QuinStar Invests in mm-Wave Test Automation to Increase Production Capacity

mm-Wave products, microelectronic assembly and rapid prototyping expert, QuinStar, has partnered with hardware solutions provider, TeraSys Technologies, to advance their testing capacity. QuinStar’s production backlog was growing rapidly and acceptance testing was becoming a bottleneck. Rather than hiring more workers and running the risk of overstaffing, they decided to investigate test automation solutions. The company needed an automation solution provider that understood the nuances of millimeter-wave testing.

QuinStar was facing the problem most businesses want to solve: product orders were increasing beyond what their production team could support. The company’s customer requirements impose a high degree of per-unit acceptance testing including long duration tests over different temperature ranges. QuinStar prides itself on providing a stable work environment, so they are cautious about hiring during production spikes. At the same time, QuinStar also strives to provide its workers with work-life balance—requiring 24/7 availability was not an option. They thus decided for test automation technology.

The Solution: Turnkey Test Automation with Labview

One major requirement for the automation solution was that it had to be fully turnkey. Once a technician started the test, the company wanted every step to be 100% automatic including the creation of the test report document. To make this happen, QuinStar wanted a solution provider that understood the nuances of RF and millimeter-wave testing, something that an application-agnostic supplier couldn’t offer. Within 6 weeks, the company built an automation routine to calibrate the test setup, and then cycle through a sequence of temperature, RF power levels, and frequencies. Given a typical test sequence often amounted to over 150 test points, the automation dramatically sped up testing - and eliminated human error. They also wrote a custom ActiveX data translation module to transpose the data onto MS Excel spreadsheets and format them to the exact specifications for each of QuinStar’s customers.

QuinStar’s new automation solution has been operating for a few months now and has tripled the test station’s throughput capacity. Test runs during normal business hours readily meet production schedules. From a financial perspective, QuinStar will rapidly achieve a positive return-on-investment from their automation solution. Due to the increased throughput, the company’s investment will pay for itself after testing its 120th unit—a milestone they will likely meet in the next quarter. Based on the success of this program, QuinStar is considering additional candidates for test automation.