By Al Couch, Asset InterTech chief technologist for core instrumentation
This white paper describes a new method for validating, testing and debugging circuit boards by embedding a board-tester-in-a-chip. The method, known as FPGA-controlled test (FCT), involves the automatic insertion of multiple embedded instruments into a field programmable gate array (FPGA) to function as a board tester. The embedded board tester is then operated from an intuitive drag-and-drop graphical user interface.
The board-tester-in-a-chip does not require a dedicated FPGA. The inserted tester can be easily removed once it has completed its tasks and reinserted later if needed again. Or, some or all of the tester may remain embedded in the system throughout its life cycle.
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.