Curve Trace FAQ

Curve Trace FAQ2022-01-19T11:45:17-08:00

General FAQs

What is curve tracing? What is a curve tracer?2022-01-20T11:39:34-08:00

Curve tracing is a specialized electronic test method that analyzes the voltage-current function or I-V characteristic of electronic devices. Failure analysis engineers and component test labs utilize this technique to understand the condition of the pin electronic structures and detect or track down damaged components.

A curve tracer is a tool used to measure and analyze electrical characteristics. RTI’s curve tracers can detect electrically damaged or counterfeit devices and measures many DC parameters found in a datasheet. On top of that, RTI has built software to automate these tests and make analysis efficient. Our curve tracers are complete solutions to test, analyze, and report results for your devices and components.

Read more here.

Why do I need a curve tracer?2022-09-09T12:25:22-07:00

A curve tracer is a useful tool to determine if your semiconductor devices have been damaged by ESD, process defects, applications or design errors, latch-up, misuse, mishandling, counterfeiting, package continuity, and a range of other environmental stresses.

Our curve tracers can characterize DC parameters that can be measured directly from your device or package. Most DC voltage or current specifications can be measured or verified using curve trace techniques. The DC specifications table on a typical datasheet contains these values and test conditions.

Why would I want a powered curve tracer?2022-09-09T12:26:48-07:00

If you have interest measuring the supply current or how the I/O pins behave in the active powered state, then you need a curve tracer with powered curve trace capabilities.

A 4 or 6-bus MultiTrace is useful for measuring supply current under a wide range of static input conditions. In many cases, quasi-functional tests can be created to characterize analog functionality or a parameter over a range of supply voltage. Most DC values can be measured within the +/-15V, 1A range of the system with +/-100V, 100mA range available in some cases.

Are the curve trace models upgradeable?2022-09-09T12:44:50-07:00

Yes. In most cases, direct upgrades are possible. Our curve tracers can be expanded by adding additional buses for higher pin-count devices. However, each curve tracer is limited to certain pin volumes, and upgrades to larger curve tracers are common.

Many users choose the MT Century curve tracer and, as their devices’ pin count gets bigger, upgrades follow.

What support do you offer for the curve tracer?2020-07-17T08:26:43-07:00

RTI provides end-to-end support for our automated curve tracers and curve trace software. We design and build every curve tracer and develop the software in-house.  We also manufacture a wide range of test fixtures, DUT boards and test sockets with FA options that interface directly with each curve tracer. We provide training and ongoing personalized and detailed support at all levels of usage.

What are the applications of the curve tracer?2022-01-20T11:42:32-08:00

Our curve tracers serve a variety of engineering applications for testing and verification of a wide range of devices and packages. Popular applications are failure analysis, reliability and latch-up testing, and counterfeit IC detection.

What’s new in curve tracing?2020-07-17T08:50:05-07:00

RTI is engaged in continuous improvement of the DataTrace Analysis software to add more features in the areas of ease of use, convenience, automation, and data analysis. DataTrace revolutionizes the way we analyze and present curve trace information.

What is the power voltage for the curve trace models? Tech Specs?2020-07-17T08:51:31-07:00

Our MultiTrace and MegaTrace curve tracers have at least 2 precision drives with +/-15V, 1A range with 10 series resistors. The 4 or 6-bus configurations have twice the drives as the 2-bus configuration, for a total of 8 drives (or SMUs). The series resistor determines both the maximum current allowed and the accuracy of the current measurement obtained.

How can RTI help me heat my devices for testing (FA & BI POV)? Can RTI cool it too?2020-07-17T09:01:29-07:00

Most of our test sockets can be paired with heaters integrated in the socket base or the lid for regulated heat to your device or package. This is useful for Burn-In, Environmental tests, and Failure Analysis. Our heaters can be scaled to your application, and we have a temperature controller to interface with our heated sockets and fixtures.

Cooling lids are an option for our test sockets. We offer passive heatsinks with or without a fan. For an active option, we have water blocks or TEC thermal heads that span over a wide range of power. We have a temperature controller for our cooling options that integrate with our test sockets and fixtures.

