Stephen W. Smith
William R. Creek
Russell M. Kobert
Blakely, Sokoloff, Taylor & Zafman LLP
A method and apparatus for a micromachine relay is provided. A pin controller comprises at least one spring pin designed to movably couple the pin controller to a device under test (DUT) to provide signals to the DUT. The pin controller further includes a micromachine relay coupled to the at least one spring pin to control the movement of the at least one spring pin and an integrated circuit for controlling the micromachine relay.
The present application claims priority from and is a divisional application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/859,842, filed May 16, 2001, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,700,396, which is owned by the same assignee as the present patent application.
The present invention relates to test equipment, and more specifically, to relays used in test equipment.
Electronic devices are often tested using automatic test equipment (ATE). Generally, the tester includes a computer system that coordinates and runs the tests, and a testing apparatus. The testing apparatus includes a test head, into which the device under test (DUT) is placed.
Contacts in the test head are used to couple the trace of the DUT to the control mechanisms. These contacts, generally spring pins, are designed to send through a high fidelity and high speed signal from the computer system. A control circuit and timing generation generally controls access. Pin electronics are electronic components that control the individual pins. The individual pins are controlled by relays, electromagnetic devices for remote and automatic control of the pins. The relays are actuated by variation in conditions of an electric circuit controlled by the pin electronics integrated circuits. Relays are mechanical devices that are large in size, especially with respect to the other components on the test head. Reducing the size of the relays may result in the need for more complex control circuits. However, the size of the components that may be placed on a test head is limited.
Alternatively, electronic switches may be used in place of the relays in order to control the pins. However, electronic switches either have low bandwidth or high resistance when they are on, or low breakdown voltage and when they are off. Transistors are disadvantageous, as they combination of through bandwidth, on resistance, and
It is an object of this invention to provide for automatic test equipment that utilizes a micromachine relay for controlling pins.
It is a further object of this invention to reduce the electric length from the device under test (DUT) to the pin electronics.
A pin controller is described. A pin controller comprises at least one spring pin designed to movably couple the pin controller to a device under test (DUT) to provide signals to the DUT. The pin controller further includes a micromachine relay coupled to the at least one spring pin to control the movement of the at least one spring pin and an integrated circuit for controlling the micromachine relay.
Other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the accompanying drawings and from the detailed description that follows below.
The present invention is illustrated by way of example, and not by way of limitation, in the figures of the accompanying drawings and in which like reference numerals refer to similar elements and in which:
A method and apparatus for using a micromachine relay in an automated test system is described. Using a micromachine relay in automated testing equipment reduces an electrical length between the pin electronics and the device under test (DUT). The micromachine relay could further be integrated onto the pin electronics integrated circuit (IC). The features of this design include a shorter electrical length between the device under test (DUT) and the pin electronics, increased bandwidth, and higher pin count by reducing associated control sizing.
Using micromachined relays further provides a lower fabrication cost. Furthermore, the pin electronics device may be mounted directly below the spring pin ring, since the reduction in size provides additional space. The use of micromachine relays also permits use of the system for mixed signal testing. Furthermore, because the pin electronics are dose to the center, there is a shorter electrical length, leading to better signals. However, using the relay and the pin electronics in close proximity creates a need for integrated cooling. Therefore, for one embodiment, a cooling mechanism is integrated into the integrated circuit card, as will be described below.
An integral cooling mechanism 180 may be coupled to test head 130. For one embodiment, integral cooling mechanism 180 may use liquid or gas cooling, as will be described below. The integral cooling mechanism 180 permits the ca location of the control circuits and relays, without damaging either by inadequate cooling.
The testing device 110 may further include a network 160, coupled to a secondary controller 150. The secondary controller 150, for one embodiment, controls the probe used to test the DUT 140 on the test head 130.
For one embodiment, the testing device 110 is designed to test a variety of integrated circuits. These devices under test (DUTs) 140 are placed in the testing device 110 and probed. For one embodiment, the bus 125 between the test head 130 and the computer system 120 is flexible and permits movement of the test head 130.
