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Remote semiconductor test

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Reinforcing its entrepreneurial values, Australian Microelectronics Network (AMN) is making available a top-of-the-range Agilent 93000 semiconductor test unit for use by its members. AMN will provide access to the test equipment, which is based in Perth, to Australian silicon design and development companies that otherwise would not be able to afford the opportunity. The tester can be remotely accessed from any capital city in Australia from specified “tele-test nodes”.

“The facility will help bring Australian microelectronics products to the market more quickly by making the development cycle quicker and less expensive,” AMN’s executive director Chris Hanlon says. “It’s a $5m machine that offers market leading processing power that makes it capable of mixed signal testing of complex VLSI and system-on-chip [SOC] devices.”

“The tester is intended to complement the initiatives of AMN as well as the advanced CAD environment that already exist in Western Australia, and those beginning to emerge in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia,” Hanlon says. “Through the novel networked ‘tele-test’ approach, the tester will provide a cutting-edge environment for research and training, as well as commercialisation of microelectronics based products.”

AMN’s Agilent 93000 SOC Series machine has a “test entry level” configuration of 256 pins and 256 channels, as well as a 448 pin test head, with a combination of pins having a maximum I/O data rate of 1000Mbps, and a maximum clock rate of 625MHz. It is described as a single scalable platform that meets the needs of SOC production testing and can go up to data rates of 1Gbps, overall timing accuracy (OTA) of +/- 200ps and standard configurations of up to 960 digital pins. The unit also includes integrated, high performance analogue instrumentation. The makers claim that the combined digital and analogue test capabilities make the 93000 suitable for testing the most demanding SOCs comprising digital, memory and mixed-signal functionality.

Mixed-signal testing of SOCs means performing analogue measurements with a resolution of a few microvolts in a system where at the same time more than 500 digital signals with data rates of up to 1Gbps are active. Hanlon explains that the platform helps minimise cost-of-test while ensuring the flexibility, functionality and foresight required now and in the future. “The system has growth capacity to meet the increasing and potentially unforeseen needs of future VLSI and SOC markets,” he concludes.

“Testing of microelectronics is a fundamental step in the development of any electronics system,” Professor Kamran Eshragian of Perth’s Edith Cowan University says. Kashragian is charged with supervising the Agilent tester. “It becomes impossible to design and map ‘clever’ algorithms associated with telecommunications, including wireless and optoelectronics networks among others, into leading edge hardware effectively without access to the latest microelectronics design software tools and advanced test equipment.”

Industry development company

AMN is a membership based industry development company focused on growing Australia’s microelectronics capability. Started by a group of electronics entrepreneurs, the AMN provides information, advisory services, and access to design tools – in addition to the semiconductor test access - to fast track the path to new products. An annually elected national board of directors governs AMN.

Other initiatives include a design tools access programme designed to overcomethehigh cost of electronic design automation (EDA) software. This has been identified as a barrier to growing Australia’s microelectronics industry. AMN is quantifying the design tool usage, costs and choices with the goal of establishing a cost effective multi-user access system. Around the world, twenty-two countries have identified similar problems and developed shared access systems to support the design and fabrication of integrated circuits.

AMN members can access the first tools report via the network’s website at www.amn.org.au. This paper details design flows for 10 microelectronic applications including FPGA, digital ASIC, analogue IC, mixed signal IC, RF IC, MMIC, SOC, bipolar process, MEMS and integrated optoelectronic devices.

Further information: www.amn.org.au

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