PCB Electrical Test

Bare Printed Circuit Board Electrical Testing Capabilities

Advanced Circuits, as a regular part of its PCB manufacturing process, performs electrical testing on your printed circuit boards to ensure their quality. Below please find a full explanation of how we perform these tests and what they mean. As a leading PCB manufacturer we assure you that we monitor for quality here in our own facilities, where we fabricate your printed circuit boards; we are not a broker. Your PCB order is manufactured by us and tested by us so you will know that your printed circuit boards are free of defects and meet the standards you expect.

We currently have two different types of testing equipment available to test your circuit boards; we have a number of Everett Charles ATG test machines that are flying probe, fixtureless testers and we also have universal grid testing capability. These machines use fixtures built specifically for your PCB.

Bare Board Testing

Bare board testing involves using capacitance and resistance tests; each of our machines uses a combination of both. Capacitance testing for a bare board involves testing for opens and shorts by "charging" a net or plane and then probing each net to measure the induced capacity. Inaccuracies occur with this method because of the inherent variability in producing circuit boards. However field measurement or field effect testing for shorts uses a very similar approach.

Resistance Testing

Resistance testing measures the resistance found in the net. As electric current flows through a conductor collisions between electrons and atoms interfere with the flow of the electrons. This is known as resistance and it's measured in ohms.

A good conductor has LOW resistance - at common temperatures silver is the best conductor and copper is second. The amount of resistance depends on the conductor's length and its cross-sectional area. If you have two circuits of the same material and the same cross-section and one is twice as long as the other - the longer one has TWICE as much resistance. If you have two circuits of the same material and the same length but one is twice as thick as the other - the thicker conductor will have HALF the resistance.

So Resistance is proportional to length and inversely proportional to the cross-sectional area of a conductor and dissipates power in the form of heat.

Using CAD/CAM Data

Advanced Circuits' test processes use CAD/CAM data for ALL test programs and optimize both ATG and Trace test programs while meeting Class 2 requirements. We follow the IPC 9252 specification guidelines for Class 2 testing processes, which means that we test 100% of the networks on the board for continuity and isolation (that's opens and shorts) using a test program generated from your Gerber data. We do not test 100% of the points - we optimize out mid points of nets as allowed by the standard. We do not use your original Gerber data - it does not guarantee a 100% test.

Electrical Test Terminology

  • 100% Net List Test: Check of every "node" on every net on the board.

  • Adjacency Test: Type of test for checking isolation between conductors - shorts test. A software generated program that checks for nets that are within a tolerance set by the user. Two methods are used - Proximity Adjacency and Line of Site Adjacency.

  • Clam Shell Test: Provides simultaneous testing of both sides of the board at the same time. These types of fixtures are used on single grid testers and dual grid testers. A very reliable method of bare board testing because all points are tested at the same time.

  • Combined Grid/Probe Testing: Using the flying probe test sequence to cover areas of the board with fine pitch, high density points while the grid test verifies power to ground separation, through hole and wider pitch component pads.

  • Comparative or Golden Board Test: Method using a "master" or known good board (KGB) to learn a program and then test other boards against the learned net list program. Poor choice for test accuracy - you may be learning a "bad" board.

  • Continuity Test: Verification that the resistance between test points is lower than the specified limit or maximum continuity resistance. See shorts and opens tests.

  • End of Net: A feature which is either the origin or the termination of a conductor network.

  • Endpoint: A test point or node required to be tested to meet the 100% continuity and isolation test.

  • Field Effect and Field Measurement Test: Refer to a type of test that uses large nets as antennas to send a specific high frequency alternating current at a specific voltage. The remaining nets are checked and those that have similar voltages for all antennas are considered as shorted and then retested using Ohm's law resistance to verify the shorts.

  • Flip Test: Consists of two separate, independent single sided tests on a universal grid. Testing one side and then the other. Unless a significant number of points are tested during both tests it can be a very inaccurate method.

  • High Pot Test: Refers to high voltage potential testing to check for high resistance continuity or leakage between ground and power planes. DC voltages in the 500 to 1000 volt ranges are used for a specified dwell time.

  • Impedance: The design of a circuit and the frequency of the current passing through it have various affects on the alternating current passing through it. The combination of these effects and the resistance of the conductor is called impedance.

  • Impedance Control Test: A device called a TDR (Time Domain Reflectometer) is used to check circuits to determine if they are within expected tolerances. Conductor length, spacing, width, height and separation affect the impedance.

  • In Circuit Test: Test performed after components are installed - a check for shorts or opens caused during assembly operations.

  • Isolated Land: A test point not connected to any other test point or net. Also called a single point net, singlet or no connect.

  • Isolation Resistance: The resistance tolerance between the circuit board's non-connected traces and/or lands.

  • Land: A portion of a conductive pattern usually used for connection, component attachment or both. Surface mount pads, component hole pads, gold fingers etc.

  • Leakage: Movement of current between two conductors that are not connected and therefore should be isolated by a minimum amount of resistance. Causes significant "noise" in the properties of the circuit board.

  • Mid Net Point: A feature which is a not at either the termination or origin of an interconnecting network

  • Net: An entire string of points or connections from the first source point to the last target point including lands and vias.

  • Net List: A list of alpha-numeric locations, used to describe a group of two or more points that are electrically common

  • Node: A connection point between a network and an off- the-board item like a component or test probe. See Land

  • Opens Test: Check to make sure there is current flow from one "node" to the next for every net on the board, again by measuring the amount of resistance of the conductor.

  • Optimized Net List Test: Check every "end of net" for all nets on the board and selected intermediate nodes on the board.

  • Shorts Test: Check to make sure that NO current flows between separate nets by measuring the amount resistance between them.

IPC- 9252 Guidelines and Requirements for Electrical Testing of Unpopulated Printed Boards

Section 4.4 States: One hundred percent continuity and isolation electrical test is the confirmation that the actual electrical interconnect of conductive nodes matches a proven reference source, including but not limited to CAD/CAM digital data, master pattern artwork, or released drawings.

Section 4.4.6 Paragraph Two States: Rather than declare a single method as correct… this specification defines increasing levels of confidence based on increased numbers of electrical measurements…See table 4.1.