There is no room for error on a production line. With a programming process that does not run smoothly and produces faulty devices, a company not only loses time but also money due to delayed project timelines and increased costs for fixing bugs and errors.
Unreliable programmer causes production issues
As a Software Testing and QA specialist, the Swedish company QESTIT focuses on helping clients with one of their most important and toughest objectives, ensuring quality and performance. When a customer insisted on using a specific programmer for their project, QESTIT faced a challenge. The existing setup, which had been stable for a while, was now starting to show reliability issues with the control software. The customer was heavily invested in the programmer they were using and, to complete the challenge, the programmer was producing a significant number of failures with no clear reason. Even careful analysis did not help to squash out the unreliable programming.
Glenn Norberg, System Architect Measurement Systems at QESTIT, explains: “The point at which we become involved in our customers’ projects always leaves us with a very tight time frame from order to delivery. That’s why we have to make sure that everything works as expected and that errors are kept to a minimum”.
Time for a different programmer?
When it seemed highly unlikely that the current setup could be fixed, QESTIT and the customer started to talk about using a different programmer. Although both companies had used SEGGER programmers before and were satisfied with their reliability and quality, the customer had already invested a lot of time and effort in the old programmers. It is always difficult to abandon investment capital, even when it seems like the only logical way forward. To make matters worse, until now they had been using this programmer for a long time without experiencing serious problems.
However, in addition to these new technical malfunctions, pricing had also become an issue, as the original programmer brand required a significant license fee for each family of devices, making the programmer extremely expensive to maintain. The combination of these issues eventually led QESTIT and the customer to the decision to replace the programming setup with a new one.
SEGGER’s Flasher Hub and Flasher Compact to the rescue
For the new programmer, QESTIT had high expectations and requirements. It needed to:
- Resolve the stability issue to increase reliability
- Be able to use the same programming projects even with different CPU batches
- Decrease the programming time
- Enable parallel programming
What is the Flasher Compact and the Flasher Hub?
Belonging to SEGGER’s family of in-circuit programmers, the Flasher Compact is designed to program the internal and external memory of a microcontroller or System-on-Chip (SOC), as well as program a (Q)SPI memory chip to which it is directly connected. Because of its compact design, it is used anywhere production space is limited.
Users can control it in stand-alone mode with the press of a button. To speed up production, up to 24 Flasher Compacts can be connected using the Flasher Hub, a powerful accessory that allows for high-speed parallel programming.
How SEGGER’s Flasher Compact guarantees reliability
The reliability of SEGGER’s Flasher Compact can be attributed to several factors. It is compatible and tested with a wide range of microcontrollers from different manufacturers. SEGGER’s comprehensive software support for the tool, including drivers and software development kits (SDKs), helps ensure that it can be easily integrated into different production environments.
It also uses advanced programming algorithms that, when combined with the Flasher Hub, enable the fast and reliable parallel programming of microcontrollers. At the end of each programming process, the device indicates that an MCU has been successfully programmed. To prevent damage to the microcontroller or the Flasher Compact, SEGGER also offers optical isolators that guarantee protection against excess voltage.
In addition, SEGGER has a reputation for high-quality hardware design, and the Flasher Compact is no exception. It is built with robust components designed for heavy use and operates reliably in various production conditions.
These features make the Flasher Compact a reliable tool for programming and debugging microcontrollers in various applications
A brand-new setup. What could go wrong?
This is the perfect place for: “And they programmed happily ever after.” Unfortunately, the real world rarely works that way.
The existing programmer setup was very different from the Flasher Compact/Flasher Hub concept. Therefore, a few tweaks were required to prepare for the switch and the simplicity of SEGGER’s interface, plus the swift quality support by SEGGER, helped ease the transition from one paradigm to another.
Still, there were learning curves on both sides. The time it would take for QESTIT and the new company to learn the new system was a known variable for SEGGER. But renovation is always more difficult than new construction. The unknown variable was the steepness of the unknown learning curve. In this case, both QESTIT and SEGGER had to learn the details of the system being replaced, while factoring in that some of the things they were learning could be the cause of the need for replacement. This required a few extra runs, tests, fixes, and tweaks. Once QESTIT and SEGGER knew exactly what the new setup had to do, they were able to provide advice and solutions to perfect the new setup.
Flasher Compact and Flasher Hub achieve desired results
When all was said and done, the company saw a remarkable improvement in their programming success. Yield rates for all products increased to 100 % with SEGGER’s solution, programming time decreased, and parallel programming worked for all products, leading to increased test station output and reduced production costs. The setup also eliminated the programming bottleneck while adding the benefits of reliability and no license fees.
Conclusion – Reliable and fast programming with a 100 % success rate
“It simply works!” is not just any motto for SEGGER. This is reflected in our products which are professional and easy-to-use in a complex, highly technical, industry.
We use our own tools for development and production on both the hardware and software side. Our software runs our hardware, and our hardware verifies and programs our new software. The in-house feedback loop of being our own most demanding customer ensures we deliver great quality products to our customers.
“It simply works!” is also a motto our employees live by every day. Therefore, when QESTIT were faced with a challenging situation, our developers provided them with the support required to offer them a solution that exceeded their expectations.
In the end, QESTIT, their customer, and SEGGER all achieved the result they were looking for: Reliable, stable, and fast programming with a 100 % success rate. QESTIT’s customer now benefits from:
- Reduced production costs
- Shortened programming times
- Maximum programming efficiency
- Reliable programming process and output
Glenn Norberg from QESTIT sums up the experience with SEGGER’s Flasher Hub and Flasher Compact setup as follows: “The programmers are so reliable that you almost forget that they are there. They are fast, reliable, and stable. In fact, I will now use SEGGER tools in all our projects.”
At SEGGER, we understand that every customer’s needs are unique. So, if you ever need customization for your SEGGER tools, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our team of embedded experts will always try everything to guarantee that “it simply works,” whether it is helping you adapt your SEGGER devices to better fit your requirements or providing support for any other technical challenges you may encounter.
Summary – challenges and solution
Challenges for QESTIT
- Time sensitive projects
- Production sites almost always outside of Sweden, so support options are limited
Challenges with original programmer
- Programming yield below 60 %
- Extremely unreliable
- Support engineers difficult to reach
- Programming settings had to be updated depending on different CPU batches
- Had already required much time and equipment
Challenges for SEGGER
- Understanding the project and the requirements for Flasher Hub and Flasher Compact
- Adapting the Flasher Compact to the customer’s requirements
- Change of programmer to Flasher Hub and Flasher Compact
- Adaptation of setup to requirements with the support of SEGGER development team resulting in
- 100 % programming yield
- Shorter programming times
- Reliable programming process and output
- Satisfied customer
About QESTIT Systems
QESTIT Systems are specializing in making complete test systems including hardware, software, and result management. They also provide design support and deliver turnkey solutions for PCBA and EOL production testing. Their mission is to help clients build high quality products with the right quality – from requirements to delivery.
QESTIT Systems is a part of the QESTIT Group – Europe’s leading QA experts in testing and quality assurance. With more than 750 consultants in 7 countries, they offer a wide range of QA services to companies in different industries, aiming to give people the best experience.