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Testing times – electronic product launch fails and how to avoid them

Published: 30 July 2019 - John Johnston, NPI director, Chemigraphic

The smartphone may be reaching the end of the road. Speaking after the less-than-successful pre-launch of the Samsung Fold, CEO DJ Koh predicted that: "Once 5G and the Internet of Things are available together, rather than smartphones, we must think smart devices. Smartphones may decline but new devices will emerge:

Elaborating on this, Kang Yun-Je, head of design, added: "Smartphone design has hit a limit, that’s why we designed a folding phone. But we’re also focusing on other devices that are beginning to make a wider impact on the market, like smart earphones and smart watches. In five years or so, people will not even realise they are wearing screens. It will be seamless.’

And yet, the foldable phone was supposed to be the next big thing that would help Samsung breathe fresh life into the design and manufacturing initiatives that had flatlined for minor updates of cameras and tweaks to screen resolutions. But it wasn’t alone in developing a phone that folds: Huawei and Xiaomi had announced their own plans. 

The pressure was on, and Samsung’s rush to market may have won them the race but it left them with egg on their face. Screen malfunctions caused the company to fold the planned launch just days before it’s official launch date. Samsung CEO DJ Koh admitted: "It was embarrassing. I pushed it through before it was ready, I do admit I missed something, but we are in the process of recovery. At the moment, more than 2,000 devices are being tested right now in all aspects. We defined all the issues. Some issues we didn’t even think about, but thanks to our Samsung Fold reviewers, mass volume testing is ongoing."

Or, to paraphrase, we’re shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Testing is not ongoing after a launch. It takes place at the earliest stage of a product’s development and throughout its manufacturing. When your product hits the ramp, you need 100 per cent confidence in it. 

OEMs need early engagement with EMS partners to ensure that testing strategies are implemented at every stage of a product’s development, from design to supply chain, to each phase of manufacturing.

And we specifically call them strategies because there isn’t a fixed set of tests to run – you must let the product’s development, its profile of risks and the characteristics of each component guide you.

This is why OEMs need an EMS partner with a variety of testing capabilities and a track record of ensuring integrity in products far beyond the ramp and into the product’s full life-cycle in market.

Any test process that relies solely on design engineers testing for design validation is inadequate. It is not operationally efficient and may not even be appropriate, within a manufacturing environment. For manufacture the key objectives for testing are:

  • To ensure the test captures the actual profile of risks likely at a given stage, such as construction and assembly, components and workmanship, rather than design (remember the Note 7’s welding?).
     
  • The ideal manufacturing test is a quick go/no-go, pass/fail test that any operator can perform. It shouldn’t require any complex software setup or interpretation of results.
     
  • Single tests are not enough. Investing in an expensive fully automated, high-speed test solution is possible, but if a number of more modest setups can be run concurrently, then the overall throughput and cost-per-test can be better.

At Chemigraphic, we offer comprehensive quality control programmes and test services that ensure you have complete confidence in your products before they go to ramp.

Our testing capabilities include: Inline automatic optical inspection on all SMD lines, endoscope for defect analysis, ‘Bed of Nails’ ATE for MDA, or where appropriate, combinatorial testing, JTAG – boundary scan, device programming, numerous bespoke functional test rigs, on-board programming of electronically programmable, devices (EPDs), safety testing and x-ray technology on site.

 



 
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