For more details into how many heating and cooling options are available and our capabilities, contact us.

What makes a test socket FA friendly?2020-07-17T09:02:33-07:00

Failure Analysis users have certain needs in a test socket. They need more than electrical connectivity, and typically need optical access to look through to the package.  An F/A test socket typically has an open-top lid and often an open bottom feature to allow backside access. Often decapsulated devices are thinned, so an FA socket needs to cope by having interchangeable or adjustable lids. Failed devices are often reballed or unballed, so an FA socket must cope with varying devices or allow for connection past a missing BGA ball or bent pin. Holding a sample stable and level is important in microscopy, and our sockets are machined with precise tolerance to secure the device where you want it. Our test sockets are made to order with a wide range of options, materials, and designs to fulfill your failure analysis needs.

Contact us for more information or to discuss your next project.

Fault Localization Tools from RTI: Finding a Hotspot2022-01-20T11:44:25-08:00

We design and build many test solutions that can be used under a microscope for fault isolation. See below for options and versatility:

    • Most of our test sockets can have an F/A open top lid. CSP sockets have the option of the Sapphire Window lid which allows visibility to just about all FA relevant imaging tools.
    • R1 and R4 DUT boards are inherently low profile and, with a Yamaichi cable, work well for all kinds of optical microscopy
    • The 950 Series fixture can be semi-permanently mounted on the stage and allows quick and easy DUT board swapping. Open top and open backside configurations are possible with the 950 Series.
    • The 384-pin pogo block fixture has a probe station configuration with similar applications to the 950 Series, but with 4x more pins.
    • The MultiTrace and MegaTrace can be used to bias your device with compatible fixtures during the hotspot search, including lock-in thermography. You can use the setup used to detect leakage to stimulate the device during fault isolation.
    • Manual switch boxes can be used to bias your device with compatible fixtures during the hotspot search. You can use the switch box with external supplies and lock-in thermography pulse sources.
    • Custom breakout and alignment fixtures can be used in special circumstances.

Contact us for more details and options.

Configurations & Technical

What are buses?2022-09-09T12:23:05-07:00

Buses are the pathways that create the connection between a drive resource and a pin in the switch matrix. Each bus forms a channel in the switch matrix. More buses enable higher-level test applications such as powered curve tracing and automatic functions.

How are buses configured?2022-01-20T11:45:30-08:00

Our curve tracers are configured with a different number of buses based on your test needs.

The 2-bus configuration is primarily used for unpowered curve tracing.

The 4-bus configuration is set up for powered and unpowered curve tracing, and IDD measurements but is limited to 1 VDD voltage.

The 6-bus configuration allows easy testing of devices with 2-4 VDD voltages.

Learn more here.

How many buses do I need?2022-01-20T11:46:39-08:00

The number of buses needed on a curve tracer depends on the tests and applications you want to run. There are 3 bus configurations for all our curve tracers you can choose from 2 buses, 4 buses, and 6 buses.

2 buses are used for continuity testing using unpowered curve tracing. This means the device will be in an unpowered state as the pins are swept with voltage and their characteristics measured. If you require powered curve tracing, you will need 4 buses.

4 buses are the minimum configuration for powered curve tracing with two buses available as power supplies. This allows the device in a powered state as the pins are curve traced. The 4-bus configuration is more versatile and capable than a 2-bus configuration with the ability to connect to power supplies and perform powered and unpowered curve tracing.

A 6-bus configuration allows for powered curve tracing and provides additional two buses that are specifically intended to serve as low impedance power supply voltages. This can free up drives three and four for use as curve tracing drives, or as additional power supplies for a device with a large amount of power supply voltages. These drives can be used for curve tracing, but their accuracy is low since they are intended as power supplies.

This provides a quick summary of the capabilities of the three different bus configurations. For more detail about buses and configurations, check out this page.

Facility requirements: what is the required supply voltage for the curve tracers, and how big is it?2020-07-17T08:52:59-07:00

The curve tracers are powered from a typical wall receptacle using either 120V or 220V. For facilities preparing for a curve tracer, we recommend 400W per test chassis or 1000W for the MegaTrace. In most cases, our curve tracers consume less power. In areas with poor power quality or with a non-standard voltage, we recommend an AVR or Variac for nominal working voltage.

