PCB Testing 101: High Potential Test or Functional Test?

May 10, 2021

Imagine if M&M’s started melting in your hands, or if Fords were only “Built Kinda Tough”. If these things happened, we would probably start reconsidering everything we’ve been told, losing trust in the brands and products.

This is why testing is as important as innovation: we can uphold our promises to our customers by putting printed circuit boards (PCBs) through theoretical conditions, thus ensuring both quality and integrity.

PCBs are used throughout various prominent Canadian industries, playing a key role in the aerospace, communications, medical, and renewable energies sectors.

We understand that our circuit boards are under a ton of pressure. Whether it is able to withstand g-forces in the sky or helping to run life-saving medical equipment, we cannot afford to fail.

High Potential Testing

“If I can make it there. I’ll make it anywhere. It’s up to you”, sang Frank Sinatra on his seminal ode to his home, New York City.

He was alluding to the fact that New York City is the type of place to either break a person down or help gain the success they could have only dreamed of. This is the point of conducting High Potential (Hipot) testing.

Hipot testing involves directly applying a high voltage to a circuit board, testing its maximum limits. This prevents it from becoming a fried mess like R2D2 in the Star Wars films.

Functional Testing

As one of Toronto’s leading PCB producers, our customer demands continue to increase. We need to be sure that our products can stand up to the rigours of these growing and emerging markets.

As mentioned, sometimes lives are on the line and other times we’re helping to connect families across Canada. Keeping Canadians safe and connected are two principles that direct what we do at Circuits Central.

To ensure that we’re doing all that we can, we also use another testing technique called functional testing. Much like cooking, sometimes all the ingredients are accounted for, but the result just doesn’t taste good. Fortunately, your favourite spot delivers.

The same thing can happen in PCB production: sometimes everything should work perfectly, but it still doesn’t. So, we test our circuit boards rigorously to be the pièce du résistance it was destined to be—operating exactly how they should in strenuous real-world circumstances and environments.

So, whether the planned destination is in a computer hard drive, aeroplane GPS system, or a telecommunications network, we know that it will have a long lifespan.

Types of Functional Testing

With the multiple applications of PCBs, no single test will measure all the parameters that our customers’ products need to withstand. We work with you to determine the best functional test cocktail.

Tests can range from physical testing such as flexibility to electrical testing like impulses. Here are some of the high potential tests that we use:

  • Flying Probe: measures electrical input/output, resistance, and induction.
  • X-Ray Inspection: creates digital images for in-depth assurance.
  • Contamination Test: ensures that trace fragments aren’t in the way or creating disruptions.
  • Thermal Stress Test: tests the maximum heat that the PCB and connections can withstand.
  • Bend Test: this is a stress test that measures the maximum load the circuit board can take before snapping.

So, even though we print and develop our PCBs to the highest quality, functional testing is a critical part of the process. Performed at the end of research and development, we will work with you to determine the right potential tests to best suit your printed circuit board.

Customers are trusting your products to work. We’ll never know everything that consumers do, but we want to help with their satisfaction as much as possible because the last thing you want is for your product to fail. For more information about how we can help with your printed circuit board solution, call Circuits Central at 888-602-7264 or contact us here.

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