January 17, 2013

DFT Modes: Perspective

As more number of transistors are finding their way onto a single SoC, Design for Testability (DFT) is becoming an increasing important function of the SoC design cycle. As the technology nodes are shrinking consistently, the probability of the occurrence of the faults is also increasing which makes DFT an indispensable function for modern sub-micron SoCs. What are the possible faults within an SoC and whhat all ways are possible to detect them? We will take them up briefly.

Imagine that you own a chip manufacturing company for the automotive industry. The end application can be something meant for infotainment, engine management, rear view camera, ethernet connectivity, power  glasses or for a critical application like collision detector or air-bag control etc. You wouldn't like to sell a faulty chip to your customers for two main reasons:
  • Trust of the customer which would impact the goodwill of the company.
  • Loss of business: Maybe because the customer opted for some other semiconductor vendor or even worse, the chip failed at the user end and he sued your customer who ultimately sued you!
Hence, it is pretty important to test the chip before shipping it out to the customers.

Types of fault and their detection:
  • Structural Fault: Basically refers to the faults due to faulty manufacturing at the fabs. Even a tiny dust particle has cause shorts or opens in an SoC. 
    Let's try to understand it from our example. Let's say you manufactured the chip but there is a fair probability  that there might be some structural inadequacies in the form of shorts or opens. Imagine any digital circuit. Single short or a single open can cause the entire functionality of the device to go haywire. Structural testing is done during the DFT tests or modes called as Shift and Stuck-At Capture. We'll discuss these in detail in the upcoming posts. Note that these tests are conducted after manufacturing, before shipping the part to the customer.
  • Transition Faults: Signal transitions are nothing but the voltage levels while they switch from either 'high' to 'low' or vice-versa. There is a designated time before the clock edge when all the signals should be stable at the input of the Flop (a very crude definition of setup time) and also a designated time after the clock edge when none of the signals should change their states at the input of the Flop (a very crude definition of hold time). Any such fault in the transition times (conversely: setup or hold violations) is referred to as a transition fault.

    Going back to our example. Suppose that you first filtered out the chips which had some structural fault. Now you would test the remaining chips for transition faults. What would happen if you ship a chip with a transition fault to a customer? If it had a setup violation, the chip will not be able to work at the specified frequency. However, it will be able to work at a slower frequency. If it had a hold violation, the chip will not be able to work at all! One possible consequence from our example could be that in an event of a collision you would expect a few micro- or nano- seconds for the air bag to open up, it might ending up taking seconds! Unfortunately, it would be too late.
    The At-Speed test is used to screen the chip for transition faults.


    Broadly speaking, there are only two types of the faults as discussed above. However, there's another possibility which can arise. 

    Imagine that your car has an SoC which senses a collision and opens the  air bag  within a few micro-seconds of the collision. You would expect it to open up if such a scenario arises. But what if your car is, let's say, 6 years old and the chip is now not functioning as expected. In this case, you would like to test the chip first. And if it is fine, you may proceed on to ignite the engine and start the car. Such a scenario would demand conducting a test while the chip is in operation. Such a DFT test is called LBIST Test (Logical-Built-in-Self Test). In an LBIST test, one would be testing the entire chip or a sub-part of it for structural and/or transition faults. Such a test for memory is referred to as MBIST Test (Memory-Built-in-Self-Test).

    An important characteristic of a built in self test is that it is self sufficient. It would carry out the test internally, following a software trigger, without any external input; carry the test; and send out a signature in terms of PASS/FAIL.

    A failed LBIST test on the air-bag chip, might flash a warning and can prevent the user from starting the car engine! It might sound cruel, but it can surely save your life!!

    In the upcoming posts, we would discuss these from the design perspective. Stay tuned!

14 comments:

  1. Wah!!..

    This is great post. In general you'll see many technical documents on net, but finding example as you mentioned is very rare. So thanks for sharing example like this..

    Vijay

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Vijay.

      I am glad you found the post useful. Thanks!

      Regards,
      Naman

      Delete
    2. It is very very helpful and very easy to understand.

      Delete
  2. Naman,
    Thank you for posting these articles. They are very helpful.

    Alex

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alex,
      It feels great to know that someone is finding them helpful!

      Thanks a lot! :)

      Regards,
      Naman

      Delete
  3. Hi,

    Could you please elaborate on at-speed testing. Why we specifically use 2 pulses of the functional clock when we switch from the test clock.

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. See, in atspeed mode, you try to emulate the functional scenario and the functional operating condition. So, giving two pulse, you ensure that the signal that is launched at first cycle gets captured at the next capture cycle at functional frequency. This won't be possible if you simply give one clock pulse.

      -Naman

      Delete
  4. Great articles, all of them !

    ReplyDelete
  5. I like the example that you have explained, which is really needed when learning. We learn something but we don't know where we apply them in real life.

    Very good articles.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sunil,

      I'm glad you liked it! Happy learning! :)

      Thanks,
      Naman

      Delete
  6. Amazing job Naman for explaining concepts with such ease. Thanks a lot for helping us by sharing your knowledgde. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Anonymous! :)
      Would greatly appreciate the real you to comment! :)

      Thanks,
      Naman

      Delete