At Speed Testing: Ensuring Reliability in High-Speed Electronics

At Speed Testing: Ensuring Reliability in High-Speed Electronics

Today’s Chip designs are becoming smaller. Feature sizes are shrinking towards nano scale geometries, while gate counts are approaching 100M. Semiconductor companies developing these nanoscale devices are dealing with a slew of challenges caused by this smaller yet increasingly complicated design environment. One problem that is becoming increasingly important is the development of high-quality, low-cost diagnostics for these devices. As a result, unless a corporation adds new sorts of tests that are more adapted to identify these new failure types, defects per million (DPM) rates rise, threatening both a company’s financial well-being and image. Because traditional test methods are no longer suitable to assure quality products are transported to end consumers, organizations are being forced to reconsider their production test strategy. Fortunately, forward-thinking companies have recognized this issue and implemented at speed testing, which detects newer flaws and improper timing behavior.

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What is At Speed Testing?

At-speed testing in VLSI refers to a technique used to test integrated circuits (ICs) at their operational speed or the maximum speed at which they are designed to operate. Traditional testing methods typically involve applying test patterns and stimuli to the IC at a much slower clock frequency than its intended operating speed. However, at-speed testing aims to detect potential defects or faults that may only occur at high speeds.

The primary objective of at-speed testing is to ensure that the IC functions correctly and reliably under real-world operating conditions. By testing at the intended operating speed, it is possible to uncover faults that would remain undetected in slower testing modes.

Why Go For At Speed Testing?

In the semiconductor industry, at-speed scan testing has had a lot of success. One major feature is its ability to employ an on-chip clock for precise timing when applying test vectors in a tester. 

The primary goal of at-speed testing is to verify that the device or system functions correctly under real-world conditions, without compromising performance or reliability. By testing at or near the maximum operating frequency, engineers can identify and rectify any design flaws or manufacturing defects that might cause issues when the device is running at full speed. It allows manufacturers to ensure that their products can meet the demanding requirements of modern applications, such as data centers, telecommunications, automotive electronics, and aerospace systems. 

Also Read Streamlining Electronics Testing with Automatic Test Equipment

At Speed Testing Methodology

The path-delay and transition fault models are the two most used fault models for at speed testing. Both transition faults and path delay faults are critical to address in at-speed testing as they directly impact the performance and reliability of integrated circuits operating at their intended speeds. Robust test patterns and advanced techniques, such as timing-aware test generation and high-speed test equipment, are employed to effectively detect and diagnose these faults during at-speed testing.

Transition Faults 

Transition faults occur due to defects that cause improper signal transitions, resulting in incorrect logic values during switching operations. These faults are particularly critical in high-speed circuits as they can lead to timing violations and functional failures. In at-speed testing, transition faults are targeted by applying test patterns that exercise the circuit under high-speed switching conditions. Transition faults are typically modeled as stuck-at faults combined with additional delay-related considerations. A stuck-at fault assumes that a signal line is either stuck at a logical ‘0’ or ‘1’ value. However, transition faults extend this model to capture faults that cause improper transitions between logic values. Test patterns for detecting transition faults are generated using advanced techniques like timing-aware test generation and transition fault modeling. These patterns are designed to target specific paths or logic gates in the circuit and cause intentional high-speed transitions.

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Path Delay Faults

Path delay faults are defects that result in improper signal propagation delays along specific paths in the circuit. These faults can lead to timing violations, such as setup and hold time violations, which can cause incorrect behavior or malfunctions. At-speed testing aims to detect path delay faults by applying test patterns that target critical paths within the circuit. By exercising these paths at the operational clock frequency, it is possible to identify faults that may only occur when the circuit is running at high speeds.

Path delay patterns examine the cumulative delay as it passes through a preset list of gates. Expecting to test every circuit path is unreasonable since the number of pathways grows exponentially with circuit size. As a result, it is common practice to pick a restricted number of pathways using a static timing-analysis technique that determines the circuit’s most critical paths. The majority of pathways start and end with sequential components (scan cells), with a few paths having primary inputs (PIs) for start points and primary outputs (POs) for endpoints.


Today, as technology continues to advance at an astonishing rate, electronic devices are becoming increasingly powerful, efficient, and interconnected. As a result, the need for reliable and robust testing methodologies has become paramount, especially when it comes to high-speed electronics. And by now, you must be acquainted with at speed testing and its importance.

So, if you found this article useful and want to increase your knowledge in this domain, you should consider enrolling yourself at Chipedge, which is one of the best training and placement institutes in Bangalore. It offers a plethora of VLSI courses that includes job-oriented courses in Bangalore, designed both for freshers as well as professionals. Contact us to know more.

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