Testing Commercial Electronics: Five Tips for Reducing the Time and Cost of Manufacturing Test
Manufacturers of the latest consumer devices are under pressure to produce more units, faster, to satisfy global demand. According to Gartner, for example, worldwide smartphone sales were up 45% in the first quarter of 2012 compared to Q1 2011.
At the same time, devices are incorporating more and more functionality that needs to be tested on the production line. Connectivity options now include cellular (GSM, GPRS, EDGE, 3G, 4G …), wireless (Wi-Fi, WiMAX), Bluetooth and increasingly near-field communication (NFC) as well.
GNSS capabilities taking centre stage
GPS/GNSS has always been strongly tied to navigation in the in-car, PND, and cellular space. However, GPS/GNSS is now finding applications in cameras, gaming, and tablets.
- ABI Research
And while GPS was once a relatively minor feature in many consumer devices, the explosion in location-aware applications and services is bringing satellite positioning capabilities centre stage. ABI Research predicts that GPS/GNSS chips will reach 1.8 billion shipments by 2016, representing a market worth over $3.3 billion.
Increasingly, those devices will include chips that offer not just GPS-based positioning, but also the ability to process signals from the other satellite navigation systems now coming on stream, like Russia’s GLONASS, China’s Compass, Europe’s Galileo, Japan’s QZSS and India’s IRNSS.
Managing the cost of manufacturing test
All this complexity means increased testing time, and that means increased cost of test (COT)—as well as increased potential for an erroneous result.
So what can manufacturers do to reduce the time and cost of manufacturing test without compromising on test quality? Here are our top five tips:
- Don’t rely on ‘real-world’ testing. Installing a GPS antenna on the roof and a Wi-Fi router and Bluetooth module on the test floor may seem like cost-effective options, but testing each unit with ‘live’ signals is a slow process with inconsistent results. For more about the limitations of live-signal testing as a production testing method, read our eBook: The risks and limitations of GNSS live sky testing within a production test environment.
- Simulate. Simulating real-world GNSS and radio connectivity signals is a controllable, repeatable and reliable method of assessing whether a device is functioning to specification. It’s also faster, especially when you can test multiple devices simultaneously with multiple signals and constellations. For more about the benefits of RF simulation for production test, read our eBook: The fundamentals of GNSS simulation.
- Decide what you need to test and what you don’t. Some manufacturers try to replicate complex performance tests on the production line that were used during the device’s R&D and design phases. That can significantly slow down production when all that may be required is a simple pass/fail connectivity test. Specifying a set of functional tests for the production phase can significantly speed up testing with no loss of test quality.
- Use the best equipment for the job. Previously, there wasn’t much equipment designed specifically for manufacturing test of GNSS positioning and radio connectivity. That’s changing with the introduction of simulators like Spirent’s GSS6300M Multi-Channel, Multi-GNSS Simulator and GSS5300 Multi-Radio Tester. These production-oriented units make professional RF simulation on the factory floor much more affordable—and much faster too.
- Integrate and synchronise. It almost goes without saying that the more tests you can conduct in parallel, and the more devices you can test simultaneously, the more time and money you will save. Look for equipment that can be synchronised to run different tests simultaneously, and that can be integrated to test multiple devices at the same time.
Here at Spirent we have been working for 25 years with manufacturers of GNSS-enabled systems to deliver professional, high-quality test equipment for every stage in the product lifecycle—from R&D through to manufacturing and aftercare.
If you have a question about how to increase the speed and quality of your production testing while reducing its overall cost, please do get in touch—we’re sure to have a solution that can help.