RF and Microwave Test of MMICs from Qualification to Mass Production

RF and Microwave Test of MMICs from Qualification to Mass Production

Mohamed Mabrouk (ISETCOM de Tunis and CIRTA’COM/SUPCOM, Cité Technologique des Communications, Tunisia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-886-4.ch011
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This chapter describes some basic characteristic responses that must be known for each Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuits. The main parameters such Return Loss, Insertion Losses or Gain, Power at 1dB compression, InterModulation Products or Noise Figure are very important and have to be measured before using the device in final applications. Basic rules of Test and Measurement in RF and Microwaves, as well for characterization on benches as for high volume production using Automatic Test Equipments installed in test platforms, are summarized for helping today’s test engineers to develop their own test solutions. The device, that was characterized on bench and tested in production environment, is a monolithic, integrated low noise amplifier (LNA) and mixer usable in RF receiver Front-End applications for Personal Communications functioning on frequency wideband between 0.1 and 2.0 GHz.
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In Microelectronic industry, the Test and Measurement “T&M” is a challenge of great importance for devices qualification and characterization in laboratory, and for high volume mass production. T&M is at the beginning and end of each Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuits (MMICs) function design. All of semiconductor manufacturers remain preoccupied by test time and cost of MMICs for accelerating the delivery to customers and reducing as well as the time to market. All of these constraints are dictated and imposed by customers and competition pressure especially in wireless communications systems and applications which is the economic driver of semiconductors industry.

What matter is really important is most of us have one or more wireless devices, like mobile phone, organizer, PC, Bluetooth, automotive, identification… Electronic part of all of these equipments are consisting of several RF and Microwave components cascaded (such LNA, Filter, Mixer, HPA,…) and assembled on small and miniature PCB. These components have to be designed and characterized separately and carrefully for meeting standards specifications of qualification and policies of regulatory authorities.

Semiconductor manufacturers remain the main providers of MMICs for the market of wireless communications systems and applications. They have to qualify their RF/Microwave components on specific correlation benches before bringing devices to mass production tests. Usually, the correlation benches are consisting of several measurement instruments such Microwave VNA (Vector Network Analyzer), Spectral Analyzer, Power Meter, Noise Figure Meter,… and theirs specifications have to be chosen correctly. Measurement method is usually based on removable test fixture, socket solution or soldered package solution.

The introducing of product in high volume facilities test floor is very delicate step. For a large range of complex RFIC and RFSOC wireless device applications, the mixed-signal and RF devices tested are intended to wireless LAN, Bluetooth®, set-top box (STB), 3G and 4G cellular, WiMAX™ and new emerging standards like LTE. The main and known manufacturers of Automated Test Equipments (ATE) can offer some standard and dedicated RF testing solutions with different performance levels. We can quote the following testers as examples (Agilent Technologies, Z2090B-4xx; LTX-Credence, X-Series; Teradyne, UltraWave 12G™). These testers are operating on test floors in different locations throughout the world.

Different RF testers based on ATE are used for both on-wafer and final tests. In the final test, an automatic handler is putting device into socket for achieving test steps, and removing it from socket before going to the next device.

In order to know the intrinsic parameters of Device Under Test (DUT) with good level of precision, a comparison is usually made between experimental results and those obtained theoretically by simulation model.

At presently, the MMICs are operating in telecommunications applications and subsystems under high frequencies and connected together each to other by transmission lines. To characterize these devices on benches or in mass production, we are facing at least two difficulties:

  • What is the characterization method have we to use that must be suitable to DUT technology in order to determine its performances?

  • Interface circuits between input ports of DUT and output ports of measurement instruments have to be repeatable; also they should have low dispersion and insertion losses in order to be actual standards.

In this work, the DUT (NS, 1995) is a monolithic, integrated low noise amplifier (LNA) and mixer usable in RF receiver Front-End applications. The DUT was characterized on benches and automatically tested using ATE testers. As for the benches instruments, ATE testers also have several mixed-signal microwave test configurations suitable for customers dedicated solutions.

The chapter consists of three main parts. In the first part, some basics about the Test and Measurement in RF and Microwave are explained. Systematic and random measurement errors and their correction are presented. The main and known calibration procedures are reviewed, examples of coaxial and on-wafer verification measurement of used calibration are given. Because any RF/Microwave measurement doesn’t have sense only if it’s repeatable, the repeatability principle and measurement example of test fixture is also showed.

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