High-speed IC test handlers: Full of robotics technologies

April 1994

Seiko Crystal Chronometer QC-951

Index time: 1.3 seconds
Throughput: Up to 3,000 pieces per hour (or 2,400 pieces per hour with individual tests)
No. pieces capable of being simultaneously tested: 3
Devices handled: chips up to 70 mm square
Test environment temperature: From room temperature to 130 degrees centigrade
Dimensions: (W) 1280 x (D) 1800 x (H) 1880 mm
Weight: Approximately 1 ton

Epson's HM-3000 IC test handler, introduced to the market in April 1994, represented the coalescence of Epson's robotics technologies. A high-speed, high-precision general-purpose IC handler, the HM-3000 was designed to flexibly accommodate a wide range of different multi-pin surface-mount ICs loaded in trays. This flexible handler was also designed to open the door to markets outside Japan.

The HM-3000 consisted of three independent units: an IC feeder, a testing unit, and a sorting/recovery unit. Each unit was controlled as a separate robot to handle its task. This IC test handler had an index time of 1.3 seconds and was able to simultaneously test three chips measuring up to 70 mm square. It also boasted high throughput of 2,400 pieces per hour even during one-piece testing (the most commonly used method in the United States at the time). Enabling such high throughput were two robotics technologies developed by Epson's engineers: multi-task controller technology that enables one controller to control several robots at once, and high-precision repeatability technology in assembly robots.

The HM-3000 IC handler was thus the clear winner over competing products in terms of throughput. It found wide use as a standard IC handler among fab-less manufacturers, which first gained ascendancy in the United States. Building from that success, Epson introduced the HM-3000 to test houses in Taiwan in 1995. Since then, Epson's IC handlers have sold so well there that they became No. 1 in Taiwan, grabbing an 80% share of Taiwan's logic test market.