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Q&A Interview with Don Blair


By GO SEMI & Beyond staff

This year marks the 15th anniversary of VOICE, the annual Advantest Developer Conference. Held in past years as two separate in-person events in the U.S. and Asia, VOICE was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, International VOICE will be a single, unified event, held virtually from June 21-23. Don Blair, business development manager for Advantest, brings 30 years of test industry experience to his advisory role on the VOICE 2021 committee. We sat down with him to talk about the upcoming event, its evolution, and what attendees should make sure not to miss. 

Q. What are the key benefits of attending VOICE?

A. VOICE was created by and for test engineers, who develop programs for our various tester platforms. The key value it provides is that it gives them practical solutions they can immediately implement to help them do their jobs better and more efficiently. That’s what has kept many engineers coming back every year while continuing to attract new attendees. We deliver sessions on the latest technologies with practical, hands-on solutions that engineers can immediately implement in their jobs.

Q. How has the event evolved over the past 15 years?

A. In the beginning, we struggled a bit with establishing value for the VOICE brand. We were focused on giving great technical papers, but they didn’t necessarily help solve a customer problem or provide content that attendees or customers could take back to their jobs. We began focusing on making sure the papers were relevant and applicable to customer challenges, and we formed a technical committee of 50 or so members that review the papers and determine which ones are accepted, geared toward meeting customer needs. It’s akin to making the shift from pure R&D to solution-focused development and production.

Q. What do you anticipate will be the hottest topics at this year’s VOICE?

A. Key topics to be covered by a wide range of papers include 5G (the most popular topic at VOICE for the past few years), parametric test, factory automation and what we refer to as the Age of Convergence, i.e., the convergence of cloud technology, rising computing speed and massive memory requirements. This has created demand for exascale-performance digital ICs, driving the need for our new test platform specifically targeting this technology: the V93000 EXA Scale™ family of SoC test systems. This prevalent trend informs the theme for VOICE 2021: “Converging Technologies. Creating Possibilities.”

On the factory automation front, we’re doing a paper this year with our customer ST Microelectronics regarding our jointly developed automated test cell. Using the technology, ST has created a 100% lights-out factory automation environment – network run, no human intervention required – at its facility in Malaysia. 

With respect to parametric test, our other recent launch is our Dynamic Parametric Test (DPT) solution – a data-analytics-focused software enhancement to the Advantest V93000 SMU8 parametric test system, built on PDF Exensio® software from PDF Solutions. Demand for DPT is on the rise, as well, to aid in speeding automation and decision-making on the factory floor. [NOTE: For more on Advantest DPT, please click here.]

Q. In addition to the high-value papers presented, VOICE is known for its dynamic keynotes. Who is on tap to speak this year?

A. We have some great speakers lined up for 2021. On Tuesday, June 22, the keynote will be given by Dr. Kate Darling, an expert in social robotics. In her role as a research specialist for MIT Media Lab, she investigates social robotics and conducts experimental studies on human-robot interaction.

On Wednesday, June 23, our keynoter will be Fredi Lajvardi, VP of STEM initiatives at Si Se Puede Foundation, which is located in Chandler, Arizona, and provides a range of services and educational opportunities for under-served populations. Fred is a passionate advocate of STEM programs and will be talking about his experience helping a group of disadvantaged high school students become a champion robotics team.

Our third speaker is Dan Hutcheson, CEO of VLSIresearch, Inc. Well known throughout the semiconductor industry, Dan will deliver a pre-recorded address [available through the end of August] titled “The New Post-COVID, Post-Global Era: Semiconductor Industry Macro Trends.” His talk will touch on critical IC markets, such as 5G, IoT and AI, to name a few.

Q. What are some other highlights that attendees can look forward to this year?

A. In addition to the 70 presentations organized across eight topical tracks, we’ll be offering a Technology Kiosk Showcase featuring the latest test solutions through live presentations and virtual booths, and a virtual Partners’ Expo highlighting innovative semiconductor test solutions. One advantage of the virtual event is that you won’t have to miss sessions of interest in different tracks that are being held concurrently. Since all the sessions will be recorded, you can attend some live and view others later on demand.

In addition to the three-day VOICE conference, we’ll be offering a Workshop Day on Thursday, June 24. This event requires separate registration and will offer a deep dive into several key topics, which include 5G/mmWave, ACS Edge Computing and High Performance Computation device testing. The sessions will provide not only information on the latest semiconductor testing techniques and methodology, but also hands-on experience via web-hosted virtual machines. This will give engineers a unique opportunity to learn live in a virtual classroom setting, and they’ll be able to access all the materials for three months after the workshop.

