Automation Methodology for Manless silicon
validation of Mixed signal IPs using Switch Matrix
By Pratik Damle,
Gaurav Mathur, Apurva Sen, Tejinder Kumar, Rajkumar Nagpal,
and Rakesh Malik, STMicroelectronics India
Introduction: Product development cycle time is
always crucial for any company in any business. In the present
era of continuous enhancements in wireless communication,
computing, consumer electronics and other similar sectors,
silicon providers face lot of challenges to deliver their
solutions with quality and on time. To expedite the development
cycle, exhaustive and robust automation is gaining high
importance in all the phases of product life cycle i.e.
design, verification, validation, sustenance. This article
presents the architecture of an automated test setup used
for validation of mixed signal IPs (Intellectual property)
and is demonstrated through high speed serial link PHY (Physical
Layers) like USB2.0, MIPI, HDMI etc. and its advantages
in terms of massive cycle time reduction and error free
tests results. This approach can be used in the validation
of any IPs which uses multiple setups for characterization.
The silicon of any high speed serial link PHY is required
to be tested and characterized for number of internal blocks
and interfaces, over PVT (process, voltage and temperature)
variations. To accomplish all these test scenarios, it takes
huge amount of time to perform the same test repeatedly
on PVT variations, if done manually. Also the validation
setup needs to be changed many times while moving from one
test case to another. For example in case of a high speed
USB transceiver tests, transmitter characterization needs
the DUT (device under test) to be connected to scope, while
receiver tests are done with data generator connected to
the DUT. Similarly Voh, Vol level tests need a digital multi-meter
connected at serial interface whereas source meters are
used in case of driver current measurement. Also in all
the tests some discrete components are required to be connected
at serial interface as per test requirement. During the
testing, test engineer has to switch across these connections
manually as test cases are executed.
Fig. 1: USB2 PHY test setup
USB2.0 PHY test setup is shown in in figure1. USB2.0 PHY
mounted on test board is connected to a number of equipments,
components, fixtures, cables at its serial as well as parallel
interfaces, which are connected and disconnected to PHY
as needed in a particular test.
The iterative execution of tests and setup changes lead
to several issues:
- Consume a lot of setup time, which may be more than actual
- Manual mistakes in connections
- Wear and tear of cables, connectors etc due to repeated
- Reliability and repeatability of setup and results.
In view of these issues, the development of an automated
setup is inevitably gaining importance in industry.
To address the need, an automated test setup was conceived
and realized in test Lab using Labview and Test stand as
software, customized controller on FPGA Hardware and a complex
Switch Matrix board for configurable connections.
All USB2.0 PHY tests are scripted in Labview and integrated
in a Test Stand software suite. This software runs on a
central controller PC which governs the operation of all
equipments in the setup as needed for a test case and ensures
error free execution of test cases followed by report generation.
This also controls the customized H/W blocks in FPGA specifically
designed to configure the USB PHY for different test cases.
A circuit board as shown in figure 2 is developed, which
has a complex switch matrix implemented on it. This board
has different ports which make connections with all the
equipments, components, fixtures, cables needed in the setup
and finally connects them to DUT.
Fig. 2: Switch Matrix Board
The switch matrix is implemented with high performance Teledyne
RF relays which can dynamically switch test signals from
one port to another while perfectly meeting signal quality
requirements. This board is designed so as to ensure the
signal quality and path delays conforming to USB interface
The switching of relays is controlled by FPGA which is in
turn controlled by Labview script integrated in Test Stand
Figure 3 below shows a section of matrix implementation
in which different equipments are connected to PHY using
Table below shows the combinations of control lines for
connecting different equipments to PHY.
||Data Generator Ch1
||Data Generator Ch2
Figure 4 below shows a complete automated setup with the
Switch matrix board deployed.
Fig. 4: USB2PHY test setup with switch matrix
Switch matrix methodology is applied in characterization
of other IPs also. For e.g. switch matrix is deployed to
reduce test time in validation of MIPI D-PHY (Mobile Industry
Processor Interface, for 500Mbps) physical layer.
One limitation of switch matrix is that, it distorts the
signal as there are of multiple relays present on high speed
signal traces which cause signal attenuation and also creates
impedance mismatch in signal path. Thus it introduces inaccuracies
in test measurements done at high speed signals.
This problem is overcome by compensating the amount of signal
degradation imposed by extra circuit in switch matrix in
the measurement results. The compensation is used for both
Transmit path and receive path. When the board is configured
for receiver characterization, the data generators connected
to the board are calibrated up till the probe points which
negate the signal attenuation and distortion due to the
relays present between the probe point and the data generators.
For transmitter tests, the degradation is removed by de-embedding
the effect of relays and additional traces from the measured
signal on the scope. This is done by making a model of the
circuit on the board and importing the S-Parameters of the
relays into the model.
The effect of de-embedding is seen in the following comparative
Fig. 5: MIPI D-PHY Transmit eye diagram without switch
Fig. 6: MIPI D-PHY Transmit eye diagram with switch matrix
Fig. 7: MIPI D-PHY Transmit eye diagram with switch matrix
The eye diagram of the MIPI D-PHY High Speed signal in
Figure 5 is plotted using a MIPI D-PHY chip on a board which
does not have any relays on the high speed side whereas
Figure 6 shows the eye diagram with multiple relays on the
high speed side. The degradation of the signal is easily
seen. When effects of the relays are removed using the de-embedding
technique, eye diagram is improved as can be seen in Figure
7, which is quite comparable to figure5 when there were
no relays in high speed data path.
Fig. 8: MIPI D-PHY test board with switch matrix relays
Figure 8 above shows the Switch matrix used for characterization
of MIPI PHY with high speed signals. In order to eliminate
the effect of PCB to PCB connector the Switching relays
are populated on PHY board itself (unlike USB, where switch
matrix was implemented on separate board). S- Parameters
of relays and related traces are measured and used for de-embedding
Thus by deploying switch matrix technique in validation,
major gain is achieved in test time. The setup has been
successfully deployed for USB2.0 and MIPI D-PHY characterization
in Test Lab at ST and offers below remarkable advantages:
- Reduces test cycle time with improved reliability and
repeatability of results.
- Prevents any damages to Hardware, equipment due to human
- Prevents the degradation in performance of connectors/cables
due to repeated connection and removal cycles.
- Makes the test platforms operator-less, thus saves manpower.
Figure 9 below highlights the actual test cycle time reduction
achieved in the Lab for USB2.0 PHY. It shows reduction in
test time from as setup was matured from "No Automation"
to "Complete Automation". As it shows, Test time
has been reduced to 2.5 weeks from 14 weeks with an automated
setup. It can be further reduced to just 1 week if setup
remains operational 24 X 7.
Fig. 9: USB2PHY test time reduction