CAST supports cooperation among ATE firms
Rick Nelson, Editor in Chief- September 1, 2009
Despite economic pressure, semiconductor test firms remain committed to R&D, according to comments at the Semicon West Executive Test Summit (July 14, San Francisco, CA). Keith Barnes, chairman, CEO, and president of Verigy, summed up the mood, saying, “…our R&D budget is under some pressure, but we’re still committed to innovation.” R. Keith Lee, president and CEO of Advantest America, said the company has significant cash reserves that let it maintain a strong R&D effort. Mark Jagiela, president of the Semiconductor Test Division of Teradyne, is looking to address time-to-market and yield improvement, while Dave Tacelli, CEO and president of LTX-Credence, is focused on innovation that keeps down the cost of test.
The T5385 offers 768-DUT parallel test capacity and the ability to deliver 533-Mbps performance. Courtesy of Advantest
The companies didn’t make major product introductions during Semicon West, but Verigy shortly before the show introduced the V101 zero-footprint, 100-MHz system for wafer sort and final test as well as its Yield Learning Solution software, which, when used with the V93000, integrates on-tester, real-time capture and analysis of electrical failures on SOCs. And shortly after the show, Advantest debuted its T5385 system for DRAM wafer test.
Whether each ATE (automated test equipment) company can continue to afford sufficient R&D to meet customer demand is an open question. One goal of the now-defunct STC (Semiconductor Test Consortium) was to foster precompetitive cooperation on R&D initiatives. Efforts to get ATE suppliers—and their customers—to cooperate is now continuing with CAST (Collaborative Alliance for Semiconductor Test), which got its start at a private meeting at Semicon West 2008. CAST went public at the 2008 International Test Conference and subsequently organized as a special interest group within SEMI, Semicon West’s organizer.
In an interview at this year’s Semicon West, Mark Roos, CEO of Roos Instruments, commented on the end of the STC and the beginning of CAST. Intel and Advantest were instrumental in the formation of STC, and Roos said that heritage caused the organization to be closely identified with microprocessors and the Advantest-based OpenStar ATE mainframe architecture. Consequently, said Roos, whose firm was a member of STC and is a member of CAST, STC failed to gain the participation of the other big-iron ATE companies—except for some limited individuals’ participation in tester-interface standardization efforts.
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CAST, said Roos, now has full participation from all the major test companies. To signal its full separation from STC, Roos said, CAST founders decided the group should be aligned with an independent organization such as IEEE, GSA (Global Semiconductor Alliance), or SEMI. GSA and SEMI seemed most promising, Roos said, because CAST founding companies tend to be members of these organizations, while the IEEE membership consists of individuals. Ultimately, the founders settled on SEMI, in the expectation that the ATE companies, who tend to be members and supporters of SEMI, would be doing the bulk of the work, under consultation with their semiconductor-manufacturing customers, who tend to be GSA members.