A controller 240 generates the signals used for testing the DUT. For one embodiment, the controller 240 is located on the computer system 120. A logic circuit 250 receives the signals from the controller 240. For one embodiment, the logic circuit 250 is located on the computer system 120. For an alternative embodiment, the logic circuit 250 is located on the test head 130. The logic circuit transmits some signals to a driver IC 260. For one embodiment, the logic circuit 250 is a field programmable gate array (FPGA).
A driver circuit 260 is coupled to the micromachine relay 230, and drives the micromachine relay 230.
The circuitry may further include cooling mechanism 180, to cool the test head. For one embodiment, the cooling mechanism is integral with the printed circuit board on which the PEIC 220 resides. For one embodiment, cooling mechanism is designed to receive and circulate a chilled substance that is used for cooling. The chilled substance may be a gas, such as R134, or a liquid, such as water. For one embodiment, the cooling mechanism 180 comprises cooling channels within the integrated circuit card. The cooling channels may be etched, drilled, cast, or micromachined, or created in some other way in the printed circuit board.
Other circuitry 420 may also be coupled to the plug-in board 410. Backplane connection 435 may couple plug-in board 410 to the back plane. The backplane (not shown) provides certain signals to the plug-in board 410, such as a ground and/or power signal. Other bussed signals may also be provided through the backplane.
The pin electronics card 440 is coupled to plug-in board. For one embodiment, the pin electronics card 440 includes input-output (I/O) channels 430. For one embodiment, the I/O connectors 430 are coupled to plug-in board 410 through elastomeric connections. The I/O connectors 430 lead signals from the plug-in board 410 to the circuitry on the pin electronics card 440 (not shown). The pin electronics card 440 includes the circuitry to control the connection to spring pins 445. The spring pins 445 (not shown) are used to couple various signals to a device under test.
The cooling channels 415 are connected through the pin electronics card 440, to provide a cooling mechanism for circuitry on the pin electronics card 440. This is described in more detail below.
Pin electronics circuits (PEIC) 465 are for controlling the signals that the micromachine relays 460 couple to the pogo-pin connector 455. For one embodiment, a single micromachine relay controls each spring pin.
The spring pin, for another embodiment, may be an elastomeric connector, or a bump connector. The micromachine relay 460 controls the electrical connection between the spring pin and the pin electronics. For another embodiment, the spring pins may be mobile, and may be physically moved by the relay 460.
Thus, for example, a spring pin may have coupled to it, via PEIC 465 a signal A, and the micromachine relay 460, controlled by DAC, may couple the spring pin to a device under test (DUT) and thus couple the signal A to the DUT. In this way, testing of various devices may be accomplished using a test head having plug-in boards 410, including pin electronics cards 440.
The circuit board 410 includes pin electronics card 420. From above, the spring pin connector 455 can be seen as occupying a forward portion of the pin electronics card 420, and the extreme forward portion of the circuit board 410. For one embodiment, the spring pin connector 455 is positioned such that a DUT (not shown) would be located directly over the spring pin connector 455, such that by activating a spring pin, a connection to the DUT is established.
The pin electronics card 420 further includes PEICs and micromachine relays 460/465. These devices are coupled to the circuit board, as shown, and are located adjacent to as well as underneath the spring pin connector. As indicated, the forward portion of the pin electronics card 420 is the relay portion of the card, where the micromachine relays reside, while the rear portion of the pin electronics card 420 is the PEIC portion of the card, where the PEIC circuits reside.
For one embodiment, cooling channel 480 may be micromachined. That is, micromachine devices may be used to form channels for the cooling substance. For another embodiment, cooling channel 480 may be etched into circuit board 410. Such methods of etching are known in the art. Alternatively, cooling channel 480 may be drilled into the board. For yet another embodiment, the circuit board 410 may be made including the cooling channels 480. For another embodiment, a heat sink may be cast and coupled to the pin electronics card 420, to cool the device. For one embodiment, such a heat sink may be located at the base of the circuit board 410. For one embodiment, such a heat sink may be integral with the coupling mechanism that couples the circuit board 410 to the test head.
