Design for Test Hack Chat

Testing doesn't have to hurt

Wednesday, December 15, 2021 12:00 pm PST Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Duncan Lowder will host the last Hack Chat of the year on Wednesday, December 15 at noon Pacific.

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If your project is at the breadboard phase, or even if you've moved to a PCB prototype, it's pretty easy to know if it works. It either does what it's supposed to do, or it doesn't, and a few informal tests will probably tell you all you need to know. But once you scale up to production, the testing picture becomes quite different. How do you know you're not shipping out a problem? And how do you make sure your testing process doesn't become a bottleneck?

Answering questions like these can be difficult, which is why we've invited Duncan Lowder to come talk with us. He was a test lead at places like Glowforge and Sphero before founding FixturFab, where he's working on ways to make hardware testing as easy as possible, no matter what scale you're working at. We'll learn all about how to make our designs easy to test right from the get-go and take the pain out of that bed of nails.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Dan Maloney12/15/2021 at 21:09 0 comments

    Dan Maloney1:02 PM
    Seems like a great area for the detail-oriented to really excell

    duncan.lowder1:02 PM
    Here are some links to use ful hardware for testing as well:

    - Hardened Digital and Analog IO:

    - LED Analyzers:

    duncan.lowder1:03 PM
    The right way to test RF is to use an enclosure like this:

    duncan.lowder1:03 PM
    But definitely depends on the budget for the test system

    skot1:04 PM
    oh wow, a special RF fixture, that's slick!

    Dan Maloney1:04 PM
    But here we are at the end of an hour, so we'll have to let everyone get back to work. I just want to thank Duncan and Joe for stopping by today, and Mark too for suggesting this chat. I really learn a lot, and I appreciate the time you all spent with us. And the great questions from everyone too!

    Adam Demuri1:05 PM
    Yes, thank you, this was great!

    Mark J Hughes1:05 PM
    Thanks Duncan, Joe, and Dan! You all rock!

    anfractuosity1:05 PM
    Thanks a lot! that was really interesting!

    duncan.lowder1:05 PM
    Thanks everyone! Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions regarding test:

    skot1:06 PM
    thanks so much!

    Friedrich1:06 PM
    Thanks for all the infos!!

    Dan Maloney1:07 PM
    And just a quick thanks to all the hosts we've had on for Hack Chat this year! It's been great, but now we've got to take a break. See you all again in January, when we'll hopefully have some big changes. For now, happy holidays to everyone!

    Mark J Hughes1:07 PM
    You too Dan!

    duncan.lowder1:07 PM
    Also, we're working a design tool to help automate mechanical design process, you can play with it here:

    duncan.lowder1:07 PM
    Let us know about any bugs you find, we're definitely still in the early stages of the tool

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney12/15/2021 at 21:09 0 comments

    Dan Maloney11:58 AM
    Hi Duncan, welcome! We'll get started in just a couple minutes

    Friedrich joined  the room.11:58 AM

    duncan.lowder11:59 AM
    Thank you! Excited to be here everyone

    joe joined  the room.12:00 PM

    Dan Maloney12:01 PM
    Hey everyone, welcome to the last Hack Chat of the year! I'm Dan and I'll be moderating along with Dusan today as we welcome Duncan Lowder from FixturFab. We're going to talk about Design for Test, plus whatever other hardware testing topics we can come up with.

    Mark J Hughes12:01 PM
    Hi Duncan and Joe! (Mark from TeachMePCB)

    Dusan Petrovic12:01 PM
    Hi Duncun, Dan!

    Dusan Petrovic12:01 PM
    Welcome everyone!

    Nicolas Tremblay joined  the room.12:01 PM

    Dan Maloney12:02 PM
    Hey Mark, welcome aboard!

    Duncan, please kick things off by telling us a little about yourself

    duncan.lowder12:02 PM
    Hi Everyone!

    Mark J Hughes12:02 PM
    Hi Dan!

    duncan.lowder12:03 PM
    I've been deep in the world of test engineering for most of my career and have helped bring up production lines for quite a few products at both Sphero and Glowforge.

    duncan.lowder12:03 PM
    Outside of engineering, I'm a huge mountain biker and love skiing.

    Sai Sanigepalli joined  the room.12:03 PM

    Dan Maloney12:04 PM
    So Colorado is a good fit then, right?

    duncan.lowder12:04 PM
    It was! I'm actually living in Seattle (which I think Washington actually has better skiing than Colorado ;))

    Dan Maloney12:05 PM
    *Looks up FixturFab, realizes it's not in Colorado* D'oh!

    duncan.lowder12:06 PM
    hahaha, no worries! Joe is actually in Colorado, but the main shop for FixturFab is in Seattle

    Adam Demuri12:06 PM
    This chat is good timing - I'm working on designing my first medium-scale PCB! First question - I'm pretty self-taught, are there any books, talks, blogs, etc on designing for test that you'd recommend?

    Dan Maloney12:06 PM
    I think Joe is here too, so Hello Joe!

    Sai Sanigepalli12:07 PM
    how did you get involved in test engineering?

    Joe Selvik12:07 PM
    Hi Dan!

    Joe Selvik12:08 PM
    I'm Joe Selvik, the Co-Founder of FixturFab and live in Denver

    Mark J Hughes12:09 PM
    @Adam Demuri Joe and Duncan gave a talk last year for us -- hugely informative:

    -- and they're giving another one tomorrow!

    duncan.lowder12:09 PM
    @Adam Demuri We have a very basic DFT guide here: and the Youtube video Mark shared is a great resource as well!

    duncan.lowder12:10 PM
    I'm also a huge fan of Bunnies blog:, he has some great articles on design-for-test and manufacturing in general

    Patrick Van Oosterwijck12:11 PM
    Hope you haven't blown away @joe, I'm in Longmont. ;)

    Adam Demuri12:11 PM
    Most excellent, thanks!

    duncan.lowder12:12 PM
    I was originally more of an embedded systems engineer, but transitioned to test engineering since there was a need at the company I was at, and I was able to do everything! (Mechanical/Electrical/Software),

    Adam Demuri12:13 PM
    I've been following the development of the Index PNP machine, and they had a nice overview of their testing setup recently:

    Mark J Hughes12:13 PM

    Mark J Hughes12:13 PM
    But is it as cool looking as Duncan and Joe's test setup? I don't think so.

    Mark J Hughes12:14 PM

    skot12:14 PM
    I worked on a bluetooth thingy that we had 10k manufactured in China - It took longer to design the test jig and test software than the actual product! I'm very excited to make this process faster and easier.

    duncan.lowder12:14 PM
    That video looks great!

    Mark J Hughes12:14 PM
    Aargh -- I can't upload images....nooooooooo!!!!!

    Sai Sanigepalli12:15 PM
    @duncan.lowder cool! That's my role at my company rn, but I feel so lost with the electrical / PCB design part. Did you have an EE background already?

    Mark J Hughes12:15 PM

    Mark J Hughes12:16 PM
    Okay -- it just didn't like .png

    Adam Demuri12:16 PM
    For boards with buttons, switches, pots, etc, how do you typically test those? I was thinking something semi-automated - e.g. prompt user to...

    Read more »

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