Automated Test Equipment

Automatic or automated test equipment (ATE) is a system that performs tests on a device, known as the Device Under Test (DUT), using automation to quickly perform measurements and evaluate the test results. An ATE can be a simple computer controlled digital multimeter, or, more often, a complicated system containing dozens of complex test instruments (real or simulated electronic test equipment) capable of automatically testing and diagnosing faults in complex ICs.

The ATE/semiconductor test segment is comprised of six distinct types of testers:
• Analog/Linear Test
• Mixed Signal Test
• RF/Microwave Test
• Digital/Logic Test
• Memory Test
• System-on-Chip (SOC) Test

ATE systems interface with packaged chips through a separate machine called an IC handler. Tested ICs are then “binned” depending on their performance (higher performance devices are sold at a premium). Alternatively, ATE systems can test unpackaged chip directly on the wafer through a wafer prober and probe card designed to touch on the IO/bonding pads of the device. In this way, the cost of packaging bad chips is avoided.

The ATE market is driven by semiconductor chip volumes. As chip volumes steadily increase, the demand for chip testers also grows.

Given the sharp increase in usage of memory devices in end products such as home appliances, cell phones, and automobiles, it’s no surprise that the memory tester sub-segment is the largest in the ATE space.

According to a research report by Radiant Insights, Inc., the global ATE mrket is expected to be valued at $4.48 billion by 2020, as per Increasing design complexity coupled with need for effective testing is expected to drive the global automated test equipment market demand.

Increasing need for optimizing power management in order to ensure longer battery life is likely to favor the growth prospects. However, dependency on semiconductor chips is likely challenge industry participants. Non-memory products were the leading segment, valued at $2,867.5 million in 2013, according to the report. Expansion of consumer electronics, increasing automotive demand and growing number of microcontroller-based applications are factors likely to promote its demand.

Memory products accounted for 21.21% of the overall revenue in 2013, growing at an estimated CAGR of 1.7% from 2014 to 2020. The cyclical variations in growth rates than non-memory semiconductors have resulted in gaining popularity among various applications.

Additional Reading:

Business is good for vendors of test and inspection/metrology equipment

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