Automated test equipment attributes

What attributes are needed in automated test equipment (ATE)? What automation should be considered for ATE designs? See 10 questions to ask when applying automation.

By Mark T. Hoske March 24, 2019

New product design and development increasingly rely on automation to increase throughput and speed time to market, including many automated test equipment (ATE) applications. While simulations help, some tests benefit from real-world physical results provided with automation.

Questions for applying automation

After determining an application needs automation, what’s next? When applying automation to an application, consider the following 10 questions.

  1. What are application needs, goals, objectives, and scope? (Related: Will it expand or need to be reconfigured in the future? How much will be purchased, designed, reused, adapted, or integrated?)
  2. What’s the project schedule?
  3. What sensors will be needed?
  4. What logic devices will be applied, where will they be located, and what environmental protection will they need? Will these be separate from data acquisition or integrated?
  5. What actuation or other motion elements will be needed? (Related: Will custom motion be applied and/or can robotics be used?)
  6. Which elements will be automated and how? (Related: Will open- or closed-loop control be applied? Or a combination?)
  7. How will power be managed and applied safely without interfering with communications and other functions?
  8. What communications and input/output (I/O) connections are needed to connect elements, devices, and systems?
  9. What data analytics will be applied for data acquisition or Big Data analysis? (Related: Will real-time feedback be applied to the application?)
  10. Do you have staff required to meet schedule lifecycle for design, simulation, training, test, integration, commissioning, operation, analysis, maintenance, rework or retirement, with appropriate safety and cybersecurity? (Related: Will consultants, system integrators, vendors, or other experts be brought in for one or more stages of the automation process? Earlier is better for internal and external collaboration.)

Automotive application

Sakor Technologies Inc. recently provided a dynamometer testing system to a major original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for testing starters and alternators used in hybrid and electric vehicle applications. The dynamometer test system consists of a 42 kW ac motoring dynamometer and test automation controller. The system has test modes for load or motoring and communicates with the customer’s engine control unit via CAN bus technology.

The system can test from 0 to 18,000 RPM, with full torque from a stall condition. It can run in motoring or loading modes at maximum rated torque/power in either direction and can switch between modes instantaneously, exposing starters and alternators to all vehicle conditions, Sakor said.

Modes simulate real-world conditions, including starting the engine, dynamic braking, power assist, and battery charging modes, replacing two or three prior machines to do similar testing. Operating costs are less with regeneration capabilities.

Automated battery testing

Siemens opened an advanced robotized and digitized battery module factory in Trondheim, Norway. The factory has a robotized and digitized production line with eight robotic stations and capacity of up to 300 megawatt hours (MWh) per year. The factory is automated from unpacking incoming production parts through the testing of the finished battery module. One battery consists of nine battery modules, each module consists of 28 battery cells. Uses include ships and offshore electrical applications.

West Mira, a Northern Drilling company drilling platform, is said to be the first drilling rig in the world operated with modern batteries. According to Siemens, the batteries are estimated to reduce annual fuel consumption by twelve percent, annual carbon dioxide emissions by fifteen percent, and annual nitrogen oxide emissions by twelve percent.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

KEYWORDS: Automated test equipment, Automation tips

When automating test equipment plan the scope of the project.

Automation provides flexibility and added capabilities.

Automated testing is integrated with an automated factory.


What applications could benefit from automation?

Original content can be found at Control Engineering.

Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.