Q. Anything else our readers should know?

A. Our sponsors have been invaluable in helping us develop the 2021 International VOICE conference. In particular, I’d like to acknowledge our two Headline Sponsors: AllianceATE Consulting Group is an OEM partner for Advantest with its Velocity CAE software and Applications Services; and ISE Labs ASE Group is the industry’s largest semiconductor engineering service provider. We have longstanding relationships with these firms, which, like all of our valued sponsors, will have booths at the virtual expo that attendees can visit and learn more about their test-related offerings.

We realize the last 18 months have been challenging – to say the least – for our industry and the world. We’re encouraged to see things beginning to return to pre-pandemic normal, and we look forward to holding in-person conferences again in years to come.

For 2021, we’re excited to have put together a robust virtual program that maintains the high quality of content and presenters that engineers have come to expect from VOICE. We look forward to “seeing” you there and to receiving your feedback and suggestions so that we can continue to raise the bar on this premier test event.


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Posted in Q&A, Top Stories

Q&A Interview with Keith Schaub and Benjamin Lobmueller

By GO SEMI & Beyond staff

Advantest’s Grand Design sets goals for how the company will grow its business and markets over the next decade by integrating its solutions throughout the semiconductor value chain. Its cloud strategy is a vital aspect of this vision. To learn more, we talked with Keith Schaub, Vice President of Technology and Strategy, Advantest America, and Benjamin Lobmueller, New Business Development Manager, Advantest Europe. Their comments are aggregated below.

Q. What is the primary objective of your cloud strategy?

A. If you look at the semiconductor value chain [Figure 1], our core business, including our IC testers, handlers, and production processes, is in the middle. On the left-hand side, we’re mainly partnering with the EDA companies, and our focus is on design validation and verification. And on the right-hand side, we’re moving into system-level testing – this includes our acquisitions of Astronics’ System Level Test business (now ATS) and Essai, which added test sockets to our offerings. We’ve been working on these go-left and go-right strategies, as we call them, for several years. Now that those pieces are in place, we are focusing on our go-up strategy.

Figure 1. The cloud, AI and data analytics are the next steps in fulfilling the Advantest Grand Design.

For the most part, the data obtained from these processes and test cells is siloed. Customers use the data for their statistical techniques and yield improvements individually per process step, but none of it’s tied together cohesively. Our cloud strategy is to take all of these various process steps and use the cloud, AI and data analytics to connect them across the entire chain. Once you apply analytics and machine learning, you can predict the performance of future test insertions, to predict yields, outliers, even grades of performance, for instance. But this only works reliably if you have a system that spans the entire value chain.

These predictions then let you optimize what you’re going to do at a particular insertion based on information from the entire supply chain. If you know to expect good performance, you may need a less rigorous test. If performance is more marginal, rather than scrapping a device, perhaps you could perform additional testing that would allow it to become a tier-two device that would be viable to sell into a different market.

So, by tying all of these things together and applying AI and data analytics capabilities across the entire value chain, our customers and partners can optimize their insertions, whether for yield, quality, or cost. The systems can start to learn and improve over time. In a nutshell, that’s what this cloud approach is all about for us.

Q. How does this help make the customer’s job easier?

A. The hard part of what we’re trying to solve with this infrastructure is all the work you have to put in to get to the point where you can actually do analytics. Before you can analyze your data, many things have to happen, and what we’re doing with our cloud solutions is removing that burden from our customers.

For instance, if you have multiple insertions, you might have one process step in your supply chain in Taiwan and another one in Korea, while you are headquartered in Silicon Valley. How do you bridge that gap and bring together data from all those places? That’s where Advantest Cloud Solutions come in. We take away the tedious task of getting all your data in place so that you are better able to take advantage of real-time analytics, AI and machine learning techniques.

Q. What are some challenges of this approach?

A. Creating the infrastructure and getting all of these systems and customers to agree involves much cooperation. Everyone brings a separate piece to the table, and reaching consensus on the value can be challenging. So, while there are technical challenges, the business challenges are equal and sometimes even more significant.

We’re also taking away the difficulties from the information security side. Everyone has their security concerns – customers, OSATs, and us, of course – and those concerns need to be addressed. Advantest Cloud infrastructure is laying in all the necessary security nodes and layers, so that everything is protected appropriately.

