Bonepiles are failed printed circuit board assemblies. Failures frequently occur in post-assembly testing (functional or system test), or worse, during operation in the field. If they are consumer products, they get thrown away. If they are $10K hardware boards, they go to a cage and sit, in the forlorn hope that somebody on the OEM staff will find the time to break away from more pressing needs to troubleshoot them (bonepiles are often composed of down-revision boards). The keeper of that hope is usually the company CFO, who must decide at which point to write these expensive boards off the corporate books as scrap.
Enter Datest, the CFO’s Best Friend. We leverage our test engineering and troubleshooting experience to write programs and test bonepiles, often successfully bringing them back to service life, and restoring them to an OEM’s finished goods inventory. This can often be “found money” if the aforementioned write-off already happened. A joyous occasion, especially for the CFO.
Bonepile projects typically start with the same raw materials we use to write test programs (CAD, schematic, bill of materials, etc.). That’s because to do this we are writing a test program, often several test programs (flying probe, xray, JTAG/Boundary Scan, even ICT in some high-volume cases).
Two additional “raw materials” help facilitate bonepile rehab projects. One is the customer’s functional test apparatus. It helps considerably if the functional test setup can be loaned to Datest for the duration of the project. We use that test to validate our own work; if it passes functional test, by mutual consent this is usually considered a “good” board, and can be returned to the customer as such. If the functional test setup cannot be loaned to Datest, then at least granting us regular onsite access to it speeds the process along.
The second additional “raw material” is Customer Attention. The CFO grasps the benefits of this process intuitively, but the CFO has little contact with those of us actually performing the work. We need a Champion within the OEM who gets things done, finds requested information, and generally smooths the pathway from start to completion. Without a Champion, others lose interest, because they have other priorities, like the latest/greatest product version (bonepiles are populated by old revisions most of the time). With an internal champion at the OEM, the probability of program success rises by an order of magnitude.
Bonepile rehabilitation programs can often be run at a significant discount to regular production. Every project, and every bonepile quotation, is unique, but a common thread is risk-sharing between the OEM and Datest. When all of the elements click into place, a successful rehab program, in our experience, usually enjoys a minimum 50% recovery rate (as a percentage of units passing functional test), and often more than that.
Besides the obvious financial benefit, rehabbed bonepiles are good for the Planet: Boards go to the stockroom as finished goods rather than to landfills. Fewer resources are expended replacing failed units by building new units from scratch. Mother Earth rejoices!