The EZ4000: Increasing ROI and Manufacturing Process Productivity

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"The use of the EZ4000 developed with NI PXI platform increased the testing capacity by 40 percent. "

- Francisco Javier Vazquez Villaseñor, Testing House

The Challenge:
This case study will show you how to produce in 3.5 days what usually is produced in 7 days while reducing costs by at least $10,000 USD on each in-circuit test (ICT) fixture solution.

The Solution:
Combining In Circuit Test (ICT) and the EZ4000, which was developed with NI PXI hardware and software-defined instruments, customers can increase their ROI, productivity for at least 40 percent and count with the flexibility of having many different customer products programmed and tested on the same station.

Francisco Javier Vazquez Villaseñor - Testing House

Today, product and process innovations are fundamental to achieving greater assets productivity and increasing the value delivered by existing testing and In System Programming (ISP) technology solutions. The current way of executing ISP is usually focuses on doing everything at the ICT tester. This means using an asset for longer time that can cost from $150,000 to $500,000 USD instead of a more competitive combined technology solution, like the EZ4000, which can cost from $39,000 to $79,000 USD, depending on the system configuration.

Testing House customer management and engineering teams were challenged with producing seven days worth of materials in three and a half days while reducing costs by at least $10,000 USD on each ICT fixture by no longer including the in system programmers and integration fees on ICT fixture bases. This challenge in question translated into an interesting dilemma—purchase another ICT tester (which could costs approximately $150,000 USD) and continue using/purchasing programmers on ICT fixture bases (which averages about $10,000 USD per fixture), or to invest in two EZ4000 stations (which cost approximately $75,000 USD each) and five custom cassettes and applications for five different assemblies (which average $9,000 USD per customized kit). Additionally, the customer needed to program the firmware on different Microcontrollers brands from different silicon producers ((i.e., ATMEL, Freescale, Microchip, etc)). Therefore, the ISP solution must be highly flexible so the customer could simply add licenses to existing programmers.

The preliminary data showed the customer would increase his productivity by about 40 percent while investing about the same amount in two EZ4000s versus one additional ICT tester. In any technology to be chosen by the customer he will be able to divide the cost of his investment between different products and not only in one (programmers on ICT fixture bases), but of course it is different to divide $150,000 USD (one ICT) across five applications versus $75,000 (one EZ4000) across five applications. The flexibility of the PXI National Instruments technology ensures certain voltage measurements, shorts test on critical nodes, discharge capacitors, and functional test of the electronic board under test are performed in a reliable way prior to executing the In System Programming process using the Flash Runner SMH Technologies. This way to critical processes are executed in the same station: Testing and In System Programming of the microcontroller.

Proposed Solution

The customer agreed to evaluate the EZ4000 station at their facility for one of its most important projects. Below is a table showing a summary of the results: 


Key Indicators

Before (ICT with ISP Integrated)

ICT + NI PXI -Based EZ4000

Advantages and Comments

1 Return on Investment Purchasing one ICT tester ($150,000 USD) Purchasing one EZ4000 system ($75,000 USD) 50% less cost  = twice the ROI.
2 Productivity Two electronics boards tested on the same fixture  (fixture space and ICT system resources limitation) Four electronic boards tested on the same fixture 50% increase in productivity. Produce in 3.5 days (ICT + EZ4000) versus 7 days of original solution (ICT only)
3 Floor space 5 m2 required for the additional ICT tester 1.5 m2 required for one EZ4000 station The proposes solutions uses less floor space because the EZ4000 has an smaller footprint
4 Technology Flexibility Focus on using production time of a $150,000 ICT tester on what it is designed: In Circuit Test and not Functional Test + In System programming Use $75,000 USD tester to focus on In System Programming + Functional test based on NI PXI With the EZ4000 the customer can add functional test functionality that at the ICT is not feasible due to technology constraints for not using the PXI standard

Customer Testimonial

“We have been using one of these stations since the beginning of the year. It was a demo unit that Testing House Mexico provided us to evaluate in one of our most important projects. Before using it, the microcontrollers were programmed in the same fixtures we use to test the boards. Using the EZ4000 increased our testing/programming capacity 30 to 40 percent, which provided us the elements to justify the purchase of two brand new EZ4000s, to expand the savings using them on more of our board assemblies.”


Taking advantage of the flexibility and modular approach of the NI PXI platform and the graphical design capabilities of NI LabVIEW, Testing House developed a powerful solution for ICT applications that not only dramatically reduces the size of a traditional tester, but also cuts the overall cost by 50 percent, and increases the testing throughput by 40 percent.   

Author Information:
Francisco Javier Vazquez Villaseñor
Testing House
Independencia 1018A. Oficina 102. Parques del Bosque
Tlaquepaque, Jalisco 45609
Tel: +52-33-3122-1486
Fax: +52-33-3121-9127

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