Q. How do the new offerings fit into this strategy?

A. In December, as part of what we’re calling our Advantest Cloud Solutions [ACS] ecosystem, we announced Advantest Cloud powered by PDF Exensio, a data- and analytics-focused platform that we’re co-developing with PDF Solutions, as well as the ACS Dynamic Parametric Test powered by PDF Exensio.

This partnership came about when we decided to look at the best-in-class infrastructure pieces already available. In the process, we determined PDF Solutions to be the ideal partner. Their infrastructure is already in place with a large customer base. They have proven analytics tools that many customers use for decades, especially in the business’s foundry-side. With this partnership, they can continue to use those tools and expand to the industry’s test-side, and we can tie it in deeply to our infrastructure.

Our ACS products provide feedback on a wide range of processes, from semiconductor design validation to manufacturing, chip test, and system-level test – across all the different products and systems. This allows customers to get more value out of their supply chain, equipment, and test data, and get to yield faster. We can now give the customer a fully integrated infrastructure with analytics out of the box.

Q. How does all this work together to integrate the supply chain?

A. We’ve encapsulated that in Figure 2, which shows how the process steps work together with the Advantest Cloud as our corporate umbrella. It’s easy to say that we can just tie all these systems together, but these systems are not with one customer. They’re supplied by different customers of ours, working together for other customers of ours, in different geographies, and using different systems in many cases. For example, what format do you use to share the data? How do you protect the data as it moves from Customer A to Customer B? This illustration highlights what will be capable once all of this is in place.

Figure 2. Advantest Cloud Solutions deliver cross-supply-chain feed-forward/feedback capability.

It’s crucial to feed data forward in some cases, i.e., take data from a previous insertion to push it forward in the process and use that data in some intelligent way at a later stage. But it’s equally important to be able to have the data feed backward to improve your process. Say you find some problem at system-level test – it is invaluable to correlate back the possible causes so that you can predict the problem before it occurs in the future. Figure 2 is a graphical representation of different ways to feed data forward and backwards and what you would need to do that. The DEX network, which comes from PDF, has already solved many of the technological security challenges and includes measures to secure the data appropriately.

Q. Briefly, how does the ACS Dynamic Parametric Test product work?

A. The idea with ACS Dynamic Parametric Test powered by PDF Exensio is that we are essentially replicating product-engineering capability on the tester near real-time. What does that mean? What happens today is that a batch of wafers comes into a fab. They go onto a parametric tester. If there’s a problem, it’s typically assessed sometime later by an expert product engineer. This process carries a time cost – if something happens on a Thursday or Friday, it sits there over the weekend, and three or four days are lost. Meanwhile, the tester is booked for another job next week, so you have to deal with retesting everything and gathering the data.

The solution is ACS DPT, which utilizes the data analytics platform of PDF Exensio and uses a real-time rules engine to make decisions on the fly, while tests are conducted. So, when something starts to go awry with the measurements, the rules engine kicks in and flags it as a potential problem, taking extra data on all the nearest surrounding die. Once the test engineer looks at the situation, he or she has all of these additional bits of information to debug it. A much more intelligent decision can be made, much faster, and it can save millions of dollars when you consider multiple testers and multiple wafer lots.

Q. What else are you doing in the cloud?

A. We want to touch on a couple more things. The first is ACS Test Engineering Cloud, or ACS TE-Cloud, a service we’ve had for a while that we’ve now rolled up under our Advantest Cloud Solutions. It’s cloud-based test engineering that allows engineers to have an on-demand test program development environment. This capability is a game-changer, of course, for large companies, during a pandemic. Engineers can just keep working with the high performance they need, wherever they are. But it’s particularly beneficial for smaller players – new players in the market, for example, or startups or other ventures that need these tester services and don’t have a fleet of workstations to jump on. TE-Cloud gives them the environment to get the job done without investing millions of dollars in infrastructure that they may not need all the time.

With this service, we have flexible subscriptions available on demand. It’s very popular with our customers in China. They get remote access to our testers, we take care of all the hassles of infrastructure, and they don’t have to worry about calibration or maintenance. Again, many of these are tiny startups that can’t afford to buy a million-dollar machine just to get started. This way, they can get access to the test capability they need on demand.

The second thing we want to mention is Advantest Dojo, which we officially launched last summer. Dojo is our e-learning training environment in the cloud. Customers can get access to all training materials, videos and consulting, for different testers and services. It’s all being put under one umbrella to look and feel the same across geographies and the customer base. Customers pay a per-use fee to access this material, which application engineers within Advantest are continually updating to ensure the latest and greatest information is available.

