Why is test the backend’s red-headed stepchild?

by Bob Haavind, Editorial Director, Solid State Technology

Test always ends up as the red-headed step-child in backend operations, according to Debbora Ahlgren, VP and chief marketing officer, Verigy, because of a complex and disaggregated supply chain along with trends in design and packaging. These interacting factors lead to what she called a “perfect storm” for test and ATE (automatic test equipment) suppliers (see Figure).

A big problem is a misalignment of business/profit objectives of the test/assembly house and the integrated device manufacturer (IDT), she asserted. The testing house gets paid by a “charge per CPU second” method. This is counter to the drive by IDMs for test system designers at the ATEs to reduce the cost of test. The depreciation practices and this “charge per CPU second” approach of the test/assembly vendors make it difficult to achieve capital cost reductions on compatible platforms. IDMs are driving for a lifetime cost-of-ownership approach.

Ahlgren stated that the “charge per CPU second” is agnostic to both the die/dice and package, yet the system value is only in the die/package. She sees this metric as off target. Making things worse, she suggested, is the IDM practice of shifting OSAT partners to obtain the lowest cost.

The conflicting business objectives must be resolved, Ahlgren suggests, through strong tri-lateral collaboration. She believes that a business model could emerge that would achieve overall well-being for all the players. — B.H.


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