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FPGA-controlled test inserts and operates a board-tester-in-a-chip

Tue, 09/20/2011 - 9:25am

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With new tools for the ASSET ScanWorks platform for embedded instruments engineers can simply select instruments they need, set their parameters and insert them into a field programmable gate array (FPGA) to function as a circuit board tester. Once inserted, ScanWorks FCT operates the board-tester-in-a-chip from a drag-and-drop user interface to perform validation, test and debug.

"The ScanWorks FPGA-controlled test (FCT) toolset is the first in the industry to automatically generate, insert and operate a board-tester-in-a-chip," said Glenn Woppman, president and CEO of ASSET. "ScanWorks FCT can help at every phase in a product's lifecycle. For example, the tester might assist bringing up prototypes of a new circuit board design before firmware or operating system software is available. Or, the embedded tester could be deployed in manufacturing test operations, in repair depots or for troubleshooting purposes in the field. It can be used and removed to meet any engineering need."

Because of significantly escalating gate densities, FPGAs are an effective platform for embedded test and measurement functionality at a time when legacy external probe-based equipment like oscilloscope and in-circuit test (ICT) systems are providing less and less test coverage. Faster speeds and greater complexities have increased the electrical sensitivities of chips and boards to the point where a physical probe will not provide adequate test coverage or reliable results.

"Many circuit board design projects run into delays because the hardware on the board can't be validated and tested until the firmware or operating system software have been completed. ScanWorks FCT does not depend on any product software," said Al Crouch, ASSET's chief technologist for core instruments. "Designers can insert a board tester, bring up and wring out first prototypes of a circuit board design and then remove the tester. If it will be needed later in the lifecycle, it can be inserted again or part of it can remain in the FPGA."

ScanWorks automates practically all of the FCT process. Instruments or instrument functions are selected from a library and matched with a description of one of the supported FPGA devices which is contained in another ScanWorks library. After the user sets the configuration parameters on the instruments selected, ScanWorks automatically generates all of the constructs for the embedded tester, facilitates the synthesis of the instrument code into the firmware required by the FPGA and creates the software image of the tester to program the FPGA. ScanWorks then inserts the tester in the FPGA and provides a drag-and-drop user interface to operate and manage the tester. ScanWorks serves as a unified automated environment for the entire process.

FCT expands the already extensive non-intrusive validation, test and debug technologies that comprise the ScanWorks platform for embedded instruments. FCT's capabilities add to the coverage ScanWorks delivers with its other non-intrusive technologies, including boundary-scan test, processor-controlled test (PCT) and high-speed I/O (HSIO) validation. Now engineers are able to overcome the growing deficiencies of traditional legacy intrusive instruments and testers which are losing physical access for their probes.

Pricing and Availability

ScanWorks FCT will be available in December of 2011 from ASSET InterTech and its distributors. Development license pricing is $35,000. For product information, call 888-694-6250, fax 972-437-2826, e-mail ai-info@asset-intertech.com or visit www.asset-intertech.com.

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