Finally, there is another new product, the ACS Edge high-performance computing system. There’s some confusion over cloud and edge, and why you need one versus the other. You do need both of them, and they have different use cases and value propositions.

What the Edge means for us is that it’s right there at the test cell. The tester business model is that people pay by the second, so they want chips to go through as fast as possible. To make a prediction, you need to send data somewhere and get back an answer, as quickly as possible, about whether the part is good, bad or marginal. We optimize this with ACS Edge. It sits right next to the tester and plugs into the tester itself – the data streams directly over to it, and you get the lowest-latency HPC that you can get. You’re taking a supercomputer and plugging it into the tester so that you can make inferences with virtually no delay. You can think of it as bringing a data center to the test floor, or turning the test floor into a data center.

With ACS, we’re bringing both edge and cloud to the customer so that they can think up new use cases that employ data analytics and machine learning in both ultra-real time and post-insertion to get the predictive and high performance compute capabilities they need, most effectively, with the least impact on test cost.

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Posted in Q&A

Q&A Interview: Moving Test to the Fast Lane


In this issue, our Q&A interview subject is Steve Pateras, Senior Director of Test Marketing for Synopsys. Steve provides a look at a new test capability, jointly developed by Synopsys and Advantest, that leverages high-speed communication interfaces such as USB and PCIexpress to improve test throughput. (NOTE: This piece was originally intended to serve as a preview of Steve’s VOICE 2020 keynote address; although canceled this year, the conference will return in 2021, as will Steve.)

Q: What was the catalyst for developing this approach?

A: The industry is always looking for new ways to improve test throughput, in order to reduce test times and costs. As chip designs get larger and larger, you need more test data, so to keep test costs in line, you need to improve bandwidth to get better throughput.

Moore’s Law kept things growing and increasing in complexity over the past several decades, but periodically, fundamental paradigm shifts needed to happen. The first was in the 1980s, when we moved to structural test because chips had become too complex to cover all possible failure modes using functional verification. Looking only at the I/Os related to flip-flop scan chains, rather than every functional I/O, became the new norm, and this worked well for a couple of decades.

By 2000, scan alone had become inefficient – the number of scan chains and I/Os to scan kept growing larger and larger, and the sheer volume of data was too massive to store on the tester. This led to the next paradigm shift: compression channel I/O. Data is compressed on the tester, then sent to the chip, where it is decompressed on-the-fly into multiple scan chains. Again, this reduced the number of I/Os and test times to a manageable amount. Another 20 years passed, which brings us to today.

As chip features shrink down to 14nm, then to 7nm and beyond, we’re still seeing exponential growth in the numbers of patterns and pattern test data. We’ve again reached the point where we can’t accommodate the volume – even compressed, there is too much data to be stored, and it takes too long to scan data in and out. It’s time for a new approach.

Q: You’re talking about the next paradigm shift?

A: Exactly. Structural (scan) patterns form the primary test for digital logic – more patterns are required to maintain quality, with larger designs requiring more manufacturing tests, and new process nodes demanding advanced fault tests. At some point, things start to break; how do you achieve the necessary bandwidth when you have limited tester speeds and a limited number of available pins? Figure 1 shows real-time bandwidth limitations – that is, the actual number of gigabits you’d need to test some of the newer, larger devices. Existing approaches can’t accommodate moving from tens to hundreds of gigabits per second, let alone into the terabit range. 

Figure 1. As data volumes increase with device complexity, test times rise sharply.

What we’ve been developing with Advantest is the use of high-speed functional I/O (HSIO) to increase bandwidth. Instead of feeding the compression logic onto the chip via dedicated scan I/O, we’re using very high-speed serial functional interfaces, i.e., USB and PCIexpress, to achieve this. Once the data is entered, we can convert it into the parallel data we need to feed the compression logic. We use these very high-speed serial inputs to get the required bandwidth, and then we parallelize this widely to all the many parallel scan chains on the chip. 

Q: How is the parallelism achieved?

A: Via the on-chip logic that we provide, which works essentially like a transformer. It allows for very large amounts of data coming without the need for dedicated, lower-speed I/Os. We’re essentially reusing the high-speed interfaces that exist on virtually every chip today. Instead of reinventing the wheel and adding more dedicated pins per test, we simply piggyback on top of these interfaces during the test process to send high-speed test data through them [Figure 2].

Reusing these existing high-bandwidth functional interfaces offers three key benefits: it reduces test time; it eliminates the need for dedicated test I/O; and it provides test portability through the product lifecycle. 

