By Pascal Pierra, Senior Vice-President and General Manager, Instrumentation
AEM’s Instrumentation Business Unit (BU) consists of two groups with high growth potential – Precision Cable Test and Automated Test Equipment Solutions (ATE). The unique expertise of these divisions allows AEM to provide customised solutions that meet each customer’s unique needs in a rapidly evolving environment.
Comprehensive Test Solutions for ICs
In 2022, our ATE group made significant progress in its target markets. At the same time, we also focused on improving its products and developing new instrumentation to expand its market reach in 2023.
In particular, our next-generation test system solution for CMOS image sensors, a partnership with UTAC, has garnered interest from several potential customers, and is increasingly gaining exposure in Asia, Europe, and the US.
We also held a successful live demonstration of the M5S-HD tester, a cost-effective and efficient ATE solution, at SEMICON Taiwan 2022, which received positive feedback from attendees.
Further, we registered notable successes in Europe in 2022 with our new HD product line aimed at high volume manufacturing, which is currently being adopted by multiple customers. This platform, configured with 1024 I/Os, is suitable for testing digital integrated circuits (ICs), System on Chip (SoC), System in Package (SiP), and embedded memories. In 2023, we are planning to engage with new customers in Asia, Europe, and the US.
While our progress in China has been limited as a result of the local and global environment, we will continue to promote our solutions in China in 2023 by forming alliances with local partners.
Bringing the Test into the Test Cell
A key role of the Instrumentation BU is to support the Test Cell Solutions BU, by implementing test solutions into the Configurable Test Units (CTUs) that are delivered to our System Level Test (SLT) and Burn-In customers around the world. Each application requires a tailored test implementation that is designed and engineered by our experienced teams to provide unparalleled and best-in-class test solutions for SLT and High Power Burn-In.
Transitioning to Test 2.0 Through a Common Software
On the back of technological advancements in 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), automotives, Internet of Things (IoT) and cloudification, the volume of devices is expected to increase. Similarly, innovations in semiconductor manufacturing have resulted in increased complexity of devices and adoption of advanced packaging.
This has led to some unique challenges for the testing of ICs. Some of these challenges include increased test coverage requirements, as well as the time and costs for test. Hence, the limitation of today’s test methodology has resulted in the changing paradigm of semiconductor test that has forced a re-think of test and the introduction of a new paradigm in test that AEM refers to as Test 2.0.
Today, AEM is the only company that offers the same software, instrumentation and Active Thermal Control (ATC) for Wafer Sort, Burn-In, Final Test and SLT to support customers’ transition to Test 2.0. By using the same software and hardware, it gives the ability to load balance smartly, by moving more of the tests earlier to Wafer Sort or later to SLT. This allows capex spend to be reduced, allows better load balancing of the lines, thereby enabling to contain the cost of tests. This creates a fluid flow of the test process so that the steps that take more time can address the test needs of each device in a modular and scalable way, thereby increasing the flexibility of the production test.
We have already proven this capability with our existing SLT and Burn-In customers. This positions AEM as a unique partner who can facilitate a seamless transition to Test 2.0.
Industry Leading Precision Cable Test Solutions
Despite global recessionary concerns, AEM’s Precision Cable Test Solutions have expanded across various markets in 2022 and received positive feedback from customers. Particularly, our business in this segment grew significantly in the EMEA region, where we previously had a small presence in, in spite of a challenging environment in Europe.
High-performance data cables play a crucial role in ensuring the smooth functioning of various networked systems, including smart buildings and vehicles. The significance of testing cabling and components for their data and power-carrying capacities has increased considerably. Thus, AEM offers tailor-made testing solutions for every stage of a cabling system’s life cycle, including laboratory characterisation, manufacturing tests, and troubleshooting.
Our Network Service Assistant provides an all-in-one testing solution for maintaining the performance of smart building networks. This solution tests for various aspects including WiFi performance, copper and fiber optic cabling performance, network connectivity and compatibility, network performance, and power delivery over data networks. In addition, AEM’s RF vector network analyzer (MMVNA) is an ideal solution for testing high-speed data cables in automotive wire harnesses. As a result of AEM’s service and solution excellence, we have continuously received repeat businesses from our customers, and have also added several new OEM customers that are expected to increase their use of our solutions in the coming year.
In 2022, we also introduced many improvements to our solutions and launched a new, low-cost cable harness tester, which won us several industry awards. Our engineering team will continue to innovate and develop our unique measurement technologies, with a strong roadmap for new and exciting test solutions.
Strength in Depth, Agility and Resilience
In 2022, our teams have worked tirelessly to overcome the challenges posed by component shortages, delays in the supply chain, and COVID-19 restrictions. Despite facing these challenges, our teams have showcased exceptional agility to adapt to the evolving circumstances and demonstrated a remarkable spirit and commitment to deliver AEM’s solutions to our customers on schedule.
As we move into 2023, we are well-positioned to continue to provide customised and tailored solutions for our customers’ unique needs. By providing world-class support and fostering close customer relationships, we are confident that we can strengthen our position as the global leader in Test Innovation.