we are also able to carry out multiple tests that would be impossible with traditional discrete test instruments, allowing us to significantly increase test coverage.”

Peak worked closely with Genesis and test software supplier Simplicity AI to ensure that the system met the test procedures laid down by Genesis and a quality finished product. This work has been funded by Genesis as the design house, who have ownership of the system and deploy it to SMT.

“This partnership approach forms the basis of a very important business model for Peak”, says Karl Miles, Peak’s Technical Sales Manager: “It means that we have applied our specialist knowledge of test hardware and software to meet the specifications laid down by Genesis, as well as supporting the contract manufacturer, SMT Developments, in implementing the final test solution in the production environment.”

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