Figure 2. Reusing HSIO protocols improves scan bandwidth, significantly lowering test times.

Q: How long has the new solution been in development, and what does it entail?

A: We’ve been working with Advantest on this new HSIO paradigm for over two years, combining key components from our TestMAX suite of software with Advantest’s V93000 SoC tester. The solution entails three key aspects, summarized in Figure 3:

  1. Packetizing manufacturing test data to accommodate HSIO protocols. Integrated into the V93000, our software [dark green box] takes traditional parallel data from ATPG tools, converts it into high-speed packet data, then depacketizes the data coming back and maps it to known failure descriptions.
  2. Enabling the tester to accommodate this approach [light green box]. Testers themselves need to be able to drive data through these high-speed interfaces, so through this joint effort, Advantest has added new hardware onto the V93000 to provide the HSIO function and ensure their SmarTest software can work with it.
  3. Ensuring the chips can handle this high-speed packet data. We devised a bidirectional HSIO-to-DFT interface controller, which is added to the chip as IP [dark grey box] to actively manage incoming high-speed packet data on one end and receive the parallelized lower-speed test data on the other.

HSIO Test Paradigm Diagram

Figure 3. The new HSIO test paradigm integrates key software, hardware and on-chip functionality.

In addition, our Adaptive Learning Engine (ALE) adds more intelligence to the test process. It allows our software to actively look at failure data coming back from the device and adapt the test to deal with the kind of failures that are being seen on the tester, as well as perform more advanced diagnostics. This can be performed locally on individual testers, as well as on a Big Data level – each tester on the floor can send its results to a centralized analytics engine analyzing results and looking for systematic issues across multiple devices over time. In this way, we can help to greatly improve the test process at the test-floor level.

For more details, real-world examples and updates on this new high-speed functional I/O test paradigm, make plans now to attend Steve’s keynote address at VOICE 2021 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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Q&A Interview – Judy Davies, Advantest


By GO SEMI & Beyond staff

As COVID-19 continues its global spread, tech conferences and tradeshows are being postponed or outright cancelled to help protect the health of attendees, exhibitors and organizers. Advantest joined this effort with its VOICE 2020 Developer Conference, cancelling the Shanghai event and rescheduling the U.S. event in Scottsdale, Arizona, to September 29-30. Judy Davies, VOICE Ambassador and vice president of Global Marketing Communications, Advantest America, shares the company’s perspective on the outbreak and its impact, and offers a hopeful note for our industry and our world post-pandemic.

Q. What made you decide to reschedule the U.S. event as a live conference later in the year instead of holding a virtual event?

A. We actually did put on a virtual event, but this did not extend to VOICE 2020, which we really want to keep on the calendar. When large events such as the Mobile World Congress and the SEMICON China and Korea shows were cancelled, we needed a way to get technical information out to our customers and users – especially those in Asia, the first region impacted by COVID-19. To that end, we held our first virtual tradeshow in early March. We had nearly 200 attendees from 47 countries, with sessions presented in multiple languages by a global group of speakers. It’s such a great example of everyone pulling together to demonstrate their commitment to the industry and their empathy for the situation that we’re all facing. Instead of backing out – which would have been understandable – all the presenters were eager to participate.

This attitude has carried over to our program for VOICE U.S. Instead of cancelling, we have opted to postpone VOICE 2020 because Advantest is a leader in sharing technical information and this event is so important to our customers. By choosing a date later in the year, we’re looking to strike a balance – doing what’s necessary now, while continuing to innovate and maintain our industry-leadership role. We hope and believe that, by September, holding VOICE U.S. in person will be feasible. Everyone involved with the event has been accommodating and encouraging, stepping up to reaffirm their participation. Each of our four keynote speakers is confirmed for the new dates, as are our sponsors and exhibitors.


Q. Optimism and team spirit is certainly important right now. How does the theme of VOICE 2020 reflect this attitude?

A. The theme of the conference this year is “Your Voice. Your Vision. Our Value.” Advantest is here to support our customers – we hear their voice, we see their vision, and we partner with them to make it a reality. It really embodies our own vision (Adding Customer Value in an Evolving Semiconductor Value Chain) and our “INTEGRITY” core values. We don’t just give lip service to this concept – integrity is central to everything we do. We put together VOICE with this in mind, developing a program that truly reflects what our customers want and need to know to help them do their jobs even better.