The MultiTrace is approximately 70lbs per test chassis, and each test chassis is 21″ (L) x 40″ (W) x 9″ (H). Low pin count curve tracers typically fit in one test chassis while our larger systems require up to 3 test chassis. In most cases, the MultiTrace fits on half of a typical lab bench and fits well on many rolling carts for portability around the lab.

The MegaTrace is built in a cart form that keeps all cables and controller in a portable, neat cabinet. This allows for the curve tracer to be moved to fault isolation equipment line, emission microscope and various other testing equipment in your lab. The MegaTrace’s dimensions for all bus configurations are 44″ (L) x 26″ (W) x 41″ (H), not including the monitor.

Manual Switch Box (Manual Curve Tracing)

How do I use a manual switch box for curve tracing and IDDQ measurements?2020-07-17T08:33:42-07:00

This would be done similarly to RTI’s automated curve tracing with the exception that you are limited to 2 buses and must manually switch each pin. The manual switch box is limited to 96 pins and supports 2 buses.

To operate the switch box, you would connect the sources you are using to test the device via banana jacks and connect your test fixture to the switch box through a Yamaichi cable. Then you would use the switches on the switch box to connect each pin of the fixture to bus V-, bus V+, or neither.

Unlike the MultiTrace curve tracer, this is not automated so each switch corresponds to one pin and must be set to the desired position by hand. Besides the manual action, you can use this box to make curve tracing and IDDQ measurements the same way as a MultiTrace, provided the V- and V+ buses are driven using source measurement units (SMU).

How do I use a manual switch box for curve tracing continuity?2020-07-17T08:49:14-07:00

The most common way to use the switch box is to evaluate the continuity of a device. You would connect the V+ node to a curve tracer and the V- node to the ground on the same tool.  A cable and DUT board are plugged into the switch box output and then the user can toggle switches from the far-left position (grounded pin) to the far-right position (tested pin) one by one for any pin they wish to examine.  To float a pin, the switch would be positioned in the middle and the banana jacks are largely unused in this configuration.  Overlay templates make it easier for users to find the right switch by replacing the generic switch legend with a customized one.

Fixtures & Interfaces

How many DUT board types are there for curve tracing? Are any standard? Can you make mine compatible?2020-07-17T08:29:40-07:00

RTI supports several standard DUT board types popular on test fixtures we manufacture. We also design DUT boards for use on various 3rd party and other test interfaces.  The best format is dictated by the pin count of the device and the instruments or cables that need to interface to it.

For any DUT board, it can contain an RTI dedicated socket, an RTI universal socket, or a 3rd party socket or special contact system. We work with your provided socket or fixture to make them compatible with our test equipment.

Here is a partial list of what’s possible. Contact us for more details.

  • Mini card and Extended Mini card for the 950 Series
  • PGA and DIP footprint for the MultiTrace
  • Octopogo DUT boards for the MegaTrace
  • Boards supporting Yamaichi cables for the Manual Switch box or MultiTrace
  • Edge board connector for Older ICD brand switch boxes
  • Verifier MK2 and MK4 ESD characterization Load Boards
  • Load boards for Hi-Level tester
  • Load boards for D10 Test System
  • Ribbon cable Interconnect standards like IDC-64, DB-25, DB-37, and other ribbon cable-based connectors
What is a breakout board and how does it compare to a switch box and DUT board?2020-07-17T08:30:55-07:00

There are various configurations of breakout boards but generally, they consist of a socket on a PCB where the pins are fanned out to a series of test points.  The test points maybe 1, 2, or 3 pin jumper systems, banana jacks, or other types of test points. The primary limitation is that the socket and board are fixed and cannot be reconfigured.

The switch box decouples the test points from the socket and DUT board. The DUT board can be swapped for any other component footprint and the total number of test points can be expanded by adding more switch boxes.

A switch box and DUT board is generally a lower cost solution because the switch box is a standard component and the DUT board is simpler than a breakout board.  A breakout board can be designed with special features and interface to your cables or work with daughter cards. In some cases, the breakout board will be a better solution for technical reasons.

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