My Test Engineering Years

John R. Barnes KS4GL, PE, NCE, NCT, ESDC Eng, ESDC Tech, PSE, SM IEEE
December 19, 2010

Between 1977 and 1990 I developed testers to test/calibrate 28+ printed circuit boards (PCB's) used in IBM products. Here are pictures of some of these boards, in roughly chronological order:
IBM's first inkjet printer Model 65/85 power supply WheelWriter
QuietWriter IBM 422x IBM 422x
IBM 422x IBM ProPrinter IBM ProPrinter IBM ProPrinter
IBM ProPrinter IBM Network Card ? card
IBM video card IBM typewriter card IBM typewriter card-- panel

These boards ran the gamut of technologies from pin-through-hole (PTH), to surface mount technology (SMT), to direct chip attach (DCA). The circuits ranged from analog circuits, to power supplies, motor and printhead drivers, digital, many types of microprocessors and memory, up to video circuits running at 10's of megaHertz. Most of these boards had multiple application- specific integrated circuits (ASIC's) on them, for which we had to develop custom tests. That was just one of my specialities.

Test Engineering was-- and still is-- a truly incredible place to learn what does and what doesn't work in designing products for mass production. I knocked out a tester (or set of testers) about every six months, spending from 2 weeks to 18 months on each project before production started. Versus our product developers, who at that time might spend 2 to 4 years getting one product out the door. Once production started, building hundreds to thousands of boards per day, I would see almost the full range of component problems, manufacturing screwups, design problems, and combinations of all of the above. If my tester flunked a board, and the operator couldn't find an obvious fault, they *knew* that my tester was bad and had to be repaired pronto!

I personally developed over 35 testers, most of them in-circuit testers, but also some functional, box, and diagnostic testers. I helped debug another 35 testers, and get them working, after the Test Engineers who designed them had almost given up hope. (This ultimately led to my writing a book, Electronic System Design: Interference and Noise Control Techniques. ) I also looked at another 44+ products while they were still in early development, as part of our Early Manufacturing Involvement process, to suggest improvements for manufacturing, test, and repair. So for about a decade I was involved, one way or another, with almost every electronic product that went into production at IBM Lexington.

Robust Electronic Design, Inc. voluntarily closed on December 7, 2010, to avoid being forced out of business by ObamaCrap. This web site is now being maintained by dBi Corporation, an A2LA-accredited EMC/EMI/ESD testing laboratory (test house) based in Lexington, Kentucky. In the last nine years we have done the FCC-/ CE-Marking-approval EMC/ EMI/ ESD tests for over 308 products developed by clients-- bringing over 97% of them into compliance with both domestic and international laws and standards. We have also served as an expert witness on electronics in three lawsuits. Before joining dBi, our staff was directly involved in putting over 115 major electronic products into mass production at Sycor, IBM, and Lexmark. Our staff has over 37 years experience in the computer and electronics industries, developing electronic products and electronic equipment that:
  1. Work.
  2. Are safe and reliable.
  3. Can be manufactured, tested, repaired, and serviced economically.
  4. May be sold and used worldwide.
  5. Can be easily adapted/enhanced to meet new and changing requirements.

Our President, John R. Barnes, is a Professional Engineer (PE) licensed in the state of Kentucky, a NARTE-Certified Electromagnetic Compatibility Engineer (NCE), a NARTE-Certified Electromagnetic Compatibility Technician (NCT), a NARTE-Certified Electrostatic Discharge Control Engineer (ESDC Eng), a NARTE-Certified Electrostatic Discharge Control Technician (ESDC Tech), a NARTE-Certified Product Safety Engineer (PSE), a Senior Member of the IEEE (SM IEEE), and an Advanced-class amateur radio operator. He has written three books: Electronic System Design: Interference and Noise Control Techniques, which was published in English in 1987 and in Russian in 1990; and Robust Electronic Design Reference Book, Volumes I and II, which came out in 2004. John has also written articles on designing electronics for electrostatic discharge (ESD) immunity for Printed Circuit Design and Conformity magazines.

dBi Corporation can be contacted by:

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Last revised December 19, 2010.