Q. Speaking of the program, who will be delivering the keynote addresses this year?

A. We have a stellar lineup that comprises experts from within and outside the industry. On September 29, we’ll feature two keynotes on the future of test and technology. First, Steve Pateras, director of marketing for the Test Automation Group at Synopsys, will deliver a speech titled “Test Evolves – New Access to Adaptive Learning.” Following Steve will be Dr. Kate Darling, research specialist with MIT Media Labs. An expert in robotic ethics, Dr. Darling will discuss the future of human-robot interactions. On September 30, Dan Hutcheson, the well-known CEO of VLSIresearch Inc., will address 5G, IoT, AI and other critical IC markets, as well as some of the key industry trends he has identified and is following. Last, but not least, Fredi Lajvardi, vice president of STEM Initiatives at the Si Se Puede Foundation, will share his fascinating story about how he turned a group of high school students into a national-champion robotics team, beating top-ranked teams at the university level. I’m really excited to see all of these speakers.


Q. What else will VOICE 2020 hold in store for attendees?

A. The technical program has become known for the richness of the content provided. Our focus this year is on 5G with the theme being “5G: Made Real by Our Customers, Made Possible by Advantest.” Again, the focus is always on the customer and on the role we can play in helping them bring their ideas and plans to fruition. The program will feature nearly 70 papers divided into seven tracks, including new tracks on 5G/millimeter wave, parametric test and hot topics such as AI and machine learning. We’ll also feature our Partners Expo and several networking opportunities, including the off-site welcome reception and technology showcase on Monday night, September 28. And immediately following VOICE, we will conduct the Workshop Day on October 1.


Q. What else would you like readers to know?

A. I just want to reiterate how grateful I am to everyone involved with VOICE. This includes not only our keynote speakers, sponsors and other participants, but also our marketing team and the VOICE steering committee for all the hard work they’ve put in to make these events happen. Especially when there’s so much uncertainty right now, I can’t imagine being part of a company that is any more focused on partnering with and showing compassion for its customers.

I read recently a couple of quotes that summarize the notion that we’re all in the same boat, so to speak. Xiaomi, a Chinese consumer electronics company, donated thousands of face masks to Italy’s government, and on the crates was printed a quote from the Roman philosopher Seneca: “We are waves of the same sea, leaves of the same tree, flowers of the same garden.” Similarly, boxes of masks sent to China from Japan bore a quote from a Tang dynasty poem reading, “Foreign lands separated by mountains and rivers, we share the wind and moon under the same sky.”

Now, more than ever, these quotes truly resonate for Advantest. We have 5,000 employees, more than 80% of whom are located outside of the U.S., but we are all part of one world, and we are resilient. Things may be challenging right now, but we’ll get through it, together.


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Q&A Interview with Scott West – Expanding SSD Test Capabilities for Extreme Temperatures

Advantest has found great success with its test solutions aimed at the solid-state drive (SSD) market. In this issue of GO SEMI & Beyond, Scott West, Product Marketing Manager for System-Level Test, provides some background on how the company began to address this market, and shares details on its latest SSD offering, the MPT3000ARC, for validation testing to accommodate extreme thermal standards. 

Q: What was the catalyst for developing this latest addition to the MPT3000 family?

A: Let me briefly recap the MPT3000’s evolution. After spending several years on product research and development, we launched the SSD platform in 2014, signaling a branching out for Advantest from chip test to system-level test. While chips are a single unit, manufactured all at once, with everything controlled by the chipmaker, SSD drives are themselves systems. They’re modules that contain a great deal of flash memory, a controller, controller circuitry, protection capacitors, and other components, which adds further complexities from a test standpoint.

Our focus from the start has been to test SSDs through a protocol interface, including the three primary SSD protocols: SATA [Serial ATA], SAS [Serial Attached SCSI] and PCIe [PCI Express]. All products in the platform test all of these protocols, including PCIe Gen 4, the latest version of PCIe, which is about twice the speed of Gen 3. However, with the ARC system (see Figure 1), we’re expanding in a different direction – we’re looking not just at all SSD protocols, but at all test insertions.

Q: How does this differ from the other MPT3000 products?

A: Each product in the platform has a slightly different, and specific, purpose. The MPT3000EV2 (the second generation of the 3000ENV) is a large-chamber system for reliability demonstration testing (RDT), which is focused on the test design. This involves constant hot and cold temperature cycling of several hundred drives over many months. For example, there is one project we are working on that requires more than six months of constant temperature cycling and testing.

