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82 SMT Magazine • July 2016 Competition and Innovation Increase Pressure on Cost As market competition intensifies at an ever-accelerating pace of wireless innovation, shortening the product design cycle using stan- dardized design and test tools have become an increasingly popular strategy. In the past, prod- uct development teams often used different de- sign and test practices and equipment in each phase of product development. Today, many companies are adopting an integrated platform approach to help reduce overlaps and in turn total test costs as well as time to market. As the 2015 McClean Report put, organizations must place greater effort into "decreasing IC design, development, and fabrication expenditures in order for the industry to maintain its continu- ous reduction in cost per function." Innovations in test equipment are now making the desire to use a common test plat- form from design to test possible. A decade ago, the test equipment engineers used in their char- acterization labs was unable to keep up with high-volume manufacturing test, and different tools were used throughout the product life cy- cle. Today, PXI instruments offer the measure- ment accuracy required for R&D and the speed required for manufacturing test. As a result, organizations are increasingly standardizing modular instrument platforms throughout the entire design cycle, which directly reduces the cost associated with correlating measurement results. In addition to the improved speed and measurement quality of PXI, application-specif- ic systems, such as the NI Semiconductor Test System, build on the PXI platform by adding a rugged enclosure, fixturing, DUT control, and the turnkey software required for the semicon- ductor manufacturing environment. Mergers and Acquisitions Drive Standardization A series of mergers and acquisitions within the semiconductor industry have also driven the need to standardize common design and test platforms. Although the consolidation of suppliers enables companies to address a larger set of components in a particular mobile device, it uniquely impacts the engineering teams re- sponsible for delivering products to market. In the past, geographically distributed engi- neering teams set their own preferred program- ming languages, test strategy, and tool invest- ments. Product development inefficiency often emerges when distributed teams do not share common best practices. Today, many organiza- tions are in the midst of standardization. One critical focus is using a single codebase from au- tomated measurements in R&D to automated measurements in manufacturing test. By shar- ing a common codebase of test software, along with using the same core measurement technol- ogy throughout the design cycle, organizations have reduced test software development cost and ultimately decreased time to market. Status Quo Leaves Money on the Table Just as the digital age commoditized digital IC, the information age is commoditizing ana- log IC. Commoditization comes with lower cost, and it requires a dramatically new approach to test. In an era where test strategy is considered a competitive advantage, organizations are us- ing standardization on a common platform as a method to reduce test costs. However, an organization has a Buckley's chance of success if it does not consider a common platform ap- proach for test. Although the old way is some- times easier, the additional cost and inefficiency leave company profits on the table. SMT Matej Krajnc is the managing director for ASEAN and ANZ at Na- tional Instruments. STANDARDIZING PLATFORMS FROM CHARACTERIZATION TO PRODUCTION " Today, PXI instruments offer the measurement accuracy required for R&D and the speed required for manufacturing test. "

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