|Publication number||US20050102580 A1|
|Application number||US 11/012,772|
|Publication date||May 12, 2005|
|Filing date||Dec 15, 2004|
|Priority date||Aug 24, 2001|
|Also published as||US7113883|
|Publication number||012772, 11012772, US 2005/0102580 A1, US 2005/102580 A1, US 20050102580 A1, US 20050102580A1, US 2005102580 A1, US 2005102580A1, US-A1-20050102580, US-A1-2005102580, US2005/0102580A1, US2005/102580A1, US20050102580 A1, US20050102580A1, US2005102580 A1, US2005102580A1|
|Inventors||Richard House, Cesar Gamez, Francis Hinkle, Chandrasekhar Venkatraman|
|Original Assignee||House Richard W., Gamez Cesar R., Hinkle Francis E.Jr., Chandrasekhar Venkatraman|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (33), Referenced by (25), Classifications (6)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application claims priority to the following co-pending provisional application: Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/314,922 entitled “TEST CONFIGURATION AND DATA MANAGEMENT SYSTEM AND ASSOCIATED METHOD FOR ENTERPRISE TEST OPERATIONS,” which was filed on Aug. 24, 2001.
This invention relates to configuration and management techniques for device and product test operations in test, measurement and automation environments.
Many companies, and specifically electronic and semiconductor device companies, produce products that must be tested to meet various specifications before the products can be shipped to customers. These test operations often include a variety of different test activities in a variety of different environments. Existing systems do not currently provide for efficient test configuration and data management among these disparate test operations, particularly on an enterprise-wide scale.
With respect to data management, test systems (also referred to herein as test stations and/or ATEs (automated test equipment)) have previously included the ability to store test result data from a unit-under-test (UUT) on the test systems. In addition, test sites have also previously included the ability to store centrally raw test data from a number of different test systems for historical purposes.
With respect to connectivity, test stations or automated test equipment devices (ATEs) are often located on test floors that do not have network connections or that are configured in such a way as to make network connections to the ATEs rather difficult or impossible. In addition, many ATEs are designed to conduct specific tests that may be unrelated and unlinked to other device tests or manufacturing activities. Thus, test monitoring has previously focused on the individual test systems and has not adequately addressed enterprise level test monitoring and management. In addition, disparate tests and test stations typically do not have common data formats, but instead are often custom designed software packages that are interested in nothing but the operations of the particular test being run. Thus, if data is stored, it is often stored simply as a text file or in a proprietary format specific to the designer of the system. Although such raw test data has been stored centrally so that it can be retrieved at a later time for historical analysis, this raw test data is typically not formatted in any standard manner or managed such that it can be used as testing is in progress.
Tools have been previously developed to help connect test applications to other computers through a network, such as the LABVIEW enterprise connectivity toolset available from National Instruments. These tools allow connectivity to a database. However, these tools require the user to define the databases, communicate with them (usually through SQL commands) and program all the details about communication, database design and anything related to the database operations. As such, these tools do not provide an efficient and easily managed solution for configuring and managing enterprise test operations.
This need for systems to provide efficient test configuration and data management for test operations is distinct from a need for systems to monitor and manage manufacturing operations. Manufacturing execution systems (MES) have been developed that focus on controlling the execution of a manufacturing process including actions such as keeping track of materials, products, work in progress, etc. However, these MES systems are not directed to test operations. Example MES products are those that are sold under the trade names QFS available from Automation Programming, Inc. (API) and Xfactory available from USDATA. Such systems allow for the management of information about the manufacturing of the products. They are directed to a manufacturing point of view and are not directed to a testing point of view. Thus, such systems fall short on managing the test data and test results thereby making difficult the task of finding specific data about a test, and do not provide mechanisms to maintain configuration information about each test station or any tests run on each test station. In addition, such existing systems do not provide capabilities to monitor the test stations (or ATEs) and the data related to the ATEs. Without a direct connection between the ATEs and a server system, it is extremely difficult and complex to attempt to create software code that allows such capabilities.
The present invention provides an enterprise test configuration and data management system and associated method for test, measurement and automation environments that allow management, configuration and analysis of test systems and associated data across enterprise-wide test operations. The present invention is directed to the production process from the test and test station point of view and provides a variety of mechanisms for test configuration and data management for test stations including the capability of managing data about each test station, hardware resources, software resources, test configuration, test steps, acquired measurements, test execution, and/or other information related to the tests, the test stations or the units-under-test (UUT). The present invention also provides standardized interfaces for the test station (or ATE) software to communicate with server systems and other ATEs if needed, thereby greatly simplify the coding required for these systems and allowing each test station (or ATE) to talk through the same standardized interface.
