ST-Ericsson Reduces Semiconductor Test Time by 10X With LabVIEW and NI PXI RF Tools

Sylvain Bertrand, ST-Ericsson

 

"Overall, the PXI system was ten times faster and three times less expensive than the previous solution. The PXI platform also provided the flexibility needed to adapt to all the different digital and RF standards."

- Sylvain Bertrand, ST-Ericsson

The Challenge:

Upgrading a characterization lab with a flexible validation test solution that could meet a variety of RF standards for semiconductor chip tests.

The Solution:

Replacing bulky, expensive, and inflexible boxed instruments with the software-defined NI PXI platform.

 

ST-Ericsson is an industry leader in semiconductor development for smartphones and tablets. It has development and test centers worldwide and multiple characterization labs that test and validate RF components and platforms used in cellphones and tablets. These platforms usually contain multiple radios such as GPS, Bluetooth, 3G, and 4G, among others. For one set of tests, a platform needs to make about 800,000 measurements.

 

The complex nature of the chips that ST-Ericsson develops requires validation labs that are pliable enough for a variety of RF standards, but also have high enough performance for very stringent tests. Even interfacing with these chips requires multiple standard and custom digital protocols. Traditional boxed instruments such as RF analyzers, generators, and digital pattern generators are bulky and expensive, and simply not a flexible enough solution for ST-Ericsson.

 

ST-Ericsson test engineers decided to use the PXI platform to replace their traditional boxed instruments. They chose to use NI FlexRIO to communicate with different digital standards such as serial peripheral interface (SPI) and inter-integrated circuit (I2C. When a digital adapter module was unavailable, the team was able to quickly develop their own adapter module without having to worry about the backend to the PC and communication with the field-programmable gate array (FPGA). For RF tests, ST-Ericsson chose a high-performance NI PXIe-5665 vector signal analyzer for its software-defined nature and compatibility with NI LabVIEW toolkits for all different wireless standards.

 

Cost

  Previous Solution PXI Solution Improvement
RF Analyzer + Software  $98,000 USD $34,999 USD 2.8X
RF Generator + Software $94,000 USD $28,999 USD 3.2X
Total Cost $192,000 USD $64,000 USD 3X

 

Test Time

  Previous Solution PXI Solution Improvement
WCDMA ACP  400 ms 30 ms 15X
LTE EVM 1.2 s 390 ms 3X
Total Time (800,000 measurements) 3 days 8 hours 10X

 

 

Overall, the PXI system was ten times faster and three times less expensive than the previous solution. The PXI platform also provided the flexibility needed to adapt to all the different digital and RF standards.

 

Author Information:

Sylvain Bertrand
ST-Ericsson
United States.

ST-Ericsson Characterization Test Solution