The MPT3000HVM is a rack system designed for production test. It tests each individual drive during high-volume manufacturing to make sure it’s good. It requires not months but several hours, under hot conditions only, with a large amount of power pushed through, to validate that each drive works as expected. It can test quickly because of the rack design – you can put in one drive and immediately begin testing while you’re loading more.

The ARC system addresses a couple of key parameters that the other systems in the family don’t with respect test insertions. The first is extreme temperature range. The standard is referred to as automotive range (-40°C to +105°C), which is where the product name is derived from – ARC stands for Automotive Range Chamber. But automotive is only one application; the standard is also used in aerospace, defense and other ruggedized applications that require extreme temperature range.

The second parameter is high-volume production cold-temperature test. The new chamber was designed to be able to accommodate this type of testing in the production environment, for which the EV2 is not as well suited as it is optimized for very test times. In the enterprise, cold temperature – down to as low as -40°C – is often required for production test. The MPT3000ARC can test up to 128 PCIe Gen 4 DUTs in parallel. Because you have to load the entire chamber at once at ambient temperature, it doesn’t make sense to make it too big, as the ergonomic range needs to be production friendly.

Q: Do all the MPT3000 products have the same pin electronics?

A: Yes, all the systems are compatible with respect to the software and firmware, and all electronics that go to the DUT come from the same test electronics boards. The systems feature up to 22.5G electronics with tester-per-DUT architecture.

However, the ARC system interface boards, which are designed for the system’s thermal interface, are different from those for the HVM. In the ARC chamber, the chamber is turned on its side, with up to four primitives inserted vertically instead of horizontally (see Figures 2 and 3). This creates a totally closed system that allows air to circulate from right to left inside the chamber, whereas the HVM rack-based system pulls air from the room and then blows it to the back of the system and out into the room. The ARC chamber also features a pocket door designed to accommodate the ergonomic requirements of manual loading and to be automation friendly as well

Q: What are some other key features of the MPT3000ARC?

A: As I mentioned earlier, the system has the ability to test up to 128 DUTs of 50W each. The primary compressor stage has a water-cooled condenser that transfers the energy generated by the chamber load to the test floor’s water-cooling system. This construction helps regulate chamber temperature to ensure consistency. The system has two programmable power supplies for PCIe DUT, targeting high-power enterprise SSDs, and performs current and voltage measurement with high accuracy.

We introduced the MPT3000ARC at the Flash Memory Summit in August 2019, where it was very well received, and the system has shipped to the first customer. We look forward to sharing further successes and advancements in the future.


Figure 1. The MPT2000ARC is the latest addition to the MPT3000 family of SSD testers, and tests devices to extreme temperatures.

Figure 2. The chamber for the MPT3000ARC is oriented vertically to allow a fully closed system with right-to-left air flow. The primitives are stacked 2×2, back to front. 

Figure 3. This view inside the ARC chamber shows the positioning of one of the lower primitives in a 64-DUT system.


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Posted in Q&A

Q&A Interview with Dieter Ohnesorge – 5G mmWave Challenges and Solutions

By GO SEMI & Beyond staff

mmWave is the key topic when it comes to frequency ranges that allow to allocate more bandwidth. millimeter-wave (mmWave) is the band of spectrum between 24 GHz and 100 GHz. As it enables allocation of more bandwidth for high-speed wireless communications, mmWave is increasingly viewed as one key to making 5G connectivity a reality. In this issue, Dieter Ohnesorge, product manager, RF solutions for Advantest, discusses the market opportunity and test challenges associated with 5G mmWave, as well as Advantest’s solution for addressing them.

Q. We’ve been hearing about the promise of 5G for a long time. What demand drivers are edging it closer to fruition?

A. If you look at the global ecosystem [Figure 1], there is massive potential for 5G in many vertical markets. For example, 5G will be an essential aspect of smart manufacturing (SM). SM processes provide greater access to real-time data across entire supply chains, allowing manufacturers and suppliers to manage both physical and human resources more efficiently. This will result in less waste and system downtime and will make more technology-based manufacturing jobs available.

Remote access to health services is another key benefit of 5G. First, it would mean less driving, which is much better for the environment as well patients and doctors and staff. Second, if you’ve already had a screening and the doctor has access to it, why not communicate remotely, saving time on both sides? With 5G, you have the benefit of high bandwidth and low latency, which is important for many applications. Autonomous driving, consumer multimedia applications, and remote banking are just a few more of the many areas that will benefit from highly reliable connections, as well as high bandwidth and/or low latency.