Cooling channels 480, in any case, are integral with circuit board 410, and provides cooling for at least the pin electronics card portion 420 of the circuit board 410. For another embodiment, cooling channels 480 may extend through the entire circuit board 410, and may be used to cool other circuits on circuit board 410.
A micromachine relay matrix (MRM) 550 is coupled to the spring pins 570. The micromachine relay switch matrix (MRM) 550 controls the connection of each of the spring pins 570. The MRM 550 is coupled to a pin electronics integrated circuit (PEIC) 530. The pin electronics integrated circuits (PEICs) 530 control the micromachine relay matrix 550. The PEIC 530 is coupled to the micromachine relay matrix (MRM) 550 via an interface 540. The PEIC 530 is designed to feed the control signals to the MRM 550, in order to control the spring pins 570. For one embodiment, the MRM 550 is implemented on the same substrate as the PEIC 530, and the interface 540 comprises traces on a printed circuit board. For another embodiment, the MRM 550 and the PEIC 530 together form a hybrid device.
Timing generation and control circuits 510 are located at the bottom of the block diagram. For one embodiment, the timing generation and control circuits 510 are located within the computer system 120. For another embodiment, the timing generation and control circuits 510 are included within the test head 130. The timing generation and control circuits 510 generates testing and motion signals for the spring pins 570 and test head 130. The timing generation and control circuits 510 are connected via interface cabling 520 to the pin electronics integrated circuits (PEIC) 530. For one embodiment, the interface cabling 520 is a bus designed to reduce deterioration of the timing and control signals generated by the timing generation and control circuits 510. For one embodiment, the length of the interface cabling 520 is kept to a minimum. By reducing the size of the relays by using micromachine relays, the timing generating and control circuits 510 may, for one embodiment, be placed on the test head, thereby reducing the length of interface cabling 520.
The micromachine relays 630 are coupled to the pins 620. The micromachine relays 630 control the motion of the pins 620 within the spring pin ring 625. A plurality of integrated circuits 640 are further coupled to the card. The integrated circuits include the pin electronics IC, and other integrated circuits.
For one embodiment, a cooling manifold is coupled to the control card. The cooling manifold 660 is used to cool certain integrated circuits. For one embodiment, some of the pin electronics ICs are in contact with the cooling manifold. For an alternative embodiment, heat sinks are coupled to the integrated circuits, and the heat sinks are coupled to the cooling manifold 660. For one embodiment, the cooling manifold 660 is a metal element having a path for a cooling fluid, such as water. In an alternative embodiment, other cooling mechanisms may be used.
One set of specifications, derived from an exemplary implementation of the above circuit provides the following exemplary specification numbers:
For one embodiment, the specification met after 100 million switch operations should be:
Note that these numbers are design targets and may be varied during implementation. Furthermore, using the above defined circuit, the following target relationship data was obtained:
The micromachine relays illustrated as switches may be implemented in a variety of ways. For one embodiment, a cantilever arm is designed, and the motion of the cantilever arm is controlled by electromagnetic attraction/repulsion. For another embodiment, disk drive technology may be used to implement the micromachine relays, using rhodium contacts and ferrite electromagnets. For another embodiment, a relay may be implemented using micromachined parts. For another embodiment, an electrostatic relay may be used. Alternatively, other implementations of the micromachine relay may be used.
The implementations of spring pins for use with micromachine relays discussed
The use of the micromachine relays results in many benefits, including a reduced electrical length, by permitting the mounting of the relays and the hybrid circuits close to the spring pins. Furthermore, the use of rmicromachine relays increases bandwidth by reducing capacitance, using short PCB traces and bales. Furthermore, the use of the micromachine relays increases pin count and decreases the space necessary for a pin electronics card. These advantages are the result of using the micromachine relays described above.
In the foregoing specification, the invention has been described with reference to specific embodiments thereof. It will, however, be evident that various modifications and changes may be made thereto without departing from the broader spirit and scope of the invention. The specification and drawings are, accordingly, to be regarded in an illustrative rather than a restrictive sense. The present invention should not be construed as limited by such embodiments and examples, but rather construed according to the following claims.