One of the biggest areas where SMTC provides value for its customers is in the testing and validation afforded through the flying probe test.

There was a time when the most valuable tool for validating a product was the in-circuit test (ICT). But as electronics have continued to decrease in size and increase in computing power, creating a custom test fixture to perform an ICT is no longer always feasible.

Given the smaller footprint of today’s circuit boards –and the fact that companies are not designing for ICT as much anymore –the need for a flying probe test has never been greater.

How is a Flying Probe Test Different?

The size requirements of today’s circuit boards require a different kind of test for validation. Instead of building a fixture to test printed circuit boards in, the flying probe test does exactly that –it flies.

With the ability of some flying probe testers to configure up to 24 different probes, the flying probe test eliminates the need for a test fixture and creates a testing validation tool that can probe the smallest of parts.

With packaging trends requiring more components per square inch and component densities continuing to increase, the ability of a probe to be programmed to make electrical contact at various angles makes it a versatile option to ICT test points as well.

The primary cost advantages are avoiding expensive ICT fixture costs when testing with the prober. The cost disadvantage is found when lot sizes are larger and the cost avoidance of not needing the ICT fixture is off-set by the longer test time taken with the flying probe. Because of this cost/benefit relationship, industries we serve, like the aerospace and defense markets, lean towards flying probe as many of the EAUs and hence lots sizes make it cost effective.

Design stability is another reason we recommend flying probe testing. When programs are young and designs can change, the cost to cut steel for the ICT fixture could be wasted if the OEM changes the design, often rendering the current ICT fixture useless. So, early in a product’s life cycle, considerations are given to the stability of the PCBA when SMTC consults with our customers on the appropriate test strategy for a new design.