Figure 1. A global ecosystem of vertical deployments stand ready to benefit from 5G.

Q. What has prevented 5G from becoming fully implemented?

A. Primarily, the infrastructure requirements. A specification of this scale cannot be implemented on a local basis alone – it takes a concerted, global effort. The worldwide effort to achieve 5G standardization is a huge step forward. In the U.S., discussions about mmWave technology are currently under way, and at the end of the year or early next year, the discussion will expand towards 5G in the <6GHz band.

In 2015, Verizon took it upon themselves to define a proprietary version of 5G as the next step forward from the current 4G LTE standard. At the end of 2018, the 5G NR (New Radio) industry standard developed from the Verizon effort was released, and all new deployments will follow this spec. In the U.S., initially the frequency band is 28 GHz, with carrier bandwidth of two 425-MHz channels and 24 GHz with seven 100 MHz channels. Additional frequency bands will be auctioned by the FCC for 37, 39 and 47 GHz from December 2019 onward. Other mmWave activities can be seen all over the world, although at different pace.

Q. Where does mmWave come into play?

A. Because the portion of the spectrum that mmWave covers is largely unused, mmWave technology can greatly increase the amount of bandwidth available, making it easier to implement 5G networks. Lower frequencies are currently taken up with the current 4G LTE networks, which typically occupy between 800 and 3,000 MHz. Another advantage is that mmWave can transfer data faster due to the wider bandwidth per channel, although over a shorter transfer distance – up to around 250 meters, or just over 800 feet. This means that it could conceivably work as a replacement for fiber or copper wire into homes and businesses, and this “last mile” capability would broaden the reach of 5G to cover both small and very large areas.

Q. What are the challenges around mmWave test that spurred Advantest to develop a solution? Which does it address?

A. Advantest’s Wave Scale RF card for the V93000 tester platform has seen great success. Its operational range is 10 Mhz to 6 GHz, so we needed a solution that can address the frequency and power requirements associated with higher-bandwidth devices.

Frequency is one of the key parameters associated with mmWave, and with that comes power-level measurement, EVM [error vector magnitude], ACLR [adjacent-channel leakage ratio], and other aspects that all need to be addressed in the testing process to ensure they meet specifications at the wider bandwidths required by 5G-NR.

Another requirement is the number of ports – with 5G mmWave’s beamforming capability, testing could easily be in the range of as many as 32 to 64 ports. At the same time, due to the frequency nature of mmWave, with 5x to 7x frequency, the cost goes up as well. That’s also been one of the challenges: holding down the cost of test with a wide number of sites being tested in parallel.

The V93000 Wave Scale Millimeter test solution, which we introduced in May 2019, extends the capabilities of Wave Scale RF. It is designed for multi-band mmWave frequencies, offering high multi-site parallelism and versatility. It has two operational ranges: 24 GHz to 44 GHz for 5G mmWave, and 57 GHz to 70 GHz, which extends the product’s capabilities for the wireless Gigabit, or WiGig, era. Figure 2 shows the range of frequencies that Wave Scale was developed to cover.

Figure 2. Wave Scale RF provides a scalable platform for connectivity device test, from standard RF to millimeter-wave.

In addition, new modules can be added as new frequency bands are rolled out worldwide. The card cage has up to eight mmWave instruments, making it versatile, cost-effective, and able to perform as well as high-end bench instruments. Because it has wideband testing functionality, Wave Scale can handle full-rate modulation and de-modulation for ultra-wideband (UWB), 5G-NR mmWave up to 1 GHz, and WiGig up to 2 GHz, supporting probes as well as antenna-in-package (AiP) devices connectorized, and over-the-air testing.

Figure 3 illustrates 5G device measurements that can be achieved using Wave Scale Millimeter: power out/flatness test results. The solution’s massive parallelism allows these tests to be performed quickly and at significant cost savings.

Figure 3. This graph overlays a customer’s 8-channel transceiver power-out test results, performed over 800 MHz at 28 GHz. Wave Scale allows channel flatness to be executed in a single operating sequence, one channel after the other.

Q. When will this solution be widely needed?

A. The Industry is still learning how to test these devices. We can help customers get started now, thanks to the modularity of the solution. They can start below 6GHz and when they need the higher frequency, we can add the mmWave capability.

The bottom line is that Advantest’s platform approach is ideal for this scenario – because it is scalable and modular, we can continue to add to the product’s functionality to make it even more comprehensive. By being ahead of curve, we will have the right solution ready when our customers need to adapt to new requirements.

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