It is noted that the appended drawings illustrate only exemplary embodiments of the invention and are, therefore, not to be considered limiting of its scope, for the invention may admit to other equally effective embodiments.
The present invention provides for efficient test configuration and data management among disparate test operations, particularly on an enterprise-wide scale. In general respects, the present invention allows an entity to manage its test operations and related test stations (or ATEs) on an enterprise level through an interface that can access a centralized database of test related information, including test input parameters, test input data, test result data, test system information, test configuration information, data management information or any other desired test operations related information. Through this interface, which may be Internet-based access through a web browser and a graphical user interface (GUI), a user can log into the enterprise test configuration and data management (ETCM) system to configure, manage and monitor enterprise-wide test operations. Test data from disparate test operations and test stations can be stored in the remotely accessible database, and the data formats can be standardized or controlled to provide efficient and enhanced data storage and to allow efficient access, configuration and management through the centralized database. Example embodiments are described below in more detail with respect to the drawings.
The ETCM component operates to provide test configuration and data management functionality for the test system and communicates with ETCM system and database 100 through connection 118A. The ETCM component 108A can also communicate with a raw data archival system 102 through connection 122A, if desired. Similarly, the ETCM components in the other test systems 106B . . . 106C also communicate with the ETCM system and database 100 through connections 118B . . . 118C, respectively, and also communicate with the raw data archival system 102 through connections 122B . . . 122C, respectively. To provide remote configuration, management and monitoring of test operations, the ETCM system and database 100 also communicates with ETCM clients 124A, 124B . . . 124C through connections 126A, 126B . . . 126C, respectively. It is noted that the connections 118A, 118B . . . 118C and 126A, 126B . . . 126C can be, for example, any desired communication media, including but not limited to intranet networks, wireless networks, the Internet, or any other device or system that allows systems to communicate with each other. The test systems 106A, 106B . . . 106C can be any desired test device or system utilized in a test, measurement and automation environment.
The ETCM system and database 100 can communicate with a number of different test sites and a number of different test lines at a given test site. Considering local test systems 106A, 106B . . . 106C as a number of different test systems located at a particular test site, the collective communication connections 118A, 118B . . . 118C from this site can be designated as connection 115A. Considering that an enterprise can include a number of different test sites, the connections 115B, 115C . . . 115D represent these additional test sites. Thus, the ETCM system and database 100 can be in communication with a large variety of different test sites and lines and the organization of this information and test operation structure can be configured by the user, if desired.
The collective ETCM components 106 and the ETCM system and database 100 together allow for a wide range of test configuration and data management functionality to be provided to ETCM clients 124. In short, the present invention links together, formats and standardizes the flow of control and test data among disparate test sites and associated test lines and test systems using a centralized ETCM system and database 100 and an ETCM component 108 operating with respect to the individual test stations. The present invention thereby provides for a wide variety of useful functions, including management, monitoring, alarm notification and reporting of enterprise test activity.
As further described below, the ETCM system and database 100 allows users to manage test stations, test data, results and any other desired information for a group of test stations connected together through any of a variety of different media. The test stations do not need to be limited to certain type of testable devices (UUT) nor to how many devices can be tested in any period of time. The ETCM system enables users and other software programs to manage test stations from any remote location through a centralized data system. The ETCM system also allows the test station terminals to register and communicate with a centralized repository, thereby facilitating the transfer of test related information such as test data results, configuration, serial numbers, etc. The ETCM system and its components further provides programming interfaces to allow other devices and systems to connect and communicate with the ETCM system and its components. The ETCM system also provides graphical user interfaces (GUI) for operation and manipulation of the test information, test configuration and data management details, as well as any other desired test operation parameter.
It is further noted that the number of test stations can be divided and organized in different categories, which are fully configurable to the user's needs, and that the ETCM system can allow for the remote management of these test stations. In addition, these test stations can be distributed on a network inside a single building or can be distributed in any number of different locations around the world. The ETCM system of the present invention is not a factory execution system. Rather, it is a system that enables the management of test stations and related information as well as the management of test data. The stations can be distributed anywhere in the world and can be accessed through a computer terminal from anywhere where access to the central repository or database systems is available.
Management of test stations and test related information can include a variety of different capabilities to provide users and organizations with desirable and advantageous functionality. For example, test stations (or ATEs) may be organized in a logical way according to a customer's specific needs, independent of the physical location of the test stations. In addition, test station information, such as serial number, vendor, network settings, building location, department responsibility, etc., can be saved, retrieved and administered, either remotely or locally, as desired. Information can be set up to track test stations programmatically or through a graphical user interface. Changes to test station information can be scheduled so that these changes are made at a latter specific time and date. Changes can also be made to a single test station or to groups of test stations, depending upon customer needs or the manner in which the user chooses to configure test operations. Software versions and updates can also be monitored, controlled and remotely downloaded to test stations depending upon configurations or user input. Specific test configuration information can be retrieved and administered through the ETCM system, as well. This configuration information can include, for example, test plan configuration information (test plan name, author, last modified, available test stations, etc.), test step configuration information (name, properties, execution properties, etc.) and execution specific configuration information (start time, end time, calibration at execution, etc.). Test operations may also be configured to allow tracking of test related activities such as the test plan, test steps, and test execution, either programmatically or through a graphical user interface. Further, the test results can be collected, organized and analyzed. For example, what test data to collect can be configured based upon a selection of the test procedures and results to include. In addition, events can be configured, enabled and disabled so that if a particular event occurs, the system will execute a specific action, such as a notification to a responsible engineer when a test parameter meets some defined condition, such as the test parameter being equal to a selected value, the parameter being over or under a certain range, etc.
Looking now to
The status monitoring module 204 operates on ETCM server systems that are part of the ETCM system and database 100 and can provide a variety of monitoring features that are accessible to the ETCM clients, including enabling a user to remotely monitor ATEs connected to the ETCM system, for example, by providing a remotely accessible hierarchical view of all the ATEs connected into the ETCM system and by providing the user access to more details about particular test stations or ATEs.
The report tools 206 operate on ETCM server systems that are part of the ETCM system and database 100 and provide a variety of reporting features that are accessible to the ETCM clients. For example, the report tools 206 can provide pre-configured reports to display to the user. It can also provide mechanisms for users to configure and create their own reports. These pre-configured and user configured reports can be generated from the information contained on the database server about the ETCM system in general or, more particularly, from information on the database server about specific test stations, devices, UUTs, etc. These reports can be generated and viewed as desired by the user.
The administration and configuration utilities 208 operate on ETCM server systems that are part of the ETCM system and database 100 and provide a variety of test and data administration and configuration features that are accessible to the ETCM clients. For example, the user can remotely create and modify configuration models and information about the ATEs. These accesses can also be done for individual ATEs or for groups of ATEs, as desired.
The data analysis tools 210 operate on ETCM server systems that are part of the ETCM system and database 100 and provide a variety of data analysis tools that are accessible to the ETCM clients. For example, data analysis tools can provide mechanisms to analyze the data gathered on the test stations. One such mechanism is to allow a user to view the trend in a particular value of all the units tested on selected test stations.
The event configuration and processing module 212 operates on ETCM server systems that are part of the ETCM system and database 100 and provides a variety of testing event notification features that are accessible to the ETCM clients. For example, this module 212 can allow the user to configure an event that gets triggered when a configured condition is met. For example, a user might want to be notified by email when more than a specified number of units (such as five units) have failed on a test station during a period of time. In this case, the user can configure the event through access to this module and the system will provide the corresponding notification.
The database server 230 provides the core database functions and can be, for example, a ORACLE database system available from Oracle, a DB2 database system available from IBM or an SQL SERVER database system available from Microsoft. For example, the database server 230 can be a centralized repository of information for the ETCM system. Stored information held by the database server 230 can include any desired information, such as information about each test station, about each test related to each test station, about the devices or units under test. As indicated above, reports generated through the ETCM system can be created as a result of querying the database server 230 for desired information. In short, the database server 230 stores the data utilized for the operation of the ETCM system and enables the efficient retrieval of this data when desired.
The main module provides an interface to the database server and thereby allows for relatively transparent database access by devices desiring to store or retrieve information from the database server 230. For example, the main module 232 can provide mechanisms to access the information contained in the database server and can allow a developer of the ATE to utilize the database without the overhead of learning and using SQL and database access techniques. The communication system 234 provides a connection for systems and modules communicating with the main module and may include various security measures, as desired.
Looking back to decision block 302, if the answer is “no” and data is not currently available for transmission, the ETCM module data flow transmission process proceeds to decision block 308 to determine if data can be transmitted. If the answer is “no,” control proceeds on to decision block 315. If “yes,” flow proceeds on to block 304 to determine whether there is data in the remote interface buffer 358A that is ready for transmission. If “yes,” flow proceeds to block 310. If “no,” flow proceeds to decision block 312 where the ETCM module data flow transmission process determines whether there is data stored in the local ETCM data storage 322A. If “yes,” data is moved from the local ETCM data storage 322A to the remote transmission interface buffer 358A in block 314, and flow proceeds back to decision block 304. If “no,” flow proceeds back to decision block 302.
For each such test station 404A (STATION A), additional information may be provided, such as hardware resources 410A, software resources 410B and test links 410C to tests 412A (TEST A), 412B, 412C . . . , which may in turn represent, for example, tests that can be run or are running on the test stations, such as test station 408A (STATION A). For each test, such as test 412A (TEST A), additional test related information can be provided. This information can include items such as general test properties 414A, test execution properties 414B, and test steps 414C that links to individual test steps 416A (STEP A), 416B, 416C, . . . for the test. Each test step, such as test step 416A (STEP A) can have still additional information linked to it such as test result definition 418A with parameters such as date/time 420A, pressure 420B and temperature 420C; properties 418B with parameters such as maximum temperature 422A and maximum pressure 422B; and execution properties 418C such as start time 424A. In addition to the example control, configuration and management information provided in
This control architecture 400 and associated interface allows users, if desired, to monitor, configure and manage enterprise test facilities from a single point as those operations are occurring. Information may be viewed and modified to generate any desired view of the test facilities and operations for the company. In addition, tests on particular test stations can be monitored, manipulated, configured, etc. as desired through the user interface. For each of the items in
Thus, from one interface, a user may determine the current status of enterprise-wide test operations and view these operations on increasing or decreasing levels of detail, as desired, through the tree-like interface structure. In addition, an indication at each level may be provided for status events, such as “green” for operations within desired parameters, “yellow” for operations within concern levels and “red” for operations that have either stopped or are threatening production or product yield. In this way, an engineer or test operations manager can quickly monitor, configure and manage test operations through a remotely accessible ETCM system and database. This feature provides a way to evaluate the current status of the test operations from one point, thereby providing the ability to make better decisions. In other words, the person reviewing or managing the test operations does not need to be at the same facility to view the ETCM information. In addition, because this access can be accomplished remotely, companies that have a distributed manufacturing environment, for example, different steps of the production line are located at different locations, can use this interface tool to enable personnel to access, monitor and evaluate production line operations as a whole from one point.
The switch 620A, the switch 621A and the ETCM enable module 622A may be any desired technique for selectively enabling processing by an ETCM component of a test station. For example, the ETCM component 108A may be software-based processing that is installed as part of the test software. The ETCM enable module 622A and the switches 620A and 621A may essentially be a software switch that is set through the interface 320A. This software switch may determine whether or not the ETCM component installed on the test station 106A operates. In addition, the ETCM enable module 622A and switch 620A could be implemented through a software patch that is installed and executed on the test station 106A at a later date.
Advantageously, the ability to selectively enable the ETCM component 108A provides significant flexibility in test installations and operations. For example, if a company does not have the connectivity infrastructure to effect the transmission of information from a test floor where the test stations are located, the company can still include the ETCM component 108A in a software installation on the local test station 106A. In this way, when the connectivity infrastructure is constructed in the future, the ETCM component 108A can be enabled with little additional effort. Other advantageous uses of this selectivity are also situations where the connectivity infrastructure is in place, but the company nevertheless chooses not to utilize the ETCM control. In Addition, even if the connectivity infrastructure is not in place, the ETCM control may be enabled, leading to data storage in the ETCM data storage 322A, as discussed with respect to
Further modifications and alternative embodiments of this invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art in view of this description. It will be recognized, therefore, that the present invention is not limited by these example arrangements. Accordingly, this description is to be construed as illustrative only and is for the purpose of teaching those skilled in the art the manner of carrying out the invention. It is to be understood that the forms of the invention herein shown and described are to be taken as the presently preferred embodiments. Various changes may be made in the shape, size and arrangement of parts. For example, equivalent elements may be substituted for those illustrated and described herein, and certain features of the invention may be utilized independently of the use of other features, all as would be apparent to one skilled in the art after having the benefit